To Be Open to All

In every generation we come up against a barrier, a wall that keeps people from fully experiencing the community of faith. It could be race, it could be class or economics. It might be gender or ethnicity. Most recently the wall that has emerged has been homosexuality. As has been demonstrated by the debate engendered by Lisa Miller's article, there is no agreement as to what the church should do when it comes to this issue.

We start with precedent. The church has always insisted that homosexuality is a sin. And, to support our contention that homosexuality is "unnatural" and sinful, we need only look to Scripture. The texts are not many, but there are enough of them to give support to a position that would exclude gays and lesbians from our communities of faith. Until recently, it was assumed that homosexuality was a chosen lifestyle. The AMA and other organizations listed it as a disease or an aberrant behavior. But not anymore.

While the church is counter-cultural and need not follow the ways of the world -- scripture is clear on that -- we need to ask ourselves, where is the Spirit leading? That's why I think that Peter's experience in Acts 10 is important. He saw the Gentiles as being unclean and profane, and outside the kingdom. And then he had a conversion experience. He heard God say, do not call that which I call clean, unclean. I realize this is a major issue for many. We look to scripture and precedent, and it seems clear. At the same time, we hear that the medical and scientific community are fairly certain that our sexuality has a significant biological component. That is, we are who we are. If this is true then being gay or lesbian or heterosexual is every bit part of our identity as our gender or our ethnicity. To use a theological term, it is who we are created to be.

Lisa Miller pointed to Psalm 139. In verse 13, a text that is a favorite of the Pro-Life movement, we hear these words: "For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb." Then in the next verse we read: "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Now this is a poetic passage, of course, but it speaks to identity and calling.

The question then is: How should the Church respond? Should we create barriers or open our arms? The issues come at various levels -- ordination, service in the church, church membership, and marriage. There is another issue in all this, where does the church invest itself in the social justice issues of the community. I'm not one that says we should sit silently by, hiding in the church, not injecting ourselves in the community. I believe that faith has a public face. I also believe in the separation of church and state.

So, the issue that is before us is gay marriage. It is my belief that as long as marriage is a state issue, then the state must offer the benefits of this to all of its citizens. Yes, it has the responsibility to define marriage, but should religious institutions be a factor in that determination? As for the churches. We should be free to marry who we decide to marry. If a pastor/church doesn't believe that gays or lesbians should get married, then by all means they should not be forced to perform such weddings or acknowledge such marriages. But, if they decide that this is something God would have them do, then by all means they should. But simply from a civil perspective, I do not believe that the state should discriminate against gays and lesbians. Therefore, as a matter of justice, the church should, in my mind stand on the side of those being discriminated against.

I realize this is a difficult issue. I don't think it will be resolved easily or quickly. I also believe that in time it will be resolved in such a way that the wall will be taken down. So, the question is: what now?

As for me, I would hold gay and lesbian couples to the same standards we hold all couples. We should hold marriage in high regard. We should see divorce not as a first choice, but as a last resort. But more on that at a later time.

It is important that while may not all agree that we begin to have a civil conversation. The closet is not a healthy place to live. So, we must bring the conversation out from behind the closet doors.

Comments

Anonymous said…
The simply question would be, what do we do any sinner who walks in the door?

You post brings up excellent points. One of the big issues I see in the Evangelical church (where I reside) is sin is divided into two categories: socially acceptable (don't pray enough, etc) vs non social (drinking, homosexuality, etc) There is freedom to confess these acceptable sins, but don't dare struggle with category or you will be "cut off".

Personally, I like the idea we are all recovering from sin. We repent of our sin and pray to be more Christ like. Can someone who is homosexual come to my church? Of course. But I would say I look for repentance from the lifestyle vs a warm embrace. Its unpopular, but I think of alcoholism in the same way. I don't say its ok, but want to help the person overcome. Just like I am trying to overcome sin in my life. Its understanding how sinful I am that I can welcome in others.

Its incredibly counter-culture to stand up and say.. "Hey, I am totally screwed up!" Our culture recommends rugged individualism and "do not cast the first stone" living. The problem with this idea is we all live in bubbles, afraid to get involved in each others lives.

-Chuck
Gary said…
Some say the trend is toward more acceptance of sodomites. That might be true with people, but there is no evidence that such is the case with God. He(God) has made His decision that homosex is a perverted sin, and He has not wavered from that position. And given that fact, I think I'll continue my agreement with Him.

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