LGBTQ rights have taken center stage in the struggle over the future of America's second-largest Protestant denomination. Heading into this month's Special Session of the General Conference to vote on the marriage and ordination of queer people, conservative and liberal United Methodists have reached a stalemate. Can unity prevail, or is it time, after 40 years of debate, to split up? On this episode, Maybe God host and pastor Eric Huffman sits down with some of the key players on all sides of the debate, including the church's first openly-gay, married bishop, Karen Oliveto, the founder of the largest United Methodist church in the world, Rev. Adam Hamilton, and a leader of the conservative side, Rev. Rob Renfroe.
"We're not a soft drink company. We're not trying to come up with enough flavors to please everybody because I really want to sell this product. No, I have something that I believe is the truth. And so that's what I have to offer the world. And I know it may be bothersome or offensive to some people but I can't change my product to gain market share."
- Rev. Rob Renfroe
"Our sexual orientation is the lens through which we encounter the world. It's the lens in which we touched God. It's the lens through which we love other people. And I can no more not practice my sexual orientation then I can willfully stop breathing. I'd die if I stopped practicing whom God made me to be."
-Bishop Karen Oliveto
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Rev. Adam Hamilton, Bishop Karen Oliveto, Rev. Rob Renfroe (left to right)
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Eric Huffman:Hey everybody and welcome to season three of Maybe God. Today, we're talking about the second largest protestant denomination in the world as it faces an existential crisis. With over 12 million members from the United States to Africa, and to the Philippines and Korea, the United Methodist Church is part of an even larger Methodist movement that goes back almost 300 years to a young Anglican priest named John Wesley. Wesley stood just five foot six and was frail, but what he lacked in stature he made up for in courage. He faced constant contempt from the institutional Church of England. Wesley's religious elders interpreted his Christian zeal and his cavalier arrogance.
Eric Huffman:He often left his pulpit and the four walls of his church behind and delivered his sermons outside for all to hear. That was a violation of church law, but Wesley knew that some people didn't feel comfortable inside church buildings, and he was desperate for them to know how much God loves them, so he did it anyway.
Eric Huffman:Around 1730, John Wesley, his brother Charles and a handful of other theology students at Oxford University, started getting together regularly to pray and fast and study the Bible. They were so intense about God and the scriptures that their friends made jokes at their expense. That's where the word Methodist comes from.
Dr. Rankin:The term was a term of abuse, actually.
Eric Huffman:In those days, to be a Methodist was to be a Jesus freak. Dr. Stephen Rankin is a Methodist historian and the chaplain of Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Dr. Rankin:They were working diligently to be disciples of Jesus Christ. That methodical disciplined approach to the Christian faith was the subject of ridicule by some of the university students, so the word, the name Methodist was sort of applied to them as movements often do, they decide, well, okay, if that's what people call us, we'll just call ourselves that.
Eric Huffman:It started with Wesley and his friends simply striving for perfect holiness as they called it. They studied the Bible, preached the gospel, confessed their sins and forgave each other. They gave to the poor and visited prisoners and housed the homeless. It turned into one of the most transformative movements in the history of Christianity. The Methodist Church is Assemblies of God, the Nazarene Church, the Pentecostal churches, the Salvation Army and over 100 universities across America can all be traced back to John Wesley and the other Jesus freaks at Oxford.
Dr. Rankin:Wesley thought that's why God called Methodist into existence, to help renew the church and help people grow to maturity in Christ. And not just my own personal holiness, although that was very critical in Methodism, but also, the notion that society that our community should adopt principles that were life giving to everybody, so it didn't matter if this person was a Methodist or not, we cared about the whole community and wanted things to be right.
Dr. Rankin:For example, the abuse of alcohol was rampant in the 1870s and 80s and so Methodists took up temperance as a way of trying to take care of some of these social ills in the cities, in urban areas where the working poor were not making it. Methodists stepped in to provide education, housing, medical help, all kinds of things.
Eric Huffman:I've been a United Methodist my whole life, I'm a fourth generation Methodist pastor. Even during my time living as an atheist, I held on to the principles of social justice and equality that I learned growing up in the Methodist church. As a kid, I was completely unaware that in the upper levels of church bureaucracy, there was a growing divide over the issue of homosexuality.
Eric Huffman:Over the last few decades that chasm has grown so wide that many have begun to question whether the church can ever recover.
News Announcer:It's official rule book, the book of discipline states the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. But not all United Methodists congregations agree with the church's view on this issue.
Speaker:From the day that I was ordained in which I said that I would support the doctrine of the church, I knew that I would be working to change what the book of discipline says about homosexuality.
News Announcer:The fight on this issue is testing the faith more than ever.
Rev. Renfroe:What we're told by our progressive friends is that we hurt people, we harm people, that somehow we're complicit and the suicides of LGBTQ teenagers.
Eric Huffman:The debate over gay marriage and ordination of gay pastors started in 1972 and about that same time American institutions were also struggling with how to treat a growing population of openly gay citizens.
News Announcer:What Jimmy didn't know was that Ralph was sick. A sickness that was not visible like smallpox, but no less dangerous and contagious, a sickness of the mind. You see, Ralph was a homosexual. One never knows when a homosexual is about, he may appear normal, and it may be too late when you discover he is mentally ill.
Eric Huffman:Homosexuality was recognized as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association until 1973. As secular America grew more accepting of LGBTQ people, many leaders inside the church felt pressure to make their stance on the issue clear. That's when for the first time, the United Methodist Church added language about homosexuality to our Book of Discipline.
Dr. Rankin:We regard all people of any condition as the discipline says of sacred worth and that is rooted in our understanding of we're all created in God's image, so it doesn't matter race, ethnicity, religion, any other kind of background all people are created in God's image, therefore, of sacred worth. The language of the Book of Discipline then understands that there's a distinction between people per se and certain activities, certain kinds of behavior. So, the Book of Discipline goes ahead to say, the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with the Christian faith. We do not ordain self-avowed practicing gay and lesbian, et cetera people. We don't ordain, we don't do same sex weddings. And clergy who do same sex weddings are subject to discipline.
Rev. Cook:My name is Beth Ann Cook and I am an elder, which is a ordained clergy person in the United Methodist Church in Indiana Annual Conference. I've served-
Eric Huffman:For the past 12 years, reverend Beth Ann Cook of Indiana has had a front row seat to the debate raging inside Methodism. She's a three-time delegate to general conference, the church's governing body.
