Recently the Connectional Table of The United Methodist Church engaged in a dialogue over human sexuality. I was under the impression that the purpose of dialogue was to increase understanding, and perhaps even reach consensus. Apparently I was wrong. According to an article on UMC.org,
The Connectional Table, one of The United Methodist Church’s governing bodies, has decided to draft legislation that could change church law “to fully include LGBTQ persons in the life and ministry of the church.”
The draft would be brought back to the Connectional Table at a future meeting for consideration. The April 29 decision to draft the legislation came the same day the Connectional Table began a series of three public discussions on human sexuality.
Wait a minute…. The decision came the same day as the Connectional Table began their discussion? Doesn’t this type of legislation presuppose the outcome of the discussion? If this is how we’re going to operate, why even have the discussion at all?
In 1957 Rudolf Bultmann wrote an essay titled, “Is Exegesis Without Presupposition Possible?” In this essay he argued that all of us bring certain presuppositions to biblical exegesis–this is in fact unavoidable. Nevertheless, we must avoid wholly predetermining the conclusions of biblical exegesis. We reach these conclusions only after rigorous investigation.
The Connectional Table could take a lesson from Bultmann here. We all come to the questions around homosexuality in our denomination with presuppositions and biases, but if our common discussion is to have integrity, we must not presuppose the conclusions of our common inquiry.
The same article continues:
San Antonio Area Bishop James E. Dorff opened the discussion with a Bible study based on Jesus’ prayer for his disciples’ unity in John 17:20-26. Dorff told those in Chicago and online that Jesus prayed for unity so that Christians can be a witness to the rest of God’s people.
“What is our end game?” Dorff asked. “Will we be of one mind? I doubt it. Will we all be of one church? I sure hope so. Will we all be brothers and sisters in Christ? I hope so.”
Sadly, the chances of our all being of one church have never been slimmer.