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News >  Religion

Faith and Values: A matter of alignment?

By Paul Graves For The Spokesman-Review

I felt and heard the CRACK! of my back as the chiropractor found the right spot on my vertebrae to bring my back into re-alignment. I don’t have this procedure done often, but occasionally one leg seems longer than the other. Others I know have more serious alignment issues.

I recently read a stimulating book about alignment – but not spinal alignment as you might suppose. Not literally anyway, but the metaphor of “alignment” drew me into the fuller story. The Rev. Colby Martin spoke of his being out of alignment with his church, and the Bible. I was intrigued!

His book is “UNclobber: Re-thinking Our Misuse of the Bible on Homosexuality.” Martin was raised in a “Bible-believing” church, and had begun to serve in such a church as a young pastor. At one point, he firmly believed what he now calls the six “clobber passages” that have convinced many Christians that homosexuality is a grave sin, if not a mortal sin. Now he is out of alignment with that view.

His broader experience with homosexuals didn’t fit with the dismissive attitude of his church and a few selected verses of the Bible on homosexual behavior. So his spirit felt significantly out-of-alignment. Martin’s book is the story of his biblical research and personal journey to get back into spiritual alignment. His story is compelling. He lost two pastoral positions in large congregations when he was courageous enough to speak his piece of truth: his sense of unconditional inclusion of LGBTQ people was at complete odds with the congregations he served.

Now the pastor of what he calls an independent, progressive church that welcomes and affirms all people, Martin knows he is more complete. What he knows intuitively and through his diligent biblical study is now aligning more completely with what he understands it means to be a follower of Jesus.

I write today as my own denomination is going in for another back-cracking treatment to get better re-aligned with how to best follow Jesus. For 45 years, we’ve been officially out of alignment when it comes to the complex issues of homosexuality.

Next week, we gather for another “treatment,” as our Judicial Council meets to decide whether last summer’s election of a specific bishop is in alignment with the Discipline (our book of church laws). This particular bishop was the highly effective pastor of one of the largest United Methodist churches in the country.

She is also a married lesbian. And there’s the rub! Next week we will find out if our church law has the needed flexibility that honors effective ministry. I fervently pray that it does.

Ironically, friends, this column really isn’t about how Christians disagree about homosexuality. I offer these two examples only to illustrate how such disagreement can throw us out of spiritual alignment.

Our spiritual alignment issues are often too many to count. Where do you feel out of alignment with yourself, or with your church or someone who is significant to you? Alignment has everything to do with relationships we have – with our bodies, our emotions, the people we live with and around.

So let’s reflect on a piece of biblical wisdom that has nothing originally to do with homosexuality. But this wisdom applies regardless of what circumstance we are confronting – or avoiding.

Galatians 5:22-23 reminds us directly that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control: against such, there is no law.”

Relationships that heal, that include “others,” carry the day when put up against strict adherence to Law. Honoring them doesn’t require law.

The Rev. Paul Graves, a Sandpoint resident and retired United Methodist minister, can be contacted at

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