Rev. Cook:We're basically a democracy and every four years we have a general conference and all of the issues that are out there can be debated. People send in their petitions, any member in a local church can do that and we have discussed human sexuality for over 40 years. The last few years some people in our church who feel very strongly that we should do gay marriage and ordination have come to a place where they feel that they should go ahead and do it in spite of the fact that our governing body, the general conference has noted that we don't believe in gay marriage and ordination. And so they took a stand, they equated with the sit-ins during the civil rights movement that they needed to do this anyway. This set up a crisis in our church to where we really have two different belief systems that are not working together.
Eric Huffman:We don't have exact figures, but it's safe to say that United Methodist pastors have presided over hundreds of same sex weddings.
Speaker:By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you missis and missis, you may finally kiss your bride.
Eric Huffman:There are also dozens of openly gay clergy who are in same sex relationships. While some cases have been tried and some pastors have been stripped of their credentials, in many areas of the country the local governing bodies have decided to support the work of these churches and their pastors. This year, Rev. M Barclay is sent to become the first ordained non-binary pastor inside the church.
Rev. M Barclay:It's really challenging. It's taken me so long to even be commissioned because of the prohibitions and the Book of Discipline. When I was in Texas and I first came out as queer, my ordination case went to the judicial council because of my Board of Ordained Ministry refused to even sit down to an interview with me initially. And so I had two whole years of going through our sort of court system and every day is a sort of carrying and acknowledgement that today could be the last day that I'm recognized as clergy in United Methodist Church.
Eric Huffman:In 2016, the general conference attempted to avoid all-out war by appointing a task force to hammer on proposals to resolve the rift. They came up with three plans.
Rev. Cook:There's one that's called the One Church Plan, it basically is a local option plan. It allows freedom to local congregations for them to do gay marriage in their church if they believe that's the right thing and for local annual conferences to decide to do ordination. The second plan is sort of an umbrella structure with basically two denominations under it that they call the Connectional Conference Plan. And then the third plan is the Traditional Plan, and that plan basically says that we're going to retain the theology that we've always had.
Eric Huffman:A fourth plan was created by the LGBTQ community called the Simple Plan.
Rev. M Barclay:It strictly removes the prohibitions in the Book of Discipline. It does not add a single word, it just takes out the phrase that says, homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching, it removes penalty for doing same sex weddings or hosting same sex weddings and it removes prohibition of being self-avowed practicing homosexual in order to be ordained.
Eric Huffman:In just a couple of weeks, after 40 plus years of debate, 864 delegates from around the world are flying to St. Louis, Missouri for a special session of the general conference. The sole purpose of that meeting is to vote on a plan. Rev. Cook will be one of those delegates.
Rev. Cook:I think the mood is sober, we're all aware that we're at a critical timing where this is going to radically potentially change our church. And so everyone is aware of a weight that's on us and we're sequeled to do God's will, we may not agree on what that is. It's also tense at times because this is an issue that people are very passionate about.
Bishop Oliveto:Our denomination supports the civil rights of LGBTQ persons in the world, but denies those rights, R-I-G-H-T-S, and rites, R-I-T-E-S within the church.
Eric Huffman:Bishop Karen Oliveto has become a leading voice for the LGBTQ community. In 2004, she performed the first legal same gender marriage held inside the United Methodist Church. In 2016, Oliveto became the church's first openly gay, married Bishop.
Bishop Oliveto:I call this 20th session of the Western Jurisdiction Conference of the United Methodist Church to order.
Speaker:We have an election, Karen Oliveto, 88 votes, 100%. We congratulate, and let's celebrate this moment. Karen, come on up.
Bishop Oliveto:I know that there's been grief and anger as a result of my election. I also know that it's cost a lot of people a lot of hope. It has saved people's lives who thought that why should they live one day longer when the church they love tells them they're not worthy, and that is why I do what I do.
Eric Huffman:I recently spoke with Bishop Oliveto from her office in Denver.
Bishop Oliveto:I oversee 378 churches.
Eric Huffman:Oliveto is a lifelong Christian, as an infant she was baptized in a Methodist Church in Long Island, New York.
Bishop Oliveto:I was born on Good Friday, raised in a town called Babylon. From an early age, I came to know God's unconditional love an acceptance of me. My parents were divorced when I was very young and church became the village that raised us. I loved it. I started spending almost every day at church.
Eric Huffman:Oliveto preached her first sermon at age 16 and was well on her way to becoming a pastor by the time she graduated from high school.
Eric Huffman:At what point along the way did you begin to feel different about yourself and in your sexuality, and at what point did you realize maybe you were gay?
Bishop Oliveto:When I really had to come to terms with it was when I went to seminary.
Bishop Oliveto:The prevailing message of that time, gay bars were being raided, people were being fired from their jobs, the church really hadn't started to deal with the issue really throughout my childhood, at least, but you knew it was something you weren't supposed to be.
Bishop Oliveto:I did a really great job of living in denial. It finally got to the point where I couldn't live in denial anymore. What's interesting is that at that time, God became really far away. God was gone. That was a crushing time in my life. And so at the end of my first year of seminary, I hopped on a bus in Oakland, California and I ran away as far as I could, which was to my grandparents in Nova Scotia. I cried for hundreds and hundreds of miles until I finally said for the first time to myself, I am a lesbian. And what happened was I experienced the peace that passes all understanding. God was tangibly back in my life and I think the lesson I learned at that point was God never leaves us, we leave God when we run from who God wants us to be.
Eric Huffman:So, did you ever feel conflicted especially in the early days about your sexuality as it relates to what you understood the Bible to say?
Bishop Oliveto:No, I didn't, because the overarching message of the gospel that I had been taught was Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so. That was not only what I read, but it was what I experienced in the church. I was raised with an uncompromised message of God's grace for me. It wasn't until 1972 that the church began to name homosexuality as incompatible with Christian teaching, but it was not until much later that it began to then put in prohibitions around LGBT people in the life and ministry of the church.
Bishop Oliveto:So, I had already had my call to ministry, people already had affirmed me, and then as I grew, it seemed like the church started laying on these prohibitions. It was an incredible cognitive dissonance, because in my heart I knew God was calling me into ministry, into this church that had loved me that I loved and then I was called to serve. At the same time knowing that if I had said four words, “I am a lesbian,” it would have stripped from me. And so I did think about leaving, but the times I thought about leaving, it was as if I was choosing to amputate a limb, and I realized no one had asked me to leave, so until they asked me to leave I'm going to keep serving faithfully.
