|I will rarely post anything personal on this site because everything online is a public forum -- how quickly we forget that. Teens post their innermost thoughts and whine when parents discover a crush's name, not respecting 'privacy'. Employees are fired when opinions are posted about the competition or those at the workplace.
This is not an online diary. It is meant to be informative and opinionated -- and self-therapeutic-- and from time to time I will drift into the realm of the current state of the Church at large.
My opinion is made known, usually by the slant of my writing or articles chosen. Example from an OutofUr blog. I pulled the article and a few choice comments from both sides of the fence as well as my own. Understandably, the discussion was a little heated as this is a big red button in mainline xtianity.
There have been many "changes" in the faith and this is one of those things that I'm sure you can disagree with me on and still go to heaven. That's not the point. The point is to Love the LRD your GD with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. If you can't do that, then you have made yourself G-D and are committing idolatry. And last I checked, there weren't two different G-ds for each half of the Bible.
But that's another sermon for another time. I just live what I believe. Conversion by concussion doesn't work. It only leaves others with bad pain.
February 27, 2008
A Big Can of Worms
David Swanson agreed to leave frozen Chicagoland to labor in sunny San Diego at this year's National Pastors Convention. He'll be sending us updates throughout the week of the goings on there. This is his first post.
David Swanson reports on opening events from the National Pastors Convention.
I arrived at the National Pastors Convention in California a day early to catch one of the pre-conference seminars: Emerging Critical Issues Facing the Church. (For this Midwesterner, the sunny blue skies of San Diego were another reason to come early.) The seminar featured four panelists—Scot McKnight, Phyllis Tickle, Andy Crouch, and Tony Jones—addressing four critical issues: the role of Scripture, the church and politics, homosexuality, and religious pluralism.
These issues are as controversial as they are critical. This was clear from the spirited conversation between the panelists, the passionate questions and comments from the audience, and our moderator’s repeated requests for civil interaction. Allow me to summarize two of these conversations.
Scot McKnight introduced the section on the role of Scripture. “Since high school, I’ve been perplexed about how we [Christians] read the Bible,” he began. Specifically, Scot was puzzled by how we decide what parts of the Bible were for “then” and what is for “now.” He went on to define four ways Christians make these decisions. The “return to restore” method believes we can return to a New Testament form of Christianity in order to restore the Biblical texts to their original meanings. A less idealistic version of this is the “return and retrieve” method, through which the reader approaches the text in order to decide what can be retrieved for our lives today. The panelists agreed that every Bible reader does this to some degree. The question, of course, is how we decide what to retrieve and what to leave behind. Still others approach the Scriptures through his or her “sacred tradition,” allowing their particular tradition to shape their understanding of the text. Finally, Scot described the “primacy of Scripture” method of biblical interpretation. Rather than reading through the lens of tradition, this method reads with tradition. Scot believes this is the most helpful way of reading the Bible, for it allows the church to be constantly reforming.
If Scot is right that we read the Bible in these different ways, and if he’s correct that reading with tradition is the ideal, then how do we preachers and teachers help our church members read this way? Is it enough to allow our preaching and teaching to be formed by the primacy of Scripture, or must we be more blatant in explaining our methodology?
Reading from an article he wrote in 2003, Andy Crouch introduced the third critical issue facing the church: homosexuality. According to Andy, “Humankind is not divided into homosexual or heterosexual categories. We are all sexual beings who tend towards self-satisfaction.” Additionally, many churches rally around these categories, “which leads to a double standard: chastity for those who are gay and a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy regarding sexuality for the rest of us.”
While the panelists disagreed on whether or not homosexual practice is sinful, they were clear that the church must do a better job of pastoring those who are gay. Phyllis counseled the pastors in the room to “remember the human side—these are people, not theories, we are talking about.” Scot added, “The challenges for those pastors who are more traditional is how to create a safe environment for those who are gay to worship.” The evangelical church, he said, “has mostly failed in this area.”
Tony stated that the critical question for most churches is not whether to care for those who are gay. The question many in church leadership are wrestling with is, “Can a gay person can serve in leadership? And at what level?”
Can churches that understand homosexual practice to be a sin actually provide a safe space for gay worshipers? And regarding Tony’s question, should gay members of your congregation be allowed some opportunity of leadership? At what level?
Posted by UrL on February 27, 2008
Sounds like some good questions to me! Especially as a seminary trained gay Christian!
Posted by: PomoProphet at February 27, 2008
"Should gay members of your congregation be allowed some opportunity of leadership".
I guess I am totally misunderstanding the question here. And I think I've misunderstood this in churches for a little while now. I'm not understanding the use of the word "gay" or "homosexual". Is the question asking if someone is allowed into leadership who struggles with the temptation of homosexuality but doesn't actually commit an act of homosexuality? Or are we assuming that the words "gay" and "homosexual" are people who are actively practicing this behavior?
If someone struggles with the temptation but does not give in, then allow them to lead and show the rest of us how to have that strength in our own lives as well. But if it means people who are actively participating in a homosexuality then I wouldn't say that they should have any level of leadership.
Now this doesn't mean I don't want them to come to my church. I've known many decent, good people who are practicing homosexuals. But I know I would not ask them to teach, preach, or give any sort of spiritual direction.
But why do churches always make things into a "gay" vs. "straight" issue? The places of our worship should be safe for anyone with any issues to come and feel free to connect to God. It doesn't matter whether you struggle with homosexuality or pride or jealousy. Do we all agree that people sin?
But while I write this down, I know there is someone who will disagree with me on the issue of struggling with homosexuality. Thank you for reading my comment. I look forward to what other have to say.
Posted by: Thadd Sparrow at February 27, 2008
"Should gay members of your congrgation be allowed some opportunity of leadership?"
