Monday, February 7, 2011

Concord article, for the theme of "Modern Day Prophets"

I feel terrified that I wrote this, but I had to write something.

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We ended Churchwide Assembly 2009 with "bound consciences" - vowing to work together in the unity of Christ in the midst of our diversity of views on the ordination of people in "publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships." We know that many find this unsatisfactory; the varied sides have been raised and re-raised by meaningful, powerful, and spiritually grounded voices.

We might wish to dedicate our energy elsewhere, to "more important" matters, to easier questions. But the news of the suicides of eight gay teen boys last fall, and two more this January, stand against that wish. The overwhelming torment in which LGBTQ people live - and die - is a summons to faithful members of Christ’s body. The question cannot be "Will we do something?" but "What will we do?" Will we proclaim acceptance and welcome, forgiveness and redemption, alteration and righteousness?

This issue will not be settled easily, nor soon, nor by more debate, but by the passage of time. Statistically, younger generations are more accepting of LGBTQ people and of their relationships. If churches and Christian leaders wish to welcome youth and young adults, we will have to clearly demonstrate policies and practices of acceptance and welcome - or defend well a literal application of Scripture.

I do not know which "side" will "win." But I know which vision I believe - in a liberating cloud at the side of the Red Sea; in the deuteronomic scribes who wrote of the Jubilee Year; in the cries for justice by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Amos and Micah; in the Son come to save even the Sadducee and Syrophoenician; in the Spirit descending on the unwanted Gentiles; in Paul who proclaimed the impossible unity of Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female.

The trouble now is convincing the world that such a vision is Christian - not because our Scriptures do not testify to liberation and inclusion, but because our actions have not. The church catholic has participated in structures of oppression since Constantine, and growing numbers of young adults today view the church as intolerant, hypocritical, and judgmental. The roots of Scripture which have fostered systemic abuse of LGBTQ people need reclamation; and not without conflict with Christian brothers and sisters who share a different vision.

A "reconciling" vision is not quiet acceptance but cultural disruption, within the church and without. Yet conflict cannot become a reason for silence. Bound conscience cannot mean complacency. We are called upon to lead in integrity and openness. Each of us must know what we believe, and practice and defend it. We must be learning now know ourselves, and then to live in love - even among those we cannot understand.

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