Church Stuff-More or less

Does the church make sense or do we make it too hard for people to come in? I think yes and yes and the task then is to make it easier. Maybe for someone out there, this will be the case. I write as a Lutheran (or, perhaps a Lutherpalian) although I might seem out of the mainstream from time to time. That's okay, isn't it? Let's blog on.

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Location: Northport, Long Island, United States

Contrary to what Google will tell you, I have been blogging for several year, right here. Look for Churchstuff-moreorless. life was a hell of a lot easier when you could talk to someone to get help. Now, you can't do it on the telephone, you can't do it on the internet. Life was easier and made more sense because people actually cared. Now they will screw you as quickly as they will help you. Unfuck the world.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

...but She is still my mother.

The church that I love, to which I have given my entire adult life, is having its regular "churchwide assembly" aka CWA this week in Minneapolis. For some time now we have been debating sexuality, same-sexuality in particular. We have a tendency to do things backasswards. Case in point, we really haven't come to terms wuth same-sexuality but this week we are trying to decide whether or not our rostered people (pastors, deacons, etc) can serve while living in covenanted same-sex relationships. We're going to try to come to terms with sexuality, same or other, this week too, but that seems to be almost secondarily.

There are basically two positions on this question, simply put, "yes" or "no" and we both claim to base our stance on Scripture. The same Scripture which we have kinda taken for granted, and in true backassward fashion have begun a "Book of Faith" initiative to try and resolve the fact that we all look at it a little differently. What are you gonna do? Sometimes we have taken Martin Luther's words about "putting the best construction on things" too close to heart. We take a lot for granted.

Naturally, I fall into the "yes" category. I've known gay pastors for 40 years (and I have seen the harm the church has done to them firsthand). As a senior seminarian, my class came together in support of our gay peers and told the school that if they weren't certified for ministry, none of us would be. I've known partnered gay pastors for over 10 years now, maybe longer. One of them was, for a time, my pastor-or at least my "father confessor." I was one of the first signers for "Equality Maryland", I presided at one same sex wedding (for two women named Kimberly), and I regularly march in Pride Parades. I'm straight, not narrow. I grew up in small town white suburban America, so I have come a long way.

Then there is the "no" category. I haven't been exactly charitable to them, I've likened them to Pharisees, I've described them as a flock of "Chicken Littles". In doing so, I upset them and made discussion difficult and, if the truth be told, I've probably pissed Jesus off. For that I am heartily sorry and sincerely repent. But I still think that their words and actions warranted it. (Sorry, Jesus) The world is not going to end. We do not doubt the Bible (or even hate it), it is the Word of God. Our ecumenical partners have their own problems and aren't going to scuttle our agreements. Partnered GLBT pastors are not going to send us out into the barnyard to romp with farm animals or make us want to marry our pets, no matter how cute we may find them to be. Those of us who are married are not going to run out and get divorced so that we can hook up with a person of our sex. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. It is a religion based on fear. It may be God's Church but come hell or high water, it has to be protected. Yeah, right. I don't recall that being part of my ordination vows.

So, my church is meeting in Minneapolis. Part of me wants to be there but I am not really big on crowds unless there is a ball involved and meetings that last more than hour? Uh-uh, not for me so five days worth definitely not my thing. I watch at home, I go to the library, I chat and read on the 'net and I am hopeful. Maybe this time we will get it right. The dust will settle, we will look around and think, "hmm, life will go on." Our little band of Lutherans will stop being followers, we will resume our rightful position of being Reformers. Our GLBT members are silent no more. They have summoned the courage to stand up and be counted, to be proud of how God has created them even when they are telling us all about the shitty way that the church has treated them over the years. All they ask for is what the rest of us have taken for granted, what the rest of us have abused and failed to care for--to be able to spend their lives with the one person they love almost as much as they love God. Who are we to deny them that? Afterall, they might teach us a thing or two about love. About the Church. About God.

For some reason, our GLBT brothers and sisters are saying that they want to be part of this thing we call church. I am not sure I get that but, then again, I am not sure I always get the amazing unexpected things that God tends to do.

The Church... Yeah, I know, but She is still my mother.


Blogger Lura said...

Good post!

Your description of the "backasswardness" made me laugh! But I think it is an intentional strategy to talk about LGBT pastors first, because it puts a human face on the issue, a face that many people love. And because those of us with a fire in our bones for ministry can't sit around waiting for the church to talk about this in the abstract!

Just to add to the difficulty of understanding the position of those in the "no" camp- although they cite our ecumenical partners as reasons not to move forward, our closest partners are the Episcoplians and United church of Christ. Both of those bodies already ordain people in same-gender relationships, so we are already recognizing LGBT clergy!

9:44 AM  
Blogger Brad said...

Growing up in White suburban America makes you more, not less, likely to support Gay issues.
Try finding openly gay clergy in traditionally Black churches and you will see what I mean.
Naturally, I understand completely that, as a member of a Mainline Protestant church you will want, perhaps even need, to flagellate yourself for being a member of an oppressive group and that you'll need to do this publicly, but give it a rest here. As oppressive as The Man's churches can be, compared to Black denominations and Hispanic Baptists and Pentecostals, you're way ahead of the pack.
Don't even get me started on the Orthodox.
Your closest partners? Rapidly shrinking.
The ELCA has been one of the fastest shrinking churches for the past five years, beaten only by, coincidentally enough, the UCC and the Disciples of Christ, also mainline protestant/liberal denominations.
Prophetic ministry's cost? Just demographics? A statistical blip before a flood of people longing for justice with a large side helping of lefse?
Probably nothing much that anyone can do now to stop "none of the above" from becoming even larger in the years to come.

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