Eric Huffman:Oliveto taught United Methodist History, Doctrine, Polity, and Evangelism at Berkeley for 12 years. She served as senior pastor of Glide Memorial, a 12,000 member church in San Francisco for eight years.
Bishop Oliveto:Until 300 years ago, there was no such thing as mass incarceration like we know it. Beatings, there were beatings, forced labor and social ostracism was the payback for one's transgression of sins. But in the late 1700's-
Eric Huffman:It was while serving at that radically inclusive church that she performed the first legal same gender marriage and went public about her own sexuality.
Bishop Oliveto:To be recognized as a faith leader that had integrity, I had to be out. My bishops, my district superintendents honored that. They understood that the rule we have would not help me be an effective leader. Our sexual orientation is the lens through which we encountered the world, it's the lens in which we touch God, it's the lens through which we love other people. I can no more not practice my sexual orientation than I can willfully stop breathing. I die if I stop practicing whom God made me to be.
Eric Huffman:When Oliveto was named Bishop of the Western Sky Conference in the summer of 2016, other United Methodist leaders immediately submitted a petition to the church's high court to nullify her election.
Bishop Oliveto:They had not examined me. They had not seen the fruits of my ministry.
Eric Huffman:Almost a year later, the high court ruled that while her sexuality was in violation of the church's policies, she could still retain her position as bishop and it was up to the church's western jurisdiction to handle the matter.
Bishop Oliveto:For some, oh my gosh, I've been waiting my whole life to see a bishop like you and for others, it's been the biggest fear that, oh, now, sin has more fully entered the church, so I hope I can bring a grounded spiritual center into the conversation, one that helps us see that diversity is a sign of God's divinity and that we can have unity and it doesn't mean we have to have uniformity.
Rev. Renfroe:This is something that I think many progressives don't understand, is if our church, our denomination ever changes its position, many, many of this will not be able to remain in it, because now I am complicit in an organization that is harming people. It's harming their souls and maybe-
Eric Huffman:Rob Renfroe is a pastor at one of the largest United Methodist churches in America. And in recent years, he has become the de facto spokesman for the evangelical wing of the denomination. He believes the only proposal that would maintain church unity and fidelity to scripture is the traditional plan, which calls for stricter rules, prohibiting same-sex weddings, and the ordination of LGBTQ people and more severe consequences for clergy who break those rules. The traditional plan, may be the most likely proposal to pass, thanks to a growing delegation from Africa, where in some countries homosexual behavior is still criminalized.
Eric Huffman:I've heard and seen you branded as a homophobe or as a bigot. I'm sorry.
Rev. Renfroe:No, that's all right. This is not news to me.
Rev. Renfroe:So, bishop let me make certain I've got this right. We give you two years and hundreds of thousands of dollars. We ask you to create a plan knowing that the future of the church is depending upon you a new plan that will cause our fighting to cease and allow us to move forward focused on our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ. And what you came up with, I mean the very best you could come up with was an old plan that's been around for years as a matter of fact, a plan that was defeated in 2016 by the very same delegates that will be voting on it in 2019, a plan that does not represent the majority of United Methodist-
Eric Huffman:Depending on who you're talking to Rob Renfroe was either a prophet of God or the spawn of Satan. Conservative Methodists appreciate his willingness to say in public what many have been saying privately for years, that this rift in the church isn't about gays and lesbians, it's really about what role the Bible should play in the lives of Christians, but for many liberal Methodists Rob might as well have fangs.
Rev. Renfroe:Now, usually, believe it or not, I try to play nice and watch my words, but I am-
Eric Huffman:Behind closed doors, I've personally heard left leading Christians criticize everything about Rob from his long hair to his tone of voice. I've heard them question his sexuality as well as his motives. Many on the left believe he's been on a mission to split the church for almost 20 years.
Rev. Renfroe:I mean the idea that somehow you will create a one church by allowing every pastor, every congregation, every annual conference to determine its own sexual ethics is ludicrous on its face. I'm reminded-
Eric Huffman:Rob's church is about a half hour from mine. I'll be honest, before I met him, I expected not to like him, but over the past couple of years, I've spent quite a bit of time with Rob and I found him to be surprisingly warm, compassionate and intellectually curious. One thing has become very clear to me, Rob does not relish the role of being public enemy number one for progressive United Methodists.
Eric Huffman:In the last several years, you've been spending a lot of time and energy fighting for this church, this United Methodist Church. I think from the outside looking in, I would see that and go, that doesn't really put food on his table, and you put yourself up for a lot of public critique and criticism, so what are you fighting for?
Rev. Renfroe:Well, I know many of your listeners are not Wesleyan or not Methodist and so I know I'm biased, but I think Wesleyanism is one of the great gifts that God has brought into the world, because it does begin with grace, and I mean, it begins with the belief that at the heart of the universe, there's a heart of grace and it is a heart of grace that wants to reach every person who has and who will ever live. So, I love where we start, I love who we are. When we do it right, and we join head and heart, we join grace and spiritual disciplines, we join the beliefs that a life can be transformed immediately by the work of the holy spirit, but also an awareness of the spiritual disciplines that continues that transformation.
Rev. Renfroe:When we do it right, I'm convinced that nobody does it better. And to think that we're going to turn that over, that legacy, that history, that gift to a bunch of people who do not appreciate it, who do not understand it, I can't do that.
Eric Huffman:Renfroe has been a Methodist his whole life just like Bishop Oliveto.
Rev. Renfroe:I grew up in Texas City.
Eric Huffman:But Renfroe and Oliveto grew up hearing slightly different messages. In Rob's Southeast Texas church just like in many conservative congregations, there was a consistent emphasis on the importance of accepting a personal relationship with Jesus. The man who inspired that relationship for Renfroe was a youth director named Eddie.
Rev. Renfroe:I prayed, I read the Bible, but I could see somehow he knew God and I did not. And it looked so good that by God's grace, I recognized that's a real thing and that's what I wanted. He, basically, kind of in these words, he says, “Rob, there's a difference between being a good kid and being God's kid and you've been a good kid, but none of us gets a relationship with God by being good.” So, I knelt down in my bedroom and prayed and accepted Jesus right beside my bed and really felt then I was going to have this huge big experience and it didn't, which I'm really glad that it didn't, because I learned early in my Christian life not to base my relationship with God or my experience, but on his word.
