How a Bible-believing Christian can accept gay marriage
Former NWYM Superintendent Becky Ankeny released an ebook this weekend, A Leisurely Introduction to How a Bible-Believing Christian Can Accept Gay Marriage in the Church. The study, designed to take 10 days, starts out with the following excerpt from the introduction:
“When I did a rhetorical study of the introduction and opening chapters of C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, I realized that he was not actually trying to convert atheists. In fact, he says several things that exclude atheists from his intended readership. Instead, I found he was writing to those on the fence, those who wanted to believe in God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the Church, but feared it was intellectually disreputable to do so.
“This linked study is one that I hope you will take ten days or so to digest. It is intended for those who have the intuition that God wants LGBTQ people welcomed into the church, that God accepts their marriages and families, but they fear that leaning into that intuition and allowing it to become a conviction will mean they must throw out the Bible as a source of guidance and accountability.
“This study is not intended to convince those with the opposite convictions. I do not even expect them to read it, but if they do, I hope to help them recognize how someone can claim to be following the Bible and yet disagree with the exclusion of LGBTQ persons from the local congregation or the church in general. If they recognize this, perhaps they can continue to worship and serve alongside those whose convictions in this area differ.
“As a former church leader, I was in the middle of the denominational debate over full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the life of the church. I have listened to many folks stake out their positions and use the Bible to do so. I saw no one convinced by arguments using history, the original languages, the changes in culture, the unchanging nature of God. My own response came to be that the central themes of the Bible support full inclusion.
“However, someone recently said they had not heard anyone present a systematic approach to explaining biblical support for those affirming gay marriage and full participation in the life of the church. So I’m giving that task a shot. I do not claim to express the point of view of all affirming churches or individual Christians, nor do I expect my thoughts to be adequately systematic for all readers.”
Restructure may extend past June 2018 deadline
[This article was updated on March 26 with additional comments from Superintendent Retha McCutchen]
The yearly meeting transition team met in closed session on Saturday, March 18. The team produced no minutes but did approve a report that was released the following Wednesday. That report counters one point from an earlier published Administrative Council decision, clarifies others, and prompts some new questions.
In a follow-up email, Superintendent Retha McCutchen said that she was named “the spokesperson for all communication from the group and its work.” She said that several of the questions raised “have not been answered yet.” She promised to provide more information as it becomes available.
After a list of those present at the meeting, the report says that “no decisions were made. The team familiarized themselves with assets of NWYM and its related organizations and decided what research needs to be done to have the documentation necessary to make informed decisions.”
The report identifies four points of information:
Transition date flexible, all churches may choose to join new yearly meeting
In the decision announced by the Administrative Council in January, affirming churches will be set aside as independent churches or “may be a part of the newly formed yearly meeting.” This transition process was to be completed “on or before June 30, 2018.”
But the report released Wednesday walked back that language from the Administrative Council, calling June 30, 2018, a “soft date. Churches are not under a deadline to make decisions regarding their status within this time period. The transition team will offer a time frame after June 2018 where churches might still leave NWYM with their property.”
McCutchen clarified that “this is not a hard and fast deadline that a church meets or else. Churches might make a decision in the next six months or they may not reach consensus within their meeting until after June 30, 2018.”
The report also clarifies that churches not currently holding an affirming stance on human sexuality “are welcome in either yearly meeting.”
“The reorganization as presented by AC and amended during the January Reps meeting is intended to invite those churches who are diverse, and who have decided to keep their community together and live within that diversity, to be a part of either yearly meeting,” McCutchen said.
According to the published Administrative Council decision, a new yearly meeting “may include churches who have internal disagreement but have agreed to align their practices with the newly formed yearly meeting Faith and Practice.” Northwest Yearly Meeting “may include churches who have internal disagreement but have agreed to align their practices with current NWYM Faith and Practice.”
Nobody loses nonprofit status
“All churches currently members of NWYM will remain under NWYM’s 501(c)(3) until a new yearly meeting is formed and [has] obtained a 501(c)(3) for member churches.”
The exception to this coverage is that any “local church [that] has secured its own designation” will at that point, presumably, cease to be covered by the yearly meeting’s nonprofit status.
What about independent churches?
The transition team considered the reality that some churches may choose to be independent rather than stay with Northwest Yearly Meeting or join a new yearly meeting. The transition team has not determined what share those churches might have in yearly meeting assets.
Retirement accounts may remain where they are
Anyone who has invested in a 401k(k) tax-qualified, defined-contribution pension account, will be allowed to keep their individual contributions where they are, or withdraw their account, “regardless of the yearly meeting choice.”
“This statement is only intended to reassure people nothing is changing with their pension terms and conditions,” McCutchen said.
The transition team meets again on Saturday, April 15. Click here for the full report from Saturday’s meeting.