You have gay members? That is a problem in itself. Gay attenders, no problem. Membership should not be offered to anyone engaged in flaunting a sin, whether they be homosexuals, straight adulterers, or something else abhorrent to God.
Posted by: Richard Dennis Miller at February 28, 2008
Why is homosexuality the ultimate test of deciding who can be in leadership and who can not? What about a person in leadership who is exposed as being addicted to pornography? What about an adulterer?
In the latter two cases many times pastors or leadership are allowed to stay provided that they work on restoration. (of course this varies some) Why not work the same way with homosexuality?
Homosexuality is a sin, we know that. We know that ultimately we are to work at loving the sinner and helping them be restored to being more like Christ.
The question really being asked here is "will the church be mute about homosexuality, or will they look at it the same as any other sin?"
What Tony Jones and the others in the Emergent movement are articulating is (at least I think) a position of love and acceptance to the homosexual who feels they would never fit in a church. Ultimately them being allowed into leadership is a church by church decision. Only the local body will know the character of the person, where they are with God, how they are working on the sins in their life etcetera.
Posted by: Carl Holmes at February 28, 2008
Why do we want churches to be safe places to worship?
Light and truth and mercy are risky and dangerous and threatening.
Posted by: Nate at February 28, 2008
"should gay members of your congregation be allowed some opportunity of leadership? At what level?"
this sounds like "should we allow the children to ride elephants during the sermon?"
there is a lot of don't-ask-don't-tell going on in churches. we have become so afraid of being honest with each other and being real that no one will let any one in any more. one reason I like my church is because the music group I play in is full of "real" people. I hate defining them as that. but there are too many churches full of the usual self-perfecting congregations who believe you have to clean up before you can get through the doors. this is why my generation is leaving in droves.
homosexuality is a hot-button and it shouldn't be. it is becoming less and less of an issue with my generation and the next one coming up.
cue: you can begin warming up your Bibles to start quoting from Paul and Leviticus now.
south africa condoned apartheid for decades, citing the biblical stories of Cain and Noah as the "mark" placed by G-d and by the curse from Noah, thus creating the black race. slavery was condoned for years because of verses in the Bible. women and their places in leadership (or lack of places in leadership), inability to own property, keeping quiet in church, and being a physically and mentally weaker sex because of verses in the Bible. financial prosperity is condoned by numerous preachers due to a select few verses in the Bible and woe to those who do not believe because it is their lack of faith. And then there is 'biblical' marketing...
we often read what we wish to read. I have not read anything regarding homosexuality from Christ, for or against. really, he spoke more on the Kingdom of Heaven and money more than anything. I think these were far more important, so I've focused more on showing Christ to those who need him than focusing on someone's sexuality.
I have seen many circumstances and issues "change" due to culture and time. we no longer stone non-virgins, grow our beards long, or call ourselves 'people of the way'. we even adorn our places of worship with one of the ghastliest ornaments of torture known in history. homosexuality may be one of those things that is changing. I accept my homosexual brethren and sisters because I am told that I am to love my neighbors as myself. I cannot judge them because this is a gray area for me and because I have a hard time seeing G-d as some angry Zeus character.
let the casting of stones begin.
Posted by: Sara at March 4, 2008
In responce to Sara, your generation is not leaving the church in droves in fact the Evangelical Church is thriving because they teach truth concerning scripture. And they are not saying get your act together before you come to God we all come to him sin and all, but upon coming we confess our sin and repent of them.
Your sarcasm concerning Lev. and Paul is surprising coming from one who claims to be a believer. Do we throw those scriptures out because our culture has "evolved" beyond them? God forbid, let me cling to his words all of them rather than the winds of cultural change. You mention treatment of blacks, but true believers could not condone the slavery of blacks in this country, it was scripture twisted to fit what sin people wanted to justify. The beards and calling ourselves people of the way, outwardly , surface things, not the things of the heart God is looking for. Take away the scriptures about Homosexuality and view Gods creation on its own and you'll see Homosexuality is unnatural, our bodies were not made for it, any Doctor can tell you that. Lets stop making God in our image, he is a God of love but also a jealous God, a Just God, a Holy God and a God of Wrath among countless other attributes.
Posted by: Rich at March 5, 2008
I also love my church because people are not afraid to be real and don't have to be perfect. As someone who works with sexually broken people, I can say that I believe sexuality is deeply important to who we are as humans. Jesus showed great compassion for sexually broken people.
We can talk about whether homosexuals are sexually broken (I happen to think they are); but if God is indeed calling people out of homosexuality, then it isn't because he is angry, but because he is compassionate.
All this being said, I really agree with where you are starting: God calls us to love our neighbors. And we love because he first loved us, not because he threatens us into submission. I hope I can love in the same way you aspire to.
Posted by: Nate at March 5, 2008
We are not called to be perfect and holy and blameless. We are called to love others and to come as we are, without judging others that we don't know. It is then that we receive grace and forgiveness. We judge and rebuke others that we DO know -- Christians -- because we are to hold each other accountable. If you find my method a little rough, that is your perception. And Christians CAN use sarcasm and satire to make a point, especially those who "claim" to be believers. Seems I tweaked a nerve with you, sweetie. But be very careful how you go about ministering to others lest you lose out meeting some fascinating souls. Don't forget that we are all eternal beings (C.S. Lewis).
Until then, see you on the other side. I'm sure you'll find many surprises.
Deut. 6:4,5; Lev. 19:18; Mt. 12:29-31
" 'Hear, O Israel, The LRD our GD, the LRD is one. Love the LRD your GD with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength... Love your neighbor as yourself' There is no commandment greater than these."
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him."
Posted by: Sara at April 1, 2008
Labels: christian, homosexuality, human rights, spirituality