Rev. Renfroe:Eddie told me, “Look, Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him.” So, have you opened the door of your heart?” I said, “Yes.” He says, “You can trust Christ that he's answered his promise.” That's a really good lesson to get early in your Christian life. The way you live a faithful Christian life is what does God's word say, what has he promised? You live on that, you stand on that, you walk in that.
Eric Huffman:Yeah. And when you referred to not basing your faith on experience, but on God's word, you mean the book right, the Bible?
Rev. Renfroe:Right, absolutely.
Eric Huffman:I think most people ascribe to you a certain inclination toward legalism, you think that's unfair assessment of your leadership?
Rev. Renfroe:I'm not going claim I do it just right, but I try to, as we all do, try to follow the example of Jesus. So, what we see is that he came with grace and truth, not one instead of the other, not one more than the other, but both together. I think that people who are very grace-oriented, yeah, they're going to see anyone who talks about the truth and about a need to repent and to get right as somehow being a legalist or-
Rev. Renfroe:... judge ... putting yourself in a superior position.
Rev. Renfroe:I think that just says more about the nature of our culture and actually the nature of many of our churches that we are more comfortable with grace and compassion than we are with the truth.
Rev. Renfroe:That's one thing that people think they know about Jesus. If they don't know anything else, they're pretty certain that Jesus never judged anyone, but what's amazing is in that very same passage in Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples, “Don't cast your pearls before swine.”
Eric Huffman:What does that mean?
Rev. Renfroe:Well, first of all it means he called some people swine, okay. These are wild boars that will turn on you and harm you. He talks the same thing about wild dogs in the streets and beware of those kinds of persons, and he calls people false prophets. So, what you find is someone who does not measure up to our profile of Jesus who never said anything that ever hurt anyone's feelings.
Eric Huffman:Right, just a sweetheart.
Rev. Renfroe:Yeah, kind of a marshmallow of a guy. You find a fire-y prophet, you find a heart that was unafraid to stand up to power, to call people out and to tell people the truth that they needed to hear.
Eric Huffman:And they don't usually execute sweethearts.
Rev. Renfroe:You may not like Mr. Rogers, but all you do is turn him off, you don't nail him to the cross.
Rev. Renfroe:Jesus was not a first century Mr. Rogers. He came here to change the world and he came here with more love than anyone ever had and he came here to tell the truth more straightforwardly than anyone had.
Rev. Renfroe:I don't care if you don't like part of that, that's who he was and that's who we're supposed to be like.
Rev. Renfroe:We've got to tell the truth, because what? It sets us free. The truth sets us free.
Rev. Renfroe:I can love you a long time without telling you the truth, but if I never tell you the truth you need to hear, do I love you?
Eric Huffman:That's a good question.
Eric Huffman:For Rob Renfroe, truth is found in the Bible.
Rev. Renfroe:There's a group of people who believe that the scriptures are the inspired and authoritative word of God. It doesn't mean there aren't really difficult passages that we have to deal, it doesn't mean that we can't have differences of opinions, some important issues, but there's a group that's their starting point, that's my starting point. Then there are others who may have a high view of the Bible, but don't see it in the same way. They have an idea that either over time we know more, we learn more than the people who wrote the Bible and so we're free to change the parts that we now know better than.
Rev. Renfroe:More recently what they have begun to say is the spirit is revealing something new and it's contrary to what the Bible has taught, but some of it even goes much deeper. There's a real division within the Methodist church, honestly, on whether Jesus is the one and only. So, when you have real differences about whether the scriptures or the authoritative word of God, when you have real differences about the person and work of Jesus, you have a divided church. These are foundational issues and so that's where we're, that's in my mind, really struggling about sexuality tends to be the presenting issue, but it goes much deeper to our understanding of the Bible.
Eric Huffman:How has that become the crux of the whole debate?
Rev. Renfroe:Well, I think the real reason is because every four years, we don't go and vote on the Bible. We don't go and vote on Jesus. We do go and vote on sexuality and because our culture is changing and because some in the church believed that the spirit is revealing something new, something different than what the Bible has taught. This is the presenting issue.
Eric Huffman:The Bible contains six passages about same sex attraction that are consistent in their claim that sex between people of the same gender is a sin and nowhere in scripture does there appear to be a loophole allowing for same sex marriage. For most conservatives, that's all they need to know, but liberal United Methodists believe the church's exclusion of LGBTQ people is the real sin here, and that we shouldn't use the letter of the law to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation. But this is where conservative Christians are often misunderstood, because calling gay sex as sin is not the same thing as hating gay people. In fact, many LGBTQ United Methodists feel right at home and evangelical churches like Rob's.
Rev. Renfroe:We don't say that homosexual persons are contrary to scriptural teaching, we don't think that we need to point people out because of their sexual desires. I mean if we're honest, we all have sexual desires that are contrary to what God would wish for us, maybe contrary to what we would wish for us. So, we realized, we're all broken, we're all a mess, we live in a world that's full of temptations and so rather than pointing out persons as good or bad, right or wrong, we point out a practice. So, we say the practice, homosexual relations are contrary to God's will for us, this is not the worse sin in the world. We're not up there talking about this in the local church beating people up with it, not at all.
Rev. Renfroe:Whenever I do talk about this I begin by saying, look, if you're straight, and you're a follower of Jesus, the primary thing you need to hear me say no matter what I say after this is you were called to love every person on earth. Those who do right, those who do what you think is wrong, those who are straight, those who are gay, those who know Jesus, those who hate Jesus, you're called to love them. And if you cannot do that, you have a bigger problem than somebody who has same-sex attraction.
Eric Huffman:In Romans, 1 Corinthians, and 1 Timothy, where the New Testament calls homosexual behavior sinful, it also lists adultery, gluttony, greed and slavery among other sins.
Rev. Renfroe:The Christian faith should make us the most honest people on earth about ourselves, because to join the church, the first thing you have to do is say, do you repent of your sins and accept Jesus as your savior? To be in the church, the very first thing you have to say is I am a screw up, okay. Yeah, I have sinned, I have made a mess of my life and I'm saying before the pastor, the people and before God, I am a sinner, and without grace there is nothing that can give me hope.
