United Methodist Church now open to LGBTQ+ Methodists

Column by Rev. Irene Monroe on 4 July 2024 0 Comments

In June, United Methodist Church delegates voted to repeal its church's long-held exclusionary stance of its LGBTQ+ Methodists- in church doctrine, polity, and social standing.  The news was received with mixed feelings - cheers and tears. 

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How relevant is the Bible to progressive Christians if it is mostly made-up stories?


Dear Caroline,

The Bible is the story of God's relationship with a particular group of people (Israel) over a period of approximately two thousand years--from the nineteenth century BCE (before the common era) with Abraham and Sarah, to the early second century CE (common era) with the letter of 2 Peter.  It is a story, related mostly through metaphorical narrative (symbolic language), of the formation and life of our Judeo-Christian heritage.

The Bible is not history, nor is it science, philosophy, psychology, or any other academic discipline.  Again, it is symbolic language, which means it is not describing direct, actual experience, but rather indirect experience that has been passed on.  Using this language, the author seeks to tell his story in ways that are persuasive, given his particular goals and purposes.  To do this, he may tell a story, recount a tale or parable, or use any number of rhetorical devices to relate the larger truth he wishes to convey.

While the Bible does contain accounts of events that historically probably happened, much of the Bible is, more accurately, history remembered and then interpreted.  Often times the memory is two, three, or more persons removed.  In this vein, it is useful to view the Bible less as actual history and more as a spiritual story.  In the big picture of things, we need to remember that what a story means is more important than whether it actually happened.

Think of your own life, Caroline.  If someone were to ask you what your childhood was like, your answer would be what you remember happening.  Other family members might well have different memories of what your childhood was like.  This doesn't mean you just "made up" the story of your childhood.  It means your recollection is what you remember it was like.

For me as a progressive Christian, the Bible--written, not by God, but by human beings-- is a collection of "the best stories we know."  When not read literally, but in light of its historical context, the Bible is a vast repository of truth and insight that can inspire us to live lives of deeper meaning and purpose.

Grace and peace,  Jeffrey Frantz




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