The pastor, his wife, and his girlfriend

I’ve been asking versions of the following question for about 10 years.

My understanding is that my clergy colleagues in the United Methodist Church who support what they call “full inclusion” are arguing that the denomination celebrate and solemnize same-sex Christian marriages between two people. I understand that my colleagues are sincere in their belief that such a stance is not only loving and biblical but also a matter of justice.

So help me out, please.

The City Paper of Pittsburgh recently published an anonymous article claiming to be written by a pastor of two UMC churches in Western Pennsylvania who claims to be bisexual and polyamorous. He writes of having a wife and a girlfriend and how his desire is for them to be able to all live together, but he knows if this arrangement were known, he’d lose his position as a pastor.

Since it is written anonymously, we cannot know if the facts provided in this article are true, but let us just assume for a moment that they are.

Here is where I need help.

My polyamorous colleague from Western Pennsylvania longs for the day when his polyamory will be affirmed and celebrated by the UMC.

To my centrist and progressive brothers and sisters in the UMC, I have a question and a request.

Is this the direction we are heading?

If it is not, please, please, please tell me the biblical and theological argument that stands in the way of his longing? I know the traditional argument about this, but that position has been deemed retrograde by most of my centrist friends and certainly my progressive ones. So without the traditional argument — or some version of it — how does the church answer the longing of this pastor and what I assume are some number of laity?

Back in 2013, I wrote to retired Bishop Melvin Talbert a similar question. At the time, he was leading the Western Jurisdiction’s resistance to the Book of Discipline and defying the Council of Bishops in pursuit of what he believed God required with regard to gay marriage. I wrote and I asked him if he could help me understand what arguments the church would have in the face of polyamory if we abandoned the one man – one woman definition of marriage. The bishop wrote me back to say he was only interested in the struggle that was before him not ones that might come later.

Well, later is here. It is unclear to me what resources the church has to respond to my anonymous and polyamorous colleague from Pennsylvania. Saying “Love is love” and “All means all” does not sound like a very strong argument to keep the girlfriend out of the parsonage.


5 thoughts on “The pastor, his wife, and his girlfriend

  1. I recently read this article and was perplexed. Is it a factual account? Or one simply for shock value? Either way, it raises the questions you asked.

    In the New Testament, Paul warns the church to flee sexual immorality. It was a warning to the church…not those who were not believers. Pastors are, I would assume, believers. Therefore, in accordance with Paul’s warnings and the whole writings of the scripture, how can this type of relationship be supported in the Christian church?

  2. Why should we make “the longing of this pastor” the measure of anything? There’s something amiss in the framing of the question, the attribution of authority to novelty, divagation, and satyriasis, around which hovers the “aroma of death.”

    The evidence is piling up. Even candidates for bishop vaunt their affection for self-invention. Doesn’t it strike you as both absurd and hilarious that United Methodist clergy should flaunt and spume and bark about their sexual urges, proclivities, and capacities as though this expresses holiness?

    1. I am not suggesting we affirm his longing, but I am trying to figure out if there is any ground I do not see that the UMC has to stand on in the face of that longing.

      I don’t see it, but I am asking someone to show me. I suspect that most of our centrist and all of our progressive clergy know that the “two persons” standard for marriage is indefensible given their theological and hermeneutical commitments, but I suspect no one will say that until the order to retreat is given.

  3. It’s hard to think of poly relationships being accepted in any Christian church. I’m not a Christian but even I think most poly relationships are ticking time bombs or a venue for a man to be a de facto polygamist who sees his women as sex dolls rather than people

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