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.

A woman, her husband, and her boyfriend

So, I don’t know if this is a quirk of my web browser or cookie settings, but as I was scrolling through Salon.com looking for the link to an excerpt from Adam Hamilton’s new book on the Bible, I stumbled on this defense of polyamory two stories before Hamilton’s.

The article, “Polyamory works for us,” tells of a woman with a husband of 17 years and an ongoing boyfriend of 2 years all living together.

My path here was a long one. As far back as I can remember, I felt that loving one person romantically did not preclude the possibility of loving another at the same time. It seemed natural and intuitive to me. But I had no models for that way of living, so I assumed there was something wrong with me.

I married my husband and remained in a monogamous relationship with him for many years. I knew I wanted to be with him for the long haul. But I was never entirely fulfilled. I couldn’t shake the feeling that some part of me was repressed.

The article ends this way:

When my daughter talks about same-sex marriage or polyamorous relationships, she always looks perplexed and says, “I don’t understand why anyone is angry about people being in love and not hurting anyone.” And I long for a world where everyone is able to see it so simply.

What I’d like someone to do for me is explain what basis the church has to disagree with this woman in a world in which we are rushing as fast as we can to declare that the Bible has little to say to us about God’s will for human sexuality that we would not already say if we had never had a Bible in the first place.

(For those who are interested, the excerpt from Hamilton’s book chapter is at this link: Stop twisting the Bible: There is no message against same-sex marriage.)