Rev. Renfroe:Then you say and I accept Jesus as my savior, and that sounds, oh, well that part is sweet, that's even worse. It's like your sins were so awful that somebody had to die for you. That, that is your only hope, not just that you messed up your life and you really need to try hard, but you messed up your life so badly that you, your only hope is that the Son of God would go to the cross and pour out his blood, so that your sins could be forgiven and you could be accepted by God.
Rev. Renfroe:Now how am I or anybody else going to point somebody else's sins out and say, you're not worthy to be a part of this fellowship. We should be the most honest people in the world, because that is entry fee into the church, admitting that you're a screw up and that you've screwed up so much that you need a savior.
Eric Huffman:And that's it.
Rev. Hamilton:When our relationship of God has been severed because something we have done, we atone, we seek to be at one with God by making amends, so in the Old Testament it was offering sacrifices, we know what this looks like in our own lives. If I forget my anniversary with Levon, which I don't think I've ever done, I did buy her a vacuum cleaner ones, that was a bad idea, but I thought she wanted it though. I mean I thought it was something she wanted, but she did, but not for our anniversary anyway. But if you do something stupid like that -
Eric Huffman:The first time I met Rev. Adam Hamilton of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, I was a student at Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City and he was the pastor of the fastest growing church in America and the rockstar evangelical voice of our denomination.
Rev. Hamilton:... that in our lives, every time we have turned our back on what God wanted us to do or every time we slight at God or every time we didn't act the way we were supposed to towards other people, we became indebted to God. And I don't know about you, but I will you that without forgiveness, I have such a huge pile of debt in my life, I could never crawl out of the hole.
Eric Huffman:I was a radical liberal activist at that time and my seminary was known as a launchpad for social justice warriors like me. I still remember the day one of my professors invited Hamilton to come speak to our class. There was a collective groan among the students. This guy with his suburban white, rich, megachurch stood for everything we were standing against. When I talked with Hamilton for this episode, I realized that the conservative views he held at his younger days, stemmed from his time at a small Pentecostal church when he was just a kid.
Rev. Hamilton:I was a kid getting into a lot of trouble and somebody invited me to a little Pentecostal church, it was an Assembly of God Church and I didn't believe in God, but for some reason, I felt like I should go and I visited this church, and I thought it was really weird. People speaking in tongues and hands raised and all that.
Rev. Hamilton:However, they had really cute girls there and I didn't know if I believed in God, but I believed in girls and so I began going. Then I started reading my Bible and I thought, I'm not sure if I believe in God, but I should read this book and I took out the Catholic Bible my grandmother had given me when I was child and I read it cover-to-cover in my freshman year in high school. I read Matthew, Mark and when I finished reading the Gospel of Luke, I got down on my knees, and I said, “Jesus, I want to follow you and I want to be one of your disciples and if you'll have me, I pray you'll do with me whatever you want. I know I'm just 14, but whatever you can do with me, I pray you will.” Stopped doing drugs and drinking, and began trying to live my life for Christ and have been trying to do that ever since. Every morning I say some version of that same prayer.
Eric Huffman:The more Hamilton studied the Bible, the more questions he had about things related to faith and science and suffering in the world. As much as he loved his church and the people in it, he still struggled to check his brain at the door and practice blind faith.
Rev. Hamilton:What led me eventually to search for another church was when my youth pastor and his little brother who was my best friend were electrocuted, they were killed in an accident when I was a freshman in college. Hearing some of my Pentecostal friends say, “Well, it must have been the will God, God needed another angel in heaven, there must have had sin in their lives.” The whole thing just left me feeling like, really, if that's what God does, he electrocutes young guys in their 20s because they have sin in their lives or because he wanted them in heaven, that just don't make any sense to me.
Eric Huffman:Hamilton attended Oral Roberts University, a conservative evangelical school. One day, in the library, he picked up the United Methodist Book of Discipline.
Rev. Hamilton:I began reading the historical statement of the United Methodist Church there, the theological principles and then the social principles. I found it was exactly what I was looking for, a place where it was okay to engage your head to use the intellect and the heart and a place that brought together the evangelical and social gospel; I found myself drawn and joined the United Methodist Church at the age of 18 and have been a United Methodist ever since.
Eric Huffman:In 1990, Hamilton along with his wife and their two kids under the age of three started a church for other intellectually-minded people who struggle with doubts. He was 25 years old. They started in a funeral home, because they couldn't find anywhere else to meet.
Rev. Hamilton:In the first year, we averaged about a little over a hundred people, and those hundred people, most of them were non-religious thoughtful people, highly educated, and they told their friends, who told their friends, who told their friends, and the congregation has grown both in numbers, but also, in I think a depth of commitment to Christ and our service in the community and the world.
Eric Huffman:Today, his church is the largest United Methodist Church in the world with over 13,000 people attending services at one of their campuses every weekend. He describes his congregation as progressive evangelical, and he's the first to admit that people on the far left and far right like Oliveto and Renfroe aren't always comfortable at his church. Having known him in his more conservative days, I'm not sure the old Adam Hamilton would be comfortable there either.
Eric Huffman:As we spoke, he explained the dramatic shift in his theology as it relates to homosexuality that happened 15 years ago.
Rev. Hamilton:I was getting ready to go to general conference, and I thought the thing that's going to be talked about at general conference more than anything else is same gender relationships. I should preach about that.
Rev. Hamilton:I had written a book. My first book was called Confronting The Controversies, and I had a chapter in there on homosexuality. In that book, I reflected my compassion for gay and lesbian people, and at the same time, my sense of here's what the Bible teaches, and so we're going to be a compassionate and loving, but I'm going to call people to be celibate. So, I got ready to preach the sermon in 2004, and I thought I was going to preach the same sermon. That week, I invited our members, if you've wrestled with same-sex attraction, if you are gay or lesbian, if you have children, I'd like to hear your stories. I received about 200 emails that week, if I remember correctly.
Rev. Hamilton:I remember one night I was working on the sermon it was midnight, and I was reading these emails, and I found myself literally, I'm crying in my living room reading these stories. I'm like, “God, I don't know anymore, know what I thought I used to know, I still know that your heart towards these people, because I care very deeply about these people who don't know Christ and these people who have been pushed away from the church, and marginalized, and a chunk of those are people who are gay and lesbian or their family members.” I'm weeping in my living room, and I get on my knees, and I'm like, “God, please tell me what you want me to say to these people, they're going to be in church, Sunday, tell me what you want me to say to them.”
