Marsh Chapel Dean Robert C. Neville yesterday spoke out against the United Methodist Church’s recent actions against gays and lesbians. The Church’s Judicial Council voted on Monday to defrock an openly lesbian minister in Pennsylvania and to reinstate a Virginia pastor who had been suspended last year for barring a gay man from joining his congregation. The council ruled that church law supersedes decisions by local congregations to be inclusive of gays and lesbians.
Neville, in a statement issued to the press, predicted that the ruling will encourage many people to leave the denomination. "I suspect many of those leaving will be of the younger generation who lack the visceral reaction against homosexuals entrained in the older culture. . . .
“Having long studied the theological, biblical, and ethical arguments about homosexuality, I do not find any of the claims that homosexuality is sinful to have merit,” Neville continued. “I believe they come down in the end to cultural prejudice, which in turn biases the reading of scripture and creates caricatures of gay and lesbian people. Whereas the Church should be an agent of reconciliation between members of families and communities whose cultures differ over these matters, the decisions of the Judicial Council have tipped the denomination to be an agent of division, and on the wrong side at that. The Judicial Council, of course, was within its legal rights to do so. Perhaps we should re-examine whether the model of constitutional democratic government is the best for a denomination within the Christian movement whose intent always should be charity.”