In an open letter to Asbury Theological Seminary, 70 alumni or current students recently called on its leaders to repent of the harm they have done to gay and lesbian people and stand in solidary with them and others who have been marginalized by the church.
Timothy Tennent, Asbury president, replied with a letter that sounds sort of sympathetic until it gets to the last paragraph. There, Tennent bemoans the “deeper issue,” which he says is the authority of Scripture. In its fighting over sexuality, the United Methodist Church is experiencing “a crisis of biblical authority,” Tennent contends.
It is disheartening to see a church leader so entrenched in ideology and so out of touch with reality. We are not fighting over the authority of Scripture. We are fighting over an interpretation of Scripture. By claiming that the fight is over authority, Tennent and other “conservatives” claim that everyone who disagrees with them denies the authority of Scripture. That is simply not true. The claim is as arrogant as it is false.
When so many of the combatants in this fight miss the point so thoroughly, it’s no wonder we can come to no resolution.