Eric Huffman:Hamilton says it became clear to him that night, that he needed to think about this topic the way that he had thought about other difficult issues in the Bible like violence and slavery and misogyny.
Rev. Hamilton:I found that something I already believed and learned in seminary has sort of clicked in my mind and that was, yes, God has spoken to the Bible, God spoke through the biblical authors, but these are human beings who are writing. They're human beings who live in a particular time and place and sometimes we see through a glass dimly as Paul says or we hear through our own filters the word of God. The idea that slavery was a part of the culture and the times. You see Moses liberates the slaves from Egypt, and then he turns around he regulates slavery. He turns around and he says, “You know, it's okay if you beat your slaves with a rod, just don't kill them. If they die within two days, then you're in trouble, but if they don't it's no problem, because the slaves are your property.”
Rev. Hamilton:There are these attempts to regulate slavery as opposed to saying, “No, owning human beings is just not God's plan,” he could have said that, but that's not how it worked then. So, was that because God likes slavery or was it because Moses could only see what he could see and he couldn't see what he couldn't yet see. We talk about progressive revelation, over time, we are progressively able to see or God reveals to us more and more of God's will. Now, if that's how it works with the scriptures, it's possible that it also might explain the misogyny that we find in scripture and the role of women in scripture.
Rev. Hamilton:Then when I was preparing this sermon, it's like, is it possible that, that might also help us understand those six passages in the Bible that speaks specifically to God's displeasure with gay and lesbian people? Is it possible that maybe that is telling us more about the time than it is telling us about the heart and character of God?
Eric Huffman:In full disclosure, I should say that Hamilton and I went back and forth on this point for about 20 minutes, because many conservatives would say that the Bible itself resolves the issues of slavery and women in leadership. There may be verses that appear to allow for slavery, but there are many others that call slavery sinful and make it clear that slavery is not the will of God. The same is true for the subjugation of women. There are too many examples to ignore of women throughout the Bible whom God calls to lead, and so there's a clear biblical mandate to empower female leadership. The problem with Hamilton's argument as far as conservatives are concerned is that there is no such mandate in the Bible that suggests same-sex romantic relationships are the will of God. Still, I appreciate Hamilton's desire to love and welcome people on the margins of society.
Rev. Hamilton:I felt like if Jesus were walking today and he was looking at the marginalized people, he'd picked out the marginalized people in his time that people are hurt by the people of God and he hung out with them. I thought I have a feeling if he were here today walking with us where so many in the church have hurt so many gay and lesbian people, I think he'd be standing with those folks. So, on that night, I thought, I can't say what I have said before and if I say what I feel right now, how many people are going to leave and what's the price that's going to be paid for that?
Rev. Hamilton:And so then I get to the end of the sermon and said, okay, I think I know less than I used to think I knew. I used to think I knew all the answers about this. I think the longer we live and the more we know, the more we know, we don't know. So, I said, I will tell you that this is going to be a place that's going to love and welcome people to walk in the door, and I'm going to call everybody to put their lives in God's potter's wheel and let God be the one who's forming and shaping us as the potter shapes the clay. If that means that God is going to be saying to you, “Look, I didn't really intend for you to be gay,” then I'm going to trust that God's spirit is going to help you in that way.
Rev. Hamilton:And if, in fact, God is saying, “You know what? I understand and I want you to have somebody as your partner. I'm counting on the fact that you're going to sense that as well.” I for one, am not certain that I know exactly what the heart and character of God is. Here's what I do know, I'm absolutely certain of this when we get to the end of 1 Corinthians 13, we read, “These three things remain faith, hope and love.” Now, I'm going to call you to faith. I'm going to call you to trust in Christ. I'm going to call you to have hope, but here's the thing, I'm most convinced of is that God has called us to love human beings. If I'm going to air anywhere, I'm going to air on the side of loving and caring for people.
Rev. Hamilton:If you're not able to be in a church where we're going to welcome even gay and lesbian people, without sin you have to change in order to be a part of this church, this might not be the right church.
Eric Huffman:Within six months of that sermon, 800 people left Hamilton's church.
Rev. Hamilton:It was painful and I got depressed for about year and I kept praying. God, did I misunderstand. If I have missed it, I am so sorry, please correct me and set me right, you know, and very painful. It's the hardest year of my ministry in life, led me to think maybe I needed to go somewhere else or do something else. Since then, I think people know when they come here, this is the church where they take seriously the Bible and they're going to call you to serious commitment to Jesus Christ, the Savior and Lord, but it's also going to be a place that's going to welcome gay and lesbian people.
Eric Huffman:You have two daughters, I wonder how raising daughters in this world has affected your point of view?
Rev. Hamilton:First of all, I think about it and particularly the question of same-gender relationships and I think, what if one of my daughters was a lesbian? What if she came to me and said, “Dad, I've always felt this way, I've always felt I was drawn to girls, I felt this way,” what would I say to her? I would first of all say nothing is going to change my love for you, because nothing will change my love for you. Second, I think I would want make sure she's really carefully thought through this. You're making a lifelong decision here, is that expressing who you're really made to be, but if in the end one of my daughter said, “Dad, this is the person I love and I want to be married to them.” I would want to make sure that she knew she had a place in our church, that our church was a place for her and her partner.
Rev. Hamilton:I would want her to follow Christ and know Christ and I believe that for gay and lesbian people, I have to ask is God's will really for them that they'd be celibate the rest of their lives or does God look at them and say, as God did in Genesis, “It's not good for the man to be alone, I will make for him a helper as his companion.” I believe God looks at them and says, “I want you to be able to share life with another human being.”
Rev. Hamilton:I think about my marriage to Levon after 36 years, and so little of it has to do with sex and so much of it has to do with companionship. I look at people who are gay and lesbian and I see the love that they share for one another, the way they seem to live their lives in Christ and I see what looks to me to be an authentic expression of love and marriage in them.
Eric Huffman:Hypothetically speaking, if your son came to you and said, “Dad, I think I'm gay, and I don't want to spend my whole life alone, I want to be in a relationship where I'm loved and cherished and touched, and I still believe in God and want to follow Jesus,” what changes in that moment for you as a father?
