« The Church is not a Country Club | Main | Sermon: Jesus Would Have Liked Halloween »

10/26/2010

Comments

Doug

I'm responding as one who knows your lunch-mate pastor. I am a gay member of his denomination and was a member of a small group that he lead before moving to NYC to plant a church. I wasn’t the only gay person in this small group. I found him to be warm and very welcoming of all sorts of people.

You are correct that a denominational stance and a personal one can be very different, even at odds with each other. He, I and other pastors in our denomination have discussed how the church can more effectively welcome gay and lesbian people into our churches. We are painfully aware of the denominational line. We talked about whether we are charged with changing the denomination, (a formable task), or getting on with welcoming GLBTQ into the church. We focused on the later. (That isn’t to say that someone shouldn’t take on the task of changing denominational polity.) There are other examples of pastors within our denomination who are also responding positively to this call. One such pastor has been in the national news lately for leaving the denomination so that he could freely ministry to the gays and lesbians in his city.
Your sermon talked about the importance of belonging –to Christ and to each other. We adhere to the Heidelberg Catechism which opens with this tremendous statement of belonging:
Q & A 1
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own,
but belong—
body and soul,
in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven:
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.
Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.

It may be true that my church planting pastor friend and I are more conservative than you. But we belong with you to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ. And we belong to the family of Christ together, with you. May you embrace Peter, and pray for him and his denomination as they continue to learn how to embrace the gay and lesbians around them.

Emily Scott

Dear Doug,

Many, many thanks for your comment, and for your willingness to be a part of this conversation. I continue to learn more and more about your denomination, as well as your pastor. I believe that he and I will continue to be in conversation and explore both our similarities and differences, theologically.

It sounds like you and those around you are doing a wonderful job of discerning ways to be in relationship with your denomination WHILE reaching out to GLBT people in love. It can be difficult to walk that line, and it sounds like you're doing it with much prayer and consideration. It seems wise to me to focus on the second of the options you presented: getting on with welcoming people!

The question I wanted to address with my congregation through this sermon was one about Christian unity. The experience of meeting Peter and wondering how far apart we were theologically led me to ask some questions about how I might be in relationship with Christians whose theology seems in stark opposition from my own. As it turns out, Peter and I were not as far apart as I feared. But the question remains: how might I (and all those in the church) cross boundaries that sometimes seem uncrossable to be the body of Christ?

Perhaps you have some experience in this, as I imagine many of your siblings in your own denomination would disagree with you when it comes to sexuality. How have you negotiated these waters?

Emily

Doug

Dear Emily,

Your question reminds me of a story a former pastor told in one of his sermons. He and wife were watching some tele-evangelist from their bed one night. He got upset at what the tele-evangelist was saying and exclaimed to his wife: "How can God use that guy!" She turned to him and said, "He uses you, doesn't he?"

God using other pastors and our having unity with them is two different things, I know.

I think the answer is in building relationships with those people or pastors. It is hard work. It may begin with a short cup of coffee, and grow to lunch. The conversation won't focus on each other's theology, but on their personhood. What makes them tick, what is their story. After the trust is built, then one can address the harder issues of theological philosophy. Ask Peter about the Seattle Cluster. It is a group of pastors who meet monthly over pizza. Part of their time is to discuss issues of concern, something like an "in-service" training. Part of their time is being exposed to people who are different from them.

As far as reaching out to GLBT people here, we are just beginning that journey. And it challenges many deeply. The conversation has begun, and that is what I celebrate.

I hope my response doesn't seem trite -- because you've heard it before, and it is oft quoted -- but taking the time to listen to another's story, to share a meal is the best way that I know.

have a wonderful weekend celebrating Jesus

Emily Scott

Hi Doug,

Not trite at all. I think you're right, that relationships are at the center of all of it. I've been really moved watching my denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, move forward with GLBT inclusion. The process has been slow and prayerful, and attentive to the difficulty it presents to the denomination. Though we won't be able to bring everyone with us, I think there has been a sense of love, care, and relationship at work in the process.

Hmm...difficult stuff. I'm glad to be in conversation.

Emily

The comments to this entry are closed.