Summary: We in America and in the church are in the midst of a great cultural war. How do we respond when we hear of gay marriages and gay pastors being ordained? We can learn from 1 Chronicles 11 that we need to not retreat, but rather hold the high ground.
Holding Our Ground in the Faith
Note: I am a United Methodist pastor who wrote this sermon in response to a recent ruling to allow a gay pastor to retain her ministry in the church. Though this message exhorts United Methodists to take a stand against a few radical elements within our fold, I believe that the message for all of us, regardless of what denomination we belong to, is that we are to take a stand for what is Biblically right.
Last weekend, after a three-day trial, a jury of thirteen fellow ministers acquitted Karen Dammann, an Ellensburg, Wash., pastor of violating United Methodist Church law by living openly as a lesbian, saying the church has not clearly declared homosexuality to be incompatible with Christian teaching.
Dammann, 47, and her partner, Meredith Savage, 44, a wetlands biologist, have lived together for eight years and were married this month in Portland, Ore., after county officials there began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. They are rearing a 5-year-old son who was borne by Savage and legally adopted by Dammann.
Many United Methodists believe this decision to be a travesty and I count myself among them.
"I believe the vast majority of United Methodists are in grief and shock today. I’m personally heartbroken," said Patricia Miller, executive director of the Confessing Movement, a conservative movement within the church that claims more than 600,000 members.
How do we as United Methodists respond to this? As I reflected on this week, my mind turned to the passage in 1 Chronicles 11:12-13.
12 Next to him was Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men. 13 He was with David at Pas Dammim when the Philistines gathered there for battle. At a place where there was a field full of barley, the troops fled from the Philistines. 14 But they took their stand in the middle of the field. They defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the LORD brought about a great victory.
What this verse speaks of is David and Eleazar holding onto a barley field against an onslaught of Philistine troops. Everyone else may have retreated, but they were determined not to give any ground to the enemy. We are to express our opposition to anythng that is contrary to Scripture!
And this is what God is calling us to do as evangelical United Methodists and this is what He is calling for other Christians to do. Many conservative United Methodists feel tempted to leave our denomination, but that would be a mistake. You see, most within our denomination really do hold to the traditional Christian position on this issue.
We should not jump ship, but hold fast to our convictions and defend Biblical truth. We should not let those representing a few drive us either into leaving the denomination or accepting their position.
The following story about a Civil War battle illustrates the crisis we face and how important it is for us as evangelicals within the denomination to hold fast to the high ground of our principles.
America experienced its greatest crisis as a nation during the Civil War. Indeed, to many by the summer of 1863 it seemed that the Union would fall apart.
The fate of the Union and the fate of the war rested in a confrontation between Union and Confederate forces at a Pennsylvania town called Gettysburg.
One of the most crucial points of the battle occurred on the second day, when Union forces were attempting to defend their positions along the high ground at Cemetery Ridge.
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and his 20th Maine Regiment were ordered to defend a strategic point on the ridge known as Little Round Top. The regiment was placed on the extreme left flank of the Union Army.
On positioning Chamberlain and the 20th Maine, Colonel Strong Vincent wanted to make sure Chamberlain understood his responsibility, and that of his men:
"I place you here! This is the left of the Union line. You understand. You are to hold this ground at all costs!”
The 20th Maine became engaged in a fierce battle with the attacking Confederate forces and suffered heavy casualties.
At one point the Confederates threatened to get around the 20th’s left flank. If they had succeeded, the Confederate Army would have been able to have attacked the Brigade’s rear. This would have cost the Union army the battle and possibly the war.
Chamberlain ordered his officers to stand firm in holding the front and to cover their rear.
At one point in the battle, Chamberlain’s forces were almost out of ammunition. Their situation was desperate, but retreat was not an option.
If they lost the high ground, they would lose the battle. So Chamberlain did what many would think crazy—he ordered a bayonet charge. It was bold because many of his men charging had no ammunition left in their rifles. Chamberlain later described the event: