It's time for the Methodist Church to come out of it reliance upon a 19th Century Cultural Bias.
The same biblical prooftext arguments that are used to condemn homosexuals follow the same self-righteous justification that was used in the pulpits in the 1800's to justify slavery. Too much of the stance of the church has been the result of political maneuvering and not careful examination of beliefs and faith. The discussion so far has shed more heat than light, and the emotional hysteria involving anything to do with sex is archaic Puritanism.
It's time to acknowledge that while many people have long-held sincere beliefs that homosexuality is a sin, there is no clear biblical justification for such a view. It has more to do with the "way we were brought up" than in biblical exegesis.
It's time for the Methodist Church to come out of a policy that excludes an entire class of people from full membership in the church. Let's quit arguing about whether or not to endorse homosexuality and homosexual relationships and start focusing on how to reach millions of people who have no church or have left the church for good reason.
It's time for the Methodist Church to stop the hypocrisy of "don't ask, don't tell." The church has struggled for the past 25 years with a schism of political maneuvering that puts the Baptists to shame. I've known too many gay ministers and lay leaders who have suffered from the capricious whim of someone who has chosen to "make a case out of them" or others who have been "tolerated" because of political connections. Openness and honesty is the only policy that makes any sense. A lot of parsing of "self-acknowledged" or " practicing" or any other adjective used to describe the status of homosexuals in the church ignores the reality that there has been inequality in the administration and enforcement of church policies and judicial proceedings.
Gays and lesbians are not fomenting a schism in the church that threatens to split the church. The ones who are left in the church are trying to bring about healing rather than proselytizing some liberal theology. Most already have left the church. We're simply trying to make the church more relevant (if not tolerant) in a very complex world in which many mainline denominations are viewed as irrelevant to most people's lives. The debacle of 9/11 revealed that most American are inherently religious and want to express their beliefs in a significant manner that is not dictated by organizational denominations quibbling over minor theological issues. The ecumenical movement of the 1970's has been replaced by a dangerous drift to doctrinaire declarations. The fundamentalists are growing in popularity because they offer a simple framework that provides answers for everything and no one has to think or to develop a faith beyond pure emotionalism.
I have been a Methodist for 54 years, and I have been proud of its Wesley tradition. I don't recall that John Wesley asked the coal miners to wash their hands before they could stand to listen to him or ask if they had paid their dues for a pew. Wesley was widely criticized for abandoning the Church of England and its rules. He did so because of his conscience. Why must only homosexuals pass a litmus test to be fully accepted into the church? Why is the church so hung up about a person's sexual orientation? Is that the defining element of who a person is?
It is time to embrace the Wesley tradition and to evangelize the great unwashed.