5.02.2008

My Denomination -- PCUSA

Bruce Reyes-Chow posted this yesterday: Can we agree to disagree about homosexuality?

I think he makes a good point about how big this issue really is! He writes "I say this because of what I feel is the basic issue around homosexuality -- it is a sin or is it not. At it's heart, you either feel that homosexuality is a sin that takes us further from God or a gift from God that should be embraced. Agreeing to disagree means that we really felt like either was possible and/or are open to the possibilities. I am not sure either side really is in that space."

This is huge. It does get in the way of doing the things God calls us to do. It gets us preoccupied with trying to change other people's minds and trying to make sure our own position doesn't loose ground but gains strength . . . because we don't want to condone sin -- if that is our side -- or because we don't want to get in the way of the fullness of the Kingdom with old scruples and bad theology, if that is our side. The bottom line for both sides is that they want to be faithful to their understanding of TRUTH and GRACE, and feel that they give up way too much to step away from TRUTH and GRACE and allow error to distort everything . . .

The culture we live in tells us that conflict gets in the way of efficient production, and that efficient production -- good stewardship, if you will -- is what life is all about. If a relationship takes up so much time and energy that you are diverted from your callings, God wants you to be obedient by walking away from that relationship and getting busy with all the things He needs you to DO for Him. We can't sit around arguing our whole lives . . . there are lives to be lived! Right?

Well, yes, I do think that's right . . . when the call to action and away from relationship is really God's calling to the individual -- or in this case, to congregations in the denomination. If God says "Stop arguing with this person and go minister to that person", I better do it!

But sometimes God is more concerned about the relationships held in tension than He is about the "doing" part, because sometimes our idea of doing Kingdom work just isn't HIS. Sometimes God is more interested in making people whom He wants to make them than He is in using them in all the ways we think of as ministry and mission. Indeed, perhaps the only people He really can use fully in ministry and mission are the ones He has MADE through real gut-wrenching conflict that they haven't been able to escape. And perhaps the height of spiritual maturity is to have the discernment to know when one is to obediently stay in conflict and muddle on in other things, or when one is to shake free of the conflict and press on in obedience toward other things.

I am very grateful to God that He hasn't given up on me and all the ways that my words and thoughts and theology and actions reveal my basic misunderstandings of theology and reality and life and of myself and Him. He stays in huge conflict with me, and doesn't abandon the relationship. And, over time, since He is TRUTH and I am not, my side will give way to TRUTH.

I am very grateful to God that He didn't give me the freedom to leave my husband during the times that I had "Biblical justification" to do so, or during the times when friends and family wished I would. He made clear to me that obedience to Him required something else for me (and this is not a statement to any other struggling spouse that they are not right to leave if they believe that is what God has shown them and their community to be right -- it is just my own walk!) . . . and obedience to what I felt He showed me then has played out very well these years later. We are still in conflict, and many of those conflicts may never resolve . . . but we have found ways to live with the conflict and both have joy and feel each other's love.

And I am grateful for those in PCUSA who are willing to stay in conflict for as long as that is God's leading to them. For God is using us to shape each other in dramatic ways, and one of those ways is to lead us to believe together that there is a TRUTH even about homosexuality, and that He knows that truth and that that truth will not change . . . but that our abilities to tolerate others -- who believe something that is not TRUTH and maybe even practice real sin without knowing it is sin (whether sexual activity or whether false judgment) in the same community in which we anchor our faith and practice -- can turn us into people who can exercise the same kind of AGAPE love that Jesus said was His commandment (and said that we had to obey that commandment if we were His disciples.)

So I do pray that we allow those who leave on either side to leave with love and grace and peace, and that we allow them the freedom to choose that time when that is what is right. But I also pray that there will be many who are willing to stay and be formed into people who love PEOPLE more than they love the "righteousness" that is in being on the right side of this conflict. And perhaps God is more worried about my ability to exercise love than about my ability to argue for my exegesis and hermeneutics and to be sure myself that I am right.

Maybe I don't save sinners by convincing them that any particular sin of theirs is the one that needs to be kept under control or at least under wraps if they are to have fully experienced God's grace and freedom. Maybe I save sinners by giving up my sense of safety and rightness and trusting God with my fears, and letting them see that He can heal a righteous prig like me enough to give me real love for real people. Maybe.

And maybe those who are sure of God's freedom for practice of something of which they approve, and are sure that those of us who are conservatives are just blinded by our conservativism to truth that will be obvious to new generations . . . maybe they can save us by bearing with us as the TRUTH becomes obvious over time to both sides. Maybe.

In any case, love that only perseveres when the conflict doesn't get in the way of dreams and visions isn't the kind of love that would sustain a marriage. Why would we think that it would sustain a denomination?

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