Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Let's Talk About Sex(uality), Baby

This is a post on a controversial topic, which is always sort of dangerous. However, I'm not shouting my opinion from a platform, but rather "thinking out loud" and inviting others to reflect with me and offer their insight. I invite comments and responses, but ask that you please not post knee-jerk, inflammatory reactions. We're intelligent adults. Let's act like it. Oh yeah, and please read the whole post before commenting. This is a journey...

I consider myself to be in the "moderate-but-leaning conservative" camp both socially and theologically. There are a few things I "lean left" on, such as capital punishment (I'm an enigma; I'm against the death penalty AND against abortion), but on most issues I'm either square in the middle or leaning a little to the right. I have spent a lot of time thinking, praying, reading, and reflecting on the issue of homosexuality. My denomination is embroiled in an increasingly intense debate on the role of practicing homosexuals in the church. Anyway, up until about a week ago, my response to the question, "where do you stand on that issue" would have been fairly confident. I believed (and still do feel) that based on my interpretation, the practice of homosexuality contradicts the witness of the scripture and Christian tradition. As a result, I would have said that that ordaining practicing homosexuals was not compatible with scripture/tradition, etc, etc. Keep in mind that I also believe that even heterosexual sex outside of marriage is incompatible with scripture, and that clergy are to be "celibate in singleness and faithful in marriage".

Anyway, my position on homosexuality has been challenged in the past week and it's left me in a tailspin of sorts. I feel like my world has been knocked on its axis. Last Tuesday, we had six new interns begin the summer CPE program. They'll be here full-time through July and August. There are four women, two men, one African-American, one Filipino-American, two Lutherans, one Methodist, one Presbyterian, one Episcopalian, and a Pentecostal. In addition to the racial and religious diversity, one of the interns is gay. This was confirmed this morning in a seminar, but I had suspected it last week, based on behavioral patterns and his response to a relationship question ("significant other" instead of specifying girlfriend/wife). So, now that my suspicions have been confirmed, I am really wrestling with myself and with views that I've held for a long time.

The crux of the matter is this; my position up until this point has been based on a fairly congitive discernment process and an utter lack of experience with homosexuals beyond a nodding acquaintance. All of a sudden, I encounter this engaging, gifted, and faithful young man who wants to serve Christ and His church and I find myself re-examining my position. I haven't seen Luther (hokey name, I know, but he's Lutheran and I don't want to use his real name) active in ministry yet, so I don't know anything about his gifts and graces, although I should know within a week or two. I'm assuming that Luther will demonstrate gifts for ministry and am wondering, "so what now?" All of a sudden this "issue" is reduced to one person who I genuinely like and admire, and I find myself doing of lot of thinking and, well...agonizing about God's grace, our sin, who God calls to ministry, standards of faithful living, sexuality, etc. One moment I'm worried about a "slippery slope" in terms of moral/ethical standards among the ordained and the next moment I'm reminded that the early Christians established that the character of the one administering the sacraments does not affect the validity of the sacraments. There's a Latin or Greek term for it...I forget.

Those are my thoughts...and where I am right now. I have no doubt that there is more to come. My biggest concern is that as I make this journey, no matter if my "position" changes or not, that I will be faithful to God's Spirit as he speaks to my heart, through others, and most importantly, through His Word.


Pastor Joelle said...

I found myself in the same struggle several years ago. While I accepted gay friends, for a long time I still agreed with the church that because it was not the "ideal", that they should not be ordained.

What I did was reexamine my assumptions about scripture. Finally I had to lay the whole witness of scripture and the Gospel being about God crossing boundaries between "clean and unclean", "pure and impure", God calling the least likely people to serve him and Grace - God's unconditional love and acceptance of all people - over against some few passages about "rules" and then I see so many gifted gay and lesbian pastors in committed relationships - called by people who recognize congregations who recognize their gifts and calling and are thriving with their ministry. And I changed my mind. It happens. I believe God has been known to do so as well

Anonymous said...

