THE HOMOSEXUALITY DEBATE IN THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH: Religious Ethics, the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, and The United Methodist Moral Landscape
Simpson, Benjamin Arnold
University of Kansas
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Since the inclusion of a statement prohibiting "the practice of homosexuality" in The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church in 1972, The United Methodist Church has vigorously debated homosexuality. As the debate has progressed, two distinct groupings of United Methodists have formed. One group has developed arguments for the preservation of The United Methodist Church's prohibitive stance against sexual relationships between persons of the same gender, while the other advocates a revision of The United Methodist Church's Discipline that would remove any statements referring negatively to homosexuality. This study provides one account of how two groups of United Methodists have "mapped" their moral landscape while engaged in the debate of homosexuality. These two groups each utilize the Wesleyan Quadrilateral of Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience in similar yet distinct ways. In providing an analytical account of the mechanisms that guide United Methodist ethics, this study suggests the possibility that United Methodist teaching on homosexuality may change, arguing against Amanda Udis-Kessler (2008). This study employs what one might call an existential map model, allowing for a fresh evaluation of the method employed by United Methodists in ethical reasoning, and has value for religious studies by providing an approach to understanding how selected religious actors make ethical decisions. As Jonathan Z. Smith suggested in his article "Map is Not Territory (1978), it may be that another "map" is required; in this case one that better embraces the discrepancies that exist between United Methodist pronouncements on sexuality and the lived experience of United Methodists. This account also has practical utility for The United Methodist Church, as it is a comparative study of the views expressed in Sample and DeLong (2000) and Dunnam and Malony (2003). At present these two works represent the two main lines of argument regarding this issue in The United Methodist Church.
- Religious Studies Dissertations and Theses 
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