So I'll dip my toes into the raging waters of 10-A commentary. For those who don't know, the denomination to which I belong (the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.) has officially voted to change its ordination standards, removing language from our constitution that prohibited the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals. A quick search on the internet will give you thorough rundown of the language if you want to leave and come back...
I supported this amendment and continue to support what it stands for to my LGBT brothers and sisters. And yet, I'm uneasy. I'm uneasy for the same reason that I was uneasy about the language in our constitution prior to 10-A's passing. That reason is relationships.
I found out the results of the deciding vote while I was in a presbytery meeting. I was sitting next to another minister who I am just getting to know and of whom I am really growing quite fond. We are on opposite sides on this issue. As I checked my phone to find the info I was looking for, I began to imagine how he would be feeling about information that in other circumstances might have elicited a fist pump from me. The nature of things like this is that there is a winner and a loser. Unlike most circumstances, I call the people on the losing side brother and sister and most of the time I mean it.
I had another encounter earlier in the week after I posted a video from an organization working to create a more welcoming environment for the LGBT community in our churches. The first person to respond to the video was someone who felt that the video was lacking a sense of biblical truth. He is a friend. A brother, whom I've known for a long time whose ministry I deeply respect and whose friendship I value. We don't agree. And this, unlike any other issue, seems to create enemies of those who disagree. I hate that.
What I hate more is that I now sit in a place that is completely counter to all I was taught growing up. My mother commented on an article I posted about the news from the denomination. She doesn't understand how I could support something that God is clearly against. Something of which the church i grew up in actively tried to cure people. That's a tough one to explain.
Beyond all of this I thought I about my little struggling church. I think about the people who have cornered me on several occasions and have threatened me with "if this thing passes, I'm going to go and find a church that believes in the Bible". Interestingly enough, one of these people weekly compliments me on my very-biblical sermons. I think about how my church has much bigger fish to fry, but for a brief, distracting moment we may have to move that fish off the heat for a bit so that we can cook what is to us right now a smaller, less significant fish. (boy, that's an awkward metaphor!)
I hear all the screaming, from my church, from my friends, from my family and I genuinely sit and ask myself, "what if I'm wrong?" What if the problem is that I've just strayed from what I was taught, strayed from the Bible, strayed from the tradition? What if we really need to keep "those" people out of the church or at least out of leadership? What's worse is I ask myself if I'm causing others to stray. It's bad enough that I'm missing the boat, but am I holding others up from catching that boat as well? (boy, these cliches just don't work so well when you stretch them out).
The truth is I might be wrong. I pray everyday that God will forgive me if I'm wrong and I pray doubly that God will forgive me if I've lead others astray. And yet if I am to err, I err on the side that comforts and supports people and not on the side that excludes people. I will err on the side of embracing that which I don't understand about myself and others (namely, human sexuality) and I will err on the side of believing that we cannot determine someone's value and worth based on their attractions. I will make the mistake of believing that life experiences that are not my own have just as much right to be heard from the pulpit as my own. I will foolishly believe that a gay man sitting beside a dying woman in the hospital is just as capable of offering comfort as I am. I will make the mistake of believing that the God that I pray to is the same God that my lesbian friends pray to and that that God hears them just as well as God hears me.
The irony is that I believe this foolishness because of the Bible. I believe this because of the God who says "I've made no unclean thing" to Peter in Acts. I believe this because Paul says that we are one in Christ and that there is neither male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free in Christ. I believe that my error can be corrected because love covers a multitude of sin. I believe that there is no law that can be made against loving my neighbor. And I believe that my neighbor is gay and lesbian and trans-gender and bi-sexual. I believe all this because I was taught not to isolate individual verses, but to look at the grand narrative that the Biblical witness weaves. Moreover I have the chutzpah to believe that if I am erring, it is on the side of justice.I believe that there is something inherently wrong about silencing people.
I may get to heaven and God may say, "Derrick, you were way off on the whole homosexuality thing". To which I will respond, "yeah, but did you read my blog?" No... I wouldn't dare. But I will have to ask God, "but was my heart in the right place, cause only you know the answer to that. Did I deny you in the process of loving my friends?"
To those of you who disagree with me on this issue, I hope and pray that you won't assume the worst of me. I don't use my Bible to prop up my coffee table. I read it diligently and daily and I have reached my conclusions BECAUSE of how I read it and with a lot of prayer. I hope we can still be friends. And maybe even brothers and sisters.
To those of you who do agree with me, we might be wrong. Now is a time for humility. We don't know the mind of God. I'm sorry if that is offensive to you, but the last part of Micah 6:8 requires a humble walk with God. I voted for 10-A with fear and trembling. I will live out the reality of it even more so. I don't think we're wrong, but no one ever does. This is olive branch time. This is the time to rethink our system that creates winners and losers and bifurcates the body of Christ.
And to those of you for whom this directly effects, those in the LGBT community that I have befriended over the last decade, my simple prayer for you is that you will find communities of faith that will love you into being all that God created you to be. You deserve your dignity.
I celebrate 10-A as an achievement for the church. There will be backlash. Churches will leave the denomination. In some places, already rapid decline will increase. We won't instantly be seen as "hip" and for the love of God I hope that's not what we were trying to accomplish! We're still a bunch of losers who read a 2000 year old book and who sing our hymns just a little too slowly to be interesting. We will be judged on all sides. And yet I hope that we can come out of this as a stronger body, ready to do the work of proclaiming God's reconciliation through Christ and our reconciling to one another through love.