Same exact thing. It was easy for me to "know" homosexuality was wrong, until I knew people who were homosexual.
OK. There was one more factor in my case: I also "knew" that divorce was wrong, until my marriage ended (I'm struggling not to give the "reason" here.) And when I experienced divorce as a gift from God, it sort of opened up the possibility for me that God might also grace gay love.
We live in a world where human beings get broken - are born broken - what difference does it make? God redeems us and makes us beautiful in our broken places.

MaineCelt said...

This is a courageous and faithful post. I'm thankful for your willingness to name the issue and I'm thankful for your invitation to discussion.

I, like Luther, have a vocation to ministry. I can never remember a time when I did NOT feel called. I grew up in the United Methodist Church and I count several ordained ministers among my ancestors.

The whole process toward ordination was unfolding nicely until, after years of prayer for a good life companion, I was very surprised to discover that I had fallen in love with a woman. Everything about the relationship--except, of course, our shared gender--revealed God's blessing. We were sources of healing and true soul-mates for each other.

I struggled to balance my denominational strictures with my partnership and my vocation. With much wrestling and much grief, I decided to leave the church I'd grown up in.

The decision was only made after constant pestering from fellow seminarians and other pastors who said it was wrong for me not to use my gifts. My calling to ministry was just too strong, and my gifts were too heavy a joyous burden, to bear without being able to give myself in blessed--read that as ordained-- service.

The Holy Spirit is good at shaking us up, aye? Jesus was constantly calling people to turn, to re-examine, to question, to dare, and to love. Our God is a challenging and compassionate Creator who calls us to draw the circle of welcome wider and wider and wider, no matter how uncomfortable that stretching of arms may feel.

Sophia said...

Welcome to the RevGals....I read your recent posts and back to your introductory ones, rejoice at so much healing happening for you, and pray for the next right step to be made clear. The part time hospice chaplain position sounds really cool.

I am grateful that you have met an out, gifted, and graced gay man in ministry and that you have the courage to re-examine your previous beliefs based on that. I had quite a conversion process on this issue and count it one of the great gifts of my life, and my family's, that I am/we are now in personal and ministerial relationship with numerous holy LGBT folks. It really is one of the most pressing Gospel justice issues of our time IMHO.

Mary Beth said...

Hooray for your courage to explore this hard issue.

LutheranChik said...

Welcome to the RevGals.

I'd invite you to visit my place, LutheranChik's L Word Diary where you can get to know another gay person in a committed relationship called to ministry (in my case lay ministry). I've been posting inconsistently this spring because it's gotten really busy around here;-), but if you read through the archives you can learn my story...and I think that sharing our stories as people of faith is the only way to achieve mutual understanding and respect.

Widening Circles said...

Some of my favorite members of my church are gay, many of them in longterm committed relationships. They are some of the very best Christians I know, and our community of faith would much the poorer without them. I have theological thoughts on this and won't bother flogging them here, but my lived experience is that these are very, very good people.

I'm an enigma, too, on the life issues you mention, although I tend to lean to the left overall. However, the lived experience of others I've come to know in recent years has also moved me to open my mind on the abortion question. These are difficult issues, and sometimes simply being willing to approach them thoughtfully is the best we can do.

Anyway, welcome!

ellbee said...

Thanks for your thoughtful post. It is a very difficult topic to lay out there, knowing how viciously people can defend their "side" in the debate. I often fear that those heated offerings leave little space for honest exploration and discernment for those in the middle or leaning. And they leave very little space for loving those people who wander into our lives, making the abstract a reality.
Wherever your ponderings lead you to lean (or land), I hope that you will always remain open to loving the Luthers who serve alongside you.
Oh, and welcome to RevGals!

Diane said...

thank you for this thoughtful post. I too found it easier to have a "head answer" until I knew more and more faithful gay Christians. Although, to be fair, I've never felt that my head and my heart were on the same page about it.

I don't feel that I can add anything to the many wonderful comments/interpretations, here.

God's blessings on your exploration.