though folks at the Town Halls that I have been conducting over the
past months rarely ask about issues of sexuality, I do know that for
many the continuing debates over homosexuality, biblical interpretation
and ordination demand much of their spiritual, emotional and strategic
As most folks know, I have not given much energy as
Moderator to being a part of this debate other than attending some
events of some groups, being the receptor of messages of rage, hurt and
urging and trying to answer honestly about what I am hearing.
don't think it would do any good for me to weigh in on any of the many
many many ideas people have for "solving" a seemingly insurmountable
denominational impasse. For one, my relative power or influence on the
traditional "players" in the debate, I am pretty sure, is non-existent
at best and second, I still think our debates of homosexuality is a way
to deflect our energy away from dealing with what I think is a larger
question of our ability to effectively be church in the world today as
culture changes around us.
Now I understand that we may disagree
about the centrality of the homosexuality debate to our future and if
you want to know more, you can read more about my thoughts on how we
are not dealing with cultural shifts in my post Number 1 reason why PC(USA) churches are dying a slow, painful sad, drawn-out death and other happy thoughts. These are both worthy of some discussion, but this is not what I would like to to challenge us to think about today.
thing that I have NOT heard during much of the debate or in any of the
many letters that have been sent my way is an acknowledgment from
either side that the structural ramifications of their particular
belief system causes any kind of pain or hurt to those who disagree.
have I heard liberals express the reality that by moving towards
ordination of GLBT folks, local option or denomination-wide, we are
asking conservatives to, in some way, compromise deeply held beliefs
and values and to take moral responsibility for something they believe
is not morally or Biblically valid.
And at the same time, I have
rarely heard conservatives acknowledge the fact that liberals have
endured for decades within a system that goes against what they believe
is an injustice imposed on GLBT folks in this church AND that they too
hold deep Biblical understandings of how we extend the privilege of
leadership and ordination.
Our modus operandi is to dismiss the
struggles of the other, lest we give ANY validity to their experience
or perspective. Without thinking, we engage in a "my way or the
highway" posture that makes it difficult to see any other outcome than
an inevitable separation of some kind. And while that certainly could be
in our future,* I think we owe it to one another and to those to whom
we have the opportunity model a different way of moving through conflict to engage in the discourse with a posture of compassion and
empathy towards the other.
We act as if we are at war with each
other with the result to be conquering and expulsion of the defeated.
Now I know this may be the posture of some folks – acknowledged or not – but I still hold
tightly to the belief and practice that together, as community, we
better and continually discern the mind of Christ and the will of God.
Sometimes this process is conflicted and tumultuous, but for me, the
practice and discipline of moving through conflict by a body that claims
to be joined by the covenantal reality of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ should never be a war. Never.
are called to be different, we are called to a live as a community that believes in new life over death. We are called to stand apart from the
ways the would deal with conflict. We are called to be first and
foremost brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter how much we disagree
or what our institutional relationship is at a particular time in our
life. And if we take that relationship seriously, we cannot simply
discount the pain that exists, but that we may cause one another.
So what can we do?
each of us acknowledge and have some level of empathy for the pain of
the other? Can we acknowledge that our belief systems around issues of
sexuality can indeed cause that pain? And, lastly and most
importantly, is it worth it? I suspect that the most strident of both
sides may indeed say, "yes, it is worth it" while others not. But
whatever the case, we need to at least answer these questions for
ourselves. We each need to either live with the pain we may cause NO
MATTER how faithful we are being to Christ's calling on our lives
and/or decide that it is just not and let that inform how we my vote on
amendments, react to results and engage in the future of our church.
the very least, let us step away from a posture of war and destruction
of the other and step into a posture of compassion and empathy. We
know how to battle, why not see what happens if we try a different
way. Who knows what we may discover if we do.
* LET ME BE VERY CLEAR – I AM NOT PREDICTING NOR ADVOCATING ANYTHING ABOUT THE FUTURE OF OUR DENOMINATIONAL STRUCTURE.
PS: On another note, Presbyterian mission workers in Peru have been featured on CNN for their environmental work in La Oroya.