Rev. Hamilton:Well, in terms of my love for my son, absolutely nothing. One of my sons, lives with us and it's like one of the great choice of my life. I mean he's grown, he works, he pays rent and he's a son that we've had all kinds of challenges with. We spent time very much estranged. It's one of the great choice of my life that he lives with him at home. He tells me he loves me. I tell him I love him and absolutely nothing would change in how I want to be around him and the joy that I take in him. I'm sure I would be disappointed in some regard because I don't think this is God's best for him.
Rev. Hamilton:I did have a friend, he's every bit, if not more so less conservative as I am. He has a son that came out as gay. I've asked him, so how's your relationship with your son and he says, he thinks I am the best dad that any gay man can have and this is what I would hope my son would say.
Eric Huffman:This is what's often missed in the debate. People tend to see one side as loving and inclusive and the other side is rigid and bigoted. Having lived on both sides of this divide, I truly believe both sides are doing their best to love God and the world around them, but we're working with two different definitions of love. For progressives, it feels unloving to tell two gay people, they can't get married in their church. For conservatives, it would be unloving to pretend like the Bible doesn't warn against same-sex attraction. One thing both Renfroe and Hamilton can agree on is that marriage should be a covenant between two people.
Eric Huffman:In recent years, many conservatives and centrists have voiced their concerns about a Pandora's Box phenomenon happening in the church if the traditional view of marriage between one man and one woman is thrown out. If the Bible was wrong about that, then why should there be any rules about marriage and sex in the church, why can't Christians participate in premarital sex or pornography, for example, or even open marriages and polyamory? Should would we be demanding monogamy of people?
Bishop Oliveto:For me, personally, monogamy is an important way to live, if I'm choosing to live in romantic relationship.
Eric Huffman:Bishop Oliveto has been married to her wife Robin since 2014.
Bishop Oliveto:People say, well, we've got to turn to the biblical understanding of family and relationship and it's like, well, the Bible, what does the Bible show us. It shows polygamy, it shows the use of concubines. For me, covenant is what's clear, how do we live into covenant with God and with another?
Eric Huffman:Does the church have any business saying only two people should be in a relationship, or we see a lot like open marriages, polyamory is becoming a thing, are those things the church should care about?
Bishop Oliveto:I think anything that's going on in the human family, we need to keep ourselves attune to and how is God at work here. I just think too often the church has shut its doors on people, it shut its doors on ways God is at work in the world. Again, it's not a matter of condemning or condoning, it's a matter being open pastorally to others.
Eric Huffman:Some people worry that if the One Church Plan passes, it's opening the door for further interpretation of marriage and bishops like Oliveto will open the doors to polyamory in the church. It's a risk Adam Hamilton is willing to take.
Rev. Hamilton:I don't want the left telling the right this is what you have to do on this. I don't want the right telling the left is our way or the highway, I think there's a whole lot of us in the broad center who lean one way or the other and say that it's possible for us to be brothers and sisters in Christ and to see this issue differently.
Eric Huffman:Hamilton supports the One Church Plan where each individual church can work out how they want to handle same-sex unions, and each region of the church can decide whether to ordain openly gay pastors. This plan would move the debate from the global level to local churches where congregations could potentially fight it out among themselves for years on end. If a local church member wants their gay son or daughter to be married in their church, the pastor could be forced to facilitate a public forum followed by a vote, which is sure to leave the losing side wondering if they can still call their church home.
Eric Huffman:So, is it accurate to say you support the One Church Plan, is that what you hope will pass?
Bishop Oliveto:I do hope this will pass, which is, for me, I do want a church that has room for people to live out that big tent theology. The traditionalists have said, they don't want to be in a church that has that rich diversity, but for me, I hope it is wide enough for them, that's my prayer that it enables them to live into who they are more fully.
Rev. Renfroe:It's time to find amicable and equitable way of separating.
Eric Huffman:Renfroe supports the Traditional Plan, which allows progressives like Oliveto and Hamilton to leave with what's called a gracious exit, which means any congregation that votes to leave the denomination based on an issue conscience can exit with their property and without penalty.
Rev. Renfroe:It's the way that we honor Christ to keep fighting until one of us can't get off the floor, and the other one steps out bloodied, beaten down, bruised, but raises our hand and say, “I won.” I want a solution that has no winners and losers. I want a solution that has no victims and no villains. I want a solution that just says, “Hey, we see this really differently, let's quit harming and hurting each other and let's find a way to say, "You may be right, I don't think you're right, you don't think I'm right, but you may be right," I'm going to set you free to pursue your vision of what God would have you be and do.” No other denomination has done that. I don't think it's impossible of us to do it, but it's going to take people who are willing to see big picture as opposed to I want to win, I want to get my way.
Eric Huffman:If they're all in agreement and they're doing their thing and they're being the church the way they feel like they're going to be the church. They're cool with more conservative parts of the country being the church the way they think they need to be the church, then why not just live and let live?
Rev. Renfroe:One reason is they're not willing to live and let live, so they're constantly trying to change the position of the entire church, but a deeper reason is this, if you believe that sin harms people whether we're talking about greed or pride or heterosexual lust or affairs and your church makes it okay for people to promote that for your pastors to promote it, for your bishops to promote it. I'm complicit now with this, but the one church plan, here's what I don't get about it. They really think that the full embracing of gay persons is the right view and they think embracing LGBTQ persons fully is a matter of justice, yet, they're willing to create a plan where justice is denied in certain parts of the country and we'd be called one church.
Rev. Renfroe:I want to ask those people, is this a justice matter or not? And if so, how can you not only live with, how can you set up a system yourself that embraces and codifies injustice and somehow thinking you're doing the work of Christ? Back when the Methodist Church was struggling in the 1800s over slavery.
Rev. Renfroe:There was actually a split over this, but nobody said, “Hey, let's let some folks own slaves, some people not. We'll call it the One Church Plan.” Nobody would have thought about that, because those who are trying to move us to a more inclusive position and get rid of slavers say it's a matter of justice, so there's no way in the world the church is going to embrace injustice and believe we're doing the work of Christ. What I want to ask them is this, do you believe that God hasn't spoken about sexuality or do you believe he hasn't spoken clearly about it or do you believe he has spoken clearly, but is not important enough that we all hold to the right view?
Eric Huffman:Renfroe was a leader of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and if anything other than the traditional plan passes, they intend to lead hundreds of conservative churches out of the denomination.
