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May 3, 2000         GC-008

A global church does not accept homosexuality, Kulah says

CLEVELAND (UMNS) — If the United Methodist Church is to be truly global, then it must pay heed that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, said a United Methodist bishop in a sermon on the authority of the church.

Numerous challenges have bombarded the church over the years, but the issue of homosexuality is one of the “threatening challenges” facing the denomination today, said Liberian Bishop Arthur Kulah, preaching to the 2000 General Conference on May 3. Threatening challenges surface when the authority given to the church by Christ is abused, he said.

"This authority is abused when we fail to realize that its source is Jesus Christ, and that its effective exercise must glorify Christ and bring peace, reconciliation, healing and freedom to all of God's people," he said.

The denomination's 30-year struggle with homosexuality has taken a toll on the church, Kulah said. Everyone has been affected in some way by the issue, he said.

The bishop noted that homosexuals have been subject to ridicule, resentment and hostility by Christians and non-Christians. "This ought not be the case because the homosexuals too bear the image of God, and … the grace of God is available and sufficient for them," he said.   

He contrasted the denomination's proscriptions against the practice of homosexuality with the gay advocates’ assertion that homosexuality is "a natural variant of human sexuality," and said that Scripture, which is the primary authority for belief and practice, "is unequivocal on this subject of homosexuality."

If the United Methodist Church is to be global church, it must continue its stance, he said. Both the Old and New Testaments condemn the practice of homosexuality, he said. "In fact, it was one of the consequences for the destruction of Sodom. May we not suffer the wrath of God because of the quest to satisfy unpleasant desires that contrive the loving purpose of God for his church."

"It is against the background of such biblical imperatives that we, the global United Methodist Church, do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider it incompatible with Christian teaching."

He asked the denomination to adhere to its rule that self-avowed practicing homosexuals not be accepted as candidates for ministry nor appointed to serve in the United Methodist Church. "For to do so is to contravene the very faith we proclaim. For we cannot afford to ruin the hearts and lives of the church and hence the world by engaging in practices not even easily mentioned among believers,” he said.

The bishop acknowledged that crises such as racism have always been part of the fabric of the church, and he said the challenges will be more diverse and complex in the new millennium. However, crisis should never weaken or divide God's church, he said. "For if we do, we will be like a house our Master described as being built on sand, and when the wind came, it broke it down."

He implored the General Conference delegates and the church to listen, watch and pray until "we accept and use the crisis as a means to strengthen, to unite and indeed give us a sense of Christian maturity in Jesus Christ."

There is more to the church than the issue of homosexuality, he said. He urged his listeners to focus on Christ and move the church forward by a Christian witness exemplary of true believers. 

The church must continue doing three things -- evangelize, make disciples and teach, Kulah said.  This entails winning souls and bodies for Christ; baptizing in the names of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; feeding the hungry and caring for those on the fringes of life; and being involved in social services that bring healing and reconciliation among and to those who are marginalized.

While doing that, he said, the church must not forget that its primary responsibility, focus and mission must be the proclamation of the gospel.

When it comes to evangelism, the only option Christians have is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ “crucified and resurrected," he said.

Returning to the theme of his message "Authority for What," Kulah said Christians have the authority to proclaim Christ, lift him high and proclaim him as the hope of the world. "We have the authority to proclaim Christ as the uniting force; as the bridge. In him, there is no East or West, no South or North, but one great fellowship divine throughout the whole wide world." Evangelism, he said, is the lifeline and lifeblood and the heart of the world.

The requirement to make disciples has been watching, praying and opening souls to the power and influence of the Holy Spirit. In order to make disciples today, he said, "We must and should be spiritual." Only disciples of Jesus can make disciples, he said. "It is only those who are willing to let the church be the center of their lives that can cause others to commit their lives to Jesus Christ."

The final authority Christians have is to teach, but that power is not being used fully, he said. At times, it seems the church is going astray or being torn apart instead of teaching people to observe all that Christ has taught the church.

"If we were constantly teaching our people to trust and obey, there would be fewer problems," he said. "We teach them to obey the state, but they are not taught to obey God on the same level."

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--Linda Green

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