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Sharing in faith: Do we live by grace or by the law?

The Rev. Hope Vickers
Photo courtesy of Hope Vickers

At our North Carolina Annual Conference, we once again heard passionate comments from both sides of the issue regarding human sexuality and Christianity.

We heard concerns about the potential of the church splitting over this issue. The ominous discussions sounded way too much like divorce. Too many of us have heard about divorce in our own families over the years, and such discussions bring up feelings of despair.

We pray for a more grace-filled solution. Have we not been taught to live by grace, not law?

As a pastor of a reconciling congregation, what concerns me really isn’t so much what is one’s individual theological position, or what is or isn’t sin or correct biblical interpretation.

What concerns me is the way we treat one another.

When we follow the example of a grace-filled, compassionate and loving God shown to us through Jesus Christ who ate with sinners, welcomed outcasts and shamed self-righteous individuals who considered themselves “holy,” what can be our response? We must also welcome, rub shoulders with, sit next to, and eat with those who, like us, are sinners.

We don’t get to decide whom to condemn.

The first step toward restoring justice in the denomination is to delete the Social Principles statement: “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers its practice incompatible with Christian teachings” (2012 Book of Discipline, Paragraph 161).

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Why would we single out one group for one behavior? If we aren’t going to list every sin, then why do we list one sin? Where is the love and grace that were so freely given to us for our sins?

There are many biblical teachings we no longer practice or uphold, such as dietary laws, owning slaves, women not speaking in church, and divorce. Wisdom calls us to let some things go in order to focus on that which binds us and reconciles us to God.

I believe that the health and the well-being of people are more important, and committed couples need to work out their own behaviors and relationships with God.

While we may not all agree on every aspect of our faith and theology, we can respect our differences and still be grace-filled, compassionate people of faith and justice who welcome all people into God’s house and family.

Let God work on us as we are!

We can hold our own opinions and still be gracious and welcoming to others. For me, this is a justice issue, and it concerns me that we have such capacity to harm those who should see Christ present in us.

The Rev. Hope A. Vickers
Durham, N.C.

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Posted July 22, 2014