Hamilton: Church homosexuality law needs ‘local option’

June 06, 2014

The Rev. Adam Hamilton leads the 18,000-member United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., and reaches many others through best-selling books about Christian faith. At the 2012 General Conference, he and the Rev. Mike Slaughter, of Ginghamsburg Church in Tipp City, Ohio, offered “agree to disagree” legislation on the issue of homosexuality.

Though that effort failed, Hamilton continues to push for official, practical recognition of the church’s division on the issue — and for denominational unity. This week he debuted “A Way Forward for aUnited Methodist Church,”  a proposal to let local churches decide — after a discernment process and super-majority vote — whether to host same-sex unions and welcome gay clergy. Under the plan, the denomination’s annual (regional) conferences would decide for themselves if they would ordain “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.”

Both ideas would require a change in current church law as it deals with homosexuality.

Hamilton has drawn support from Slaughter and a range of other large-church pastors. He’s asking others in the church to read the proposal and consider signing on.

Hamilton agreed to answer questions posed by United Methodist News Service’s Sam Hodges.

Was it the 80-plus traditionalist pastors and theologians who recently called for an amicable split of the denomination, describing differences over homosexuality as “irreconcilable,” who prompted “A Way Forward”?

I had not anticipated proposing a local option to address the issue of how our churches minister with homosexuals. I had hoped we might, at the next General Conference, find a way to at least recognize that faithful United Methodists disagree on the issue of how we interpret Scripture regarding same-sex relationships.  

Two things changed that:  First, phone calls with those pastors and laity calling for a formal split in our denomination.  The second was the conversation at the Connectional Table proposing the (Book of) Discipline’s position on incompatibility be overturned.