Monday, November 27, 2006

Is Your Church Anti-Gay?

Michael Adee, Field Director for More Light Presbyterians highlighted a news column on the Church and anti-gay policies in his email alert today. He wrote:

"Syndicated columnist Tom Teepen's column today in New London , Connecticut 's The Day online newspaper offers us an outsider's view into Christianity's relationship with LGBT persons and our families.

Teepen identifies the Presbyterian Church (USA), along with the Roman Catholic Church and North Carolina Baptists as anti-gay...

And, at the same time more and more persons and churches are realizing that it is not possible to be faithful Christians and silent on the matter of acceptance of LGBT persons as children of God with equal respect and rights in church and society to heterosexuals. A clear stand and witness must be embraced - the debate over the sacred creation,worth and place of LGBT persons is over in Welcoming & Affirming Congregations.

Teepen nails it - the Church, by and large, is anti-gay -- and the Church is on shaky ground by clinging to anti-gay positions.

Teepen also recognizes that this is not a theological, legal or academic matter alone - what the Church says about homosexuality and same-sex relationships & marriage affects real people, real families.

Of course most importantly, how do all of these "church battles over homosexuality" affect you, your faith, your relationship with God, your relationship to your local congregation, your denomination or faith tradition, or the larger body of Christ?

Teepen says of the anti-gay statements and actions by religious leaders:

" ... the real-world effect will be to drive homosexuals underground in their own church and, for gays and lesbians, to make the prospect of any pastoral counseling repellent."

Anti-gay attitudes and church laws, as well as the all too common "fence-sitting" not willing to take a stand posturing, will not only drive those of us who are LGBT and our families underground, it will drive us away to churches and faith traditions that are more welcoming and affirming than our own. The choice is not ours, really, the choice is yours -- meaning the local congregation or the denomination.

One's sexual orientation, gender identity or other human difference is not a choice. It is a choice whether or not we will follow Jesus' example and commandments to love God, neighbor and self -- and Jesus did not say "except for gays."

There is clearly a sea change at hand, a tipping point as noted by Teepen."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"The Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic."

"The Church is where the Word of God is faithfully preached and the sacraments duly administered."

"I am the Church. You are the Church. We are the Church together."

What is the Church? The quotes above are traditional and popular expressions of the nature of the Church. But are they adequate to describe the complexity and ambiguity of our communities of faith?

This week I have been working diligently on my prospectus, exploring the nature of the Church through its practices. That is asking the question, does what we do reflect what we believe? Can we discover the answer to the question, "What is the Church?" by looking at our practices and polity as communities of faith?

I think the answer is yes. After all, we have all understood the implicit messages in our own congregations communicated through the daily practices of the Church.

What have you learned about the Church from the practices in your own communities of faith? Those of childhood and adulthood? What did the things your congregation do tell you about what Church is and ought to be? What did they fail to teach you?

What does CWM tell you about the nature of the Church?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Finding the Sacred in New Places

This morning as I read through the lectionary for the coming weeks at TextWeek, I discovered a website that is new to me.

United Communities of Spirit has put together a concordance of scriptures from different world religions.

Just another reminder of the expansiveness of the Divine and the truth to be found outside our own tradition.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Cost of Homophobia

Much of the reaction I have heard from colleagues about Ted Haggard, the evangelical leader who was caught in a sex scandal has been laughter. It does seem both ironic and comical that a man who spent so much of his time preaching hate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender folks would be, himself, caught up in a gay sex scandal.

Yet, my reaction has been one of sheer saddness. The more I hear hour after hour on the news, the more I listen to the shock and denial of his parishioners, the more I learn of his half-confessions, the sadder I become.

How sad it is that we live in a culture and Church universal that evokes so much shame and fear around sexuality, that people are cowered into living a lie. Haggard not only hid his sexuality but turned his own internalized homophobia on the queer community, working out his own issues with such vitriolic rhetoric towards those who embodied that which he most hated about himself.

What has been most heart-breaking has been the interviews with parishioners ,who despite his own acknowledgement of wrongdoing, cannot believe Haggard could do this. They believe him. They depend on him. They have built a card house of faith on the lessons he gave them and now all of that is about to come tumbling down.

I fear that this type of public outing will do no one any good. I imagine Haggard will repent of his "sexual sin," tell his faithful followers he backslid, attend a "homo-no-mo" program, and encourage parents to send their youth to these reparative therapy camps as soon as possible. Members of his congregation will grow more fearful of the specter of "homosexuality" and its threat to tempt even the most faithful among them.

No one wins under the tyranny of homophobia.