Rev. Renfroe:The struggle is you have a traditional view, especially in our culture. It is portrayed as you're hateful of people, you reject people, and so how can you be a church that reaches people, because the gospel is for everyone. We're not a soft drink company, we're not trying to come up with enough flavors to please everybody, because I really want to sell this product. No, I have something that I believe is the truth and so that's what I have to offer the world. I know it may be bothersome or offensive to some people, but I can't change my product to gain market share. It's not just sexuality, it's all of the traditional Christian answers are going to push people away.
Rev. Renfroe:When you say Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, the life, that doesn't work in a culture that values, I think a false form, but values inclusivity.
Rev. Renfroe:Yeah. Post-modern culture every answer is acceptable, because it means something to the person who holds it.
Rev. Renfroe:But here's where we are today, I don't think that we're going to argue people into the kingdom. I don't think we're going to outsmart them into the kingdom, we're not going to lecture them into the kingdom. I think we're going to love people into the kingdom. I think you could argue that maybe the most remarkable bit in human history is that a small set of primarily uneducated people who had no political or cultural influence and who worshiped a crucified messiah. If you died crucified, you died in the highest form of shame. Those people who went out proclaiming a crucified messiah within 400 years had completely overcome the Roman Empire that had put their messiah to death.
Rev. Renfroe:How did this happen? Well, simply stated, they went out and they loved like Jesus loved, they lived like Jesus lived, they served like Jesus served and when they were persecuted and when they were put do death, they prayed for their persecutors in the same way that Jesus did. So, they became known as people who lived differently, they were counter-cultural and they loved differently. How so? Well, when babies were left out, because they were deformed, but because they were female, when they were left out in trash heaps and in the woods to die of exposure, the Christians would go and rescue those babies, bring them into their homes and raise them as their own.
Rev. Renfroe:Over time, these Romans who deify, who worshiped power and authority and the hedonistic pleasures of the flesh, they looked at this group of nothings who worshiped a crucified, shamed messiah, and they looked at how they lived and they said, “Not just that they better life, that is real life.” They came to believe the most remarkable thing. That a crucified messiah was in fact the Lord of the World, the God of the Universe who had made himself known in Jesus and an empire was changed. Why did it happened? Not because the Christians out-argued, outwitted, shamed others into believing, but because they out-loved others.
Rev. Renfroe:I think if we're going to reach our postmodern culture, we're going to have to love and serve and sacrifice ourselves for a culture that despises us and looks down on us and doesn't want our message, but when they see life, real life loving sacrificial giving life, it will speak deeply into their hearts. They'll say, “If I can have that, I want it, and if Jesus is the one who brings it, I want Him.”
Eric Huffman:In a little less than two weeks, the church will vote on a plan, the odds are that no plan will pass, which means the fight may go on. I asked Dr. Rankin, our Methodism expert, what he thinks it would take for our church to avoid a split and to continue to live as a big tent denomination?
Dr. Rankin:If we're going to be a tent denomination, there's got to be a unifying center to that big tent, so we don't have to split up about items that are not core to the Christian faith, but we do have to ask, well, what is core to the Christian faith and get some clarity about that?
Eric Huffman:How do we get clarity? Rankin believes one place to start is by deciding if we think sexual orientation and race should be treated the same.
Dr. Rankin:The people who are advocating for the justice of full inclusion, you know, let's recognize same sex marriage as a legitimate practice in the church, the rationale given is because sexual orientation is just like race and so we don't discriminate against African Americans, for example, why should we discriminate against gay and lesbian et cetera, people. Other people say, “No, sexual orientation is not like race, with race you're talking about skin color and it doesn't have anything to do with behavior; with sexual orientation, you're talking about desire, attraction that leads to behavior.” So, these really are basic questions that people have answered, that if the church is going to move forward and come to any kind of resolution on this, we may have to go back and start asking each other, okay, we know you answered the questions these ways, how do you get to our conclusion?
Dr. Rankin:I'm not going to try to figure out what John Wesley would say about homosexuality, but I will say this, if John Wesley were alive today, he would be reading all the stuff he could get his hands on to try to figure out what he thinks about the issue.
Eric Huffman:This might be a lesson for our larger society and not just the church to stop using fear tactics and emotional appeals to win arguments. To go back to the basics of understanding why we believe what we believe.
Dr. Rankin:In some sense, I am advocating for let's back up, let's quit worrying about who's going the vote how and take seriously a method, a framework for asking questions that we think are already answered, but really aren't and let's try again.
Eric Huffman:I'm afraid we're well beyond the point of backing out and trying again, barring some kind of miracle in St. Louis, the United Methodist Church has reached the point of no return, both sides make some good points, Oliveto and Hamilton are right that the church has done harm and must do more to love people the way that Jesus does. Renfroe is also right, that staying together doesn't make sense if progressives believe people like Renfroe might as well be slave holders and misogynists. If we're that far apart in our fundamentals, then maybe we shouldn't go on pretending that real unity is possible.
Eric Huffman:In part two of this episode, I'm going to put my cards on the table. I have avoided sharing my personal views on this issue for the past four years, because at my church, the story, we had people on all sides of this debate and I love it that way. Somewhere around 5% to 7% of our congregation is LGBT, some are in same-sex marriages, others have chosen to remain celibate to honor what they think the Bible says. The last thing I want to do as a pastor and a friend is to put a roadblock in somebody's way to God, but last week, with this general conference looming large and with the future of the Methodist Church hanging in the balance, I called a special service to speak to my congregation about the Bible and same-sex attraction. I laid out my beliefs as clearly as I could and we record it.
Eric Huffman:Next week in part two, we'll air some of that talk that I gave including some pretty difficult moments with members who weren't very happy about what I had to say. We'll also hear two incredible stories of gay Christians who have helped me understand how flawed and shallow both sides of this debate really can be. Why can't Bishop Oliveto say the Bible has moral authority over the sex lives of Christians, why can't Rob Renfroe say that every church who welcome LGBT members even if they're in a same-sex relationship. The stories we're going to share next week will uncover a hidden path through this messy debate, a way forward that I believe is the way of Jesus, so be sure to check in for part two next week, and as always, thank you for listening to Maybe God.
Julie Mirlicourtois:This episode of Maybe God was produced by Julie Mirlicourtois and Eric Huffman. Nathan Bonnes and Aubrey Snider are the sound engineers, and our editors are Shannon Stefan, Brittany Holland and Justin Meyer. As always, a special thanks to our co-creator Brandon Duke. For more information or to tell us what you think, head to our website maybegodpod.com and join us again in two weeks.