This was encouraging: A Methodist Bishop willing to describe sin as sin. Even in conservative conferences in the U.S. this guy would never be able to become a Bishop. That’s one of the many reasons I couldn’t worship there any longer. Via A New United Methodist Star from Khazakhstan?
The United Methodist Church may have a new star. He is Bishop Eduard Khegay of the Eurasia Episcopal Area elected to the episcopacy in 2012 to preside over the small but growing United Methodist churches across 11 times zones in the former Soviet republics, including Russia and Ukraine. . . . His sermons and essays indicate his own boldness for the Gospel and willingness to push hot buttons.
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Brothers and sisters, by faith United Methodists bring The Good News to people in our countries. By faith we overcome bureaucracy, inspections and other impediments on our way. By faith yammerers become winners, and when reaching halfway they get the second wind. By faith husbands and wives reconcile, by faith sons and fathers, daughters and mothers reconcile. By faith we offer our prayers to God about the way we see our churches and Lord is pouring His grace. By faith we are building churches, because of the evident of things not seen. By faith pastors forgive and encourage each other. By faith we are building United Methodist Church, so that it becomes dynamically growing, is accepted in the society and helps people to become devoted Christians. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. We are people of faith; we are already winners, because we are Christ’s. May we live with faith and may it grow. May our mission, evangelism and growth be filled with faith! Amen.
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Bible and traditions of the church
There were many disputes on the topic of what the Bible says regarding homosexuality during last half a century. Both the supporters and opponents of homosexuality have done much work on exegesis of the Bible, studying the traditions of the church, researching the historical context. Our collective communal study of the Bible and of the church’s traditions convince me and district superintendents of Eurasia UMC that practice of homosexual life is a sin. The Old Testament calls it abomination. The New Testament calls it shameful actions, unnatural, and consequence of human’s departure from God.
The term sin experiences difficult time. The secular society wants less and less to use this term. Many people learn how to be tolerant… But from tolerance to permissiveness is only one step if we push away the term sin out of our life. Sin is what separates us from God, destroys our relationship with Creator. It could be betrayal, crime, envious thought, evil word or indifferent inaction.
Our conscience still wants to wake us up and give us hope for forgiveness and redemption. But more and more we look like children of Western democracy, who try to replace the term sin with sickness, deviation, weakness, mistake, or with anything else so that not to harm our weak psyche and behave politically correct even to ourselves. I cannot imagine John Wesley who would have suggested to Methodists to avoid the term sin in the name of tolerance and political correctness and not to offend the members of the congregation. Many of us know his famous words: “Give me one hundred men who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergyman or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon the earth.” I hope that like John Wesley we, the Methodists of 21st century, would be more concerned with saving human souls and sharing faith in our loving and transforming God, and not what people might think of us. This requires to be obedient, brave and humble.
Homophobia and hamartia-phobia
It has become fashionable to use the term “homophobia” in various contexts. Many leaders and public figures became more cautious with their speeches so that they would not say anything wrong and not to invite critics to blame them in homophobia. In most cases this is a good restraining mechanism. But here is the paradox – many people who condemn sin, express their moral values, defend their centuries old family traditions, teach to respect others are now blamed to be homophobic. Too many extremes appeared.
Recently, Russia has issued new law which prohibits the propagation of homosexuality among children. I am astonished how much noise the opponents of this law have raised. It seems as though their main life activity consists of such propagation.
Secular society does not want to hear the term sin because it is not afraid of sin. At the same time it cannot solve human problems unless it admits sin and its destructiveness. I pray that the people called Methodists would instill hamartia-phobia in the society. Hamartia is a greek word from New Testament, which is translated as “sin”. But the meaning of this word is missing the mark. While ancient fathers and mothers of the church lived with hamartia-phobia, were afraid to disappoint God and miss the mark of God’s will, our society fills up with hamartia-prideful people who boast their anti-spiritual actions.
And finally he points to a way forward:
Tension exists even on the level of the Council of Bishops of the UMC. We are not of one mind. To my regret, we have to deal with situations when one bishop ignores the other breaking the Book of Discipline and ethical norms in the name of same-sex marriages. This is very disappointing.