Author: Mark Holland
Genesis 9:18-29 The Curse of Ham.
This passage served for centuries as the Biblical justification for slavery. Noah came off the ark, planted a vineyard, got drunk, and passed out naked in his tent. Ham stumbled into the tent, saw his father’s nakedness, and reported the unhappy experience to his brothers. When Noah came to, he issued a curse that Ham, the father of Canaan, should forever be a slave to his brothers.
For generations, this scripture was interpreted as God ordaining the subjugation of people. Abraham had slaves and conquered nations were made slaves. There were a lot of rules about how to treat slaves. Ephesians 6:5 reminds us, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ.” Slavery was a Christian tradition, rooted in scripture. Even Paul’s vision “there is no slave nor free” did nothing to eliminate slavery. It survived 1,800 more years until outlawed in the United States, the Land of the Free.
So what changed? The scriptures have not changed. It is the interpretation of these scriptures that has changed. Christians, Methodists, stood on the floor of General Conference and argued from the same Bible we use today that slavery was God’s will. They were wrong.
Part of being a Traditional United Methodist is being open to new interpretations of the scriptures. The UM Book of Discipline reminds us of the centrality of the Quadrilateral, “The preaching and teaching of [our forebears in the faith] were grounded in Scripture, informed by Christian tradition, enlivened in experience, and tested by reason.” (¶ 102) The least we can do is have some humility that those who interpret scriptures differently might be faithful Christians, they might be wrong, but they are still trying to be faithful.
So what plan should the General Conference 2019 pass? The Traditional Plan runs everyone out of the church who disagrees with one interpretation of scripture. The One Church Plan acknowledges that we are not of one mind and holds the church together with regional differences. I support the One Church Plan.