(I will try to track down links to some of my comments and post them here when I have some more time.)
There has been much discussion about what the Bible says about these issues and the impact on the future of the United Methodist Church as a denomination. But for me the verse that keeps running through my mind this week is John 14:6.
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.To me this verse is at the crux of the debate as to the role of the Pastor in deciding whether they will exclude someone from membership in their congregation.
Jesus has said that "no one comes to the Father (No one comes to God) except through me." It is Jesus who leads people to come to worship God. It is Jesus, not programs or music or snappy architecture. It isn't the charisma of the Pastor; it isn't the Pastor. It is Jesus calling that person in their heart.
Now, since it is Jesus who has called that person to worship in that congregation, how can we be so prideful as to think that we know better than Jesus whether that person should be a member? I do not want to be a barrier between anyone and their relationship with Jesus. I would hope that every Pastor felt the same. Instead it seems that there are some who would place additional barriers in the way of an individual's personal relationship and their "personal journey toward perfection" as John Wesley would say.
No one comes to God, but through Jesus. If Jesus brings someone (anyone) to worship and join our church, then who am I to disagree with God? I must have faith that God who was powerful enough and loving enough to save me and to bring this person to our midst in fellowship with me, knows best, and I need to open myself to God's will in worshiping God with this person and loving one another as God has commanded.