Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live faithfully...in the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

What next???

There's more to be said on the subject of homosexuality and covenant relationships. Much more. But these printed words are leaving me, like Lisa wrote in her late night response last night, weary.

I'm weary because I feel as if I'm failing at conveying grace and truth interwoven.

I'm weary because I suspect that lots of readers are looking for code words and phrases to see if I've "gone soft" or, if they're on the other side, to see if I'll finally get it right. This saddens me, and reminds me of the guys in Mark 3 waiting to see if Jesus would heal the man with the withered hand, so that they might accuse him. That made Jesus angry, and it makes me angry too.

Don't get me wrong. The forum last Wednesday and the online discussion has been great. It's all progress in the dialogue. But the next steps, it seems to me, need to occur in more face to face settings, where we can hear the whole person, not just the words. Next steps are important though, and I hope our conversations can continue, because what's happening here is we're learning to listen and be heard, learning to wrestle with alternative interpretations we've perhaps not considered before, learning to pray and love, learning to approach one another in our mutual brokenness rather then in on some false moral high ground, yet doing so without collapsing all convictions.

This is the community of faith. It has been all along. The same kinds of discussions have occurred around countless issues, beginning with discussions early on about whether those who had denied Christ to save themselves during persecution should be admitted back to the church for fellowship. Then there were issues about which books would be in the Bible. After that, discussions about the deity and humanity of Christ ensued. Women. Anti-Semetism. Slavery. Racism. The discussions just keep on coming; divisive issues that make people feisty, afraid, and protective. There's a cloud of dust, and when it settles, we've moved forward. I pray that we can live in the dust with integrity, humility, and courage. We must. We must.

Thanks, to all of you who are willing to participate. We'll work on keeping the dialogue going as we move into the fall. In the meantime, I'll keep the dialogue going, but offline, as a pastor more than a theologian, dealing with the agony, ecstasy, joy, and pain that attends this issue for all who are seeking to love others unconditionally, and follow Christ.

I'm going to close this post by quoting from another blog to which I contribute, because the past two days the posts have, ironically, been about this same subject. Here's some of what Eric Allen wrote:

...Amongst friends, family and church members Dan and Laura felt alone. They are amongst the finest people in the world. Dan is an elder in the church and he serves and as a public defender in the world. Laura is an OBGYN nurse in the world and a servant in the church. My heart mourned for them. They couldn’t tell anyone. And most of all they feared the churches response. They thought that the church for whatever reason would remove Dan from his eldership and on top of that they felt that their family would reject, judge and shun them and their daughter. I tried to reassure them that this was not the case. But it was a hard sale. Let’s face it there is a lot of junk swirling around our churches regarding homosexuality.

.... I want to incorporate compassion with our morality, which in the end might change everything but that’s what compassion does . . . it changes things. If you’ve been around the church at all then you know that non-judgmental compassion is delicate work. Few do it well. To see something wrong with someone and still have compassion for them is an art. Jesus and a few saints throughout history are about the only ones to do this with success. I am suggesting that in general that we have floundered in our response to sin...

...It was suggested by various members of the group that the Bible ‘clearly’ states that homosexuality is wrong. Being a student of the Bible I wanted to know just how ‘clearly’ homosexuality was spoken of in the Bible. I came away with an almost skinless skeleton. The truth is; you can read for a long way in both directions and not run into it. And when you do, you run into a bunch of contextual issues that makes it difficult and painstaking to apply to today. I suspected that their “clearlies” were driven from our cultural nausea rather than Biblical thoroughness. Because it just wasn’t there. It’s only mentioned five times in all of Scripture. Although despite the lack of discussion of homosexuality in particular I still contend that the book affirms heterosexuality. And I am clearly not arguing any differently. I am pleading that we re-evaluate the way we think and talk about this topic. Let’s get rid of the overstatements because we all know that it is more complicated than that. Let’s face it this world is broken and complicated and we are the privileged ones who get to put up with it....

...
I don’t want to ignore it and push it under the rug. I don’t want to secretly make fun of it and be scared of it when encountered. I want to confront it with truthfulness and goodness as God himself has intended sin to be confronted throughout all of human history. I want to confront it as modeled by the words and mantra of the homeless Messiah from Galilee . . . the true God dressed in our skin.

and it goes on from there, Eric's piece does, with good and challenging thoughts. I couldn't have said it better myself. In fact, I didn't. You can read the whole piece here.

5 Comments:

At 29/7/09 10:13, Blogger Kevin said...

I'm glad that you've acknowledged how truly wearying this conversation can become; these questions are heavy and impossible for any of us to carry alone. As I considered your words, I remembered the encounter that you mentioned, between Christ and those who wished to accuse him. In thinking back on the dialog of the past week and considering that particular piece of scripture, I realized that a good piece of what made Christ truly angry in that moment was not so much that there were people who wanted to accuse him of violating the Sabbath, but that in their desire to protect their own tradition they neglected those in need. This seems to be a thread that runs throughout Mark's gospel, that blind adherence to our ideals will never feed the hungry, an unwavering and graceless commitment to truth will never heal the sick. In the same manner, this dialog will never lead to love and redemption if it exists simply for its own sake. I agree that what is needed is a more substantial form of interaction, one in which we are able to share stories and experiences without fear of reproach, ask questions for the sake of tearing down walls between relationship instead of building them up, and learn to develop a common language which can span the breach between our ideologies, weaving us together. I hope that Bethany can be such a place, and I hope that you don't feel as though you have to carry this on your own.

 
At 29/7/09 14:45, Anonymous Geoff said...

Hi Richard, just wondering, is there any word on when a download of the audio of the Wed. night event will be available?

 
At 29/7/09 15:19, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

Hi Geoff...

the entire 'theological cliffs' series from the summer is available by contacting the Bethany office...

 
At 29/7/09 18:36, Anonymous mike said...

i've read through the blog posts and some of the links and mulled it over and here is my question:

can a man or woman who finds him- or herself attracted to members of the same sex ever feel like a fully accepted member of the body of believers (would s/he ever feel like s/he fully belongs to a church somewhere)? Or will s/he forever suspect that, if s/he were to be entirely honest, s/he would be shunned, ostracized, placed on religious probation or possibly even excommunicated?

 
At 31/7/09 17:44, Blogger nach said...

Richard Hays has an excellent chapter on Homosexuality in his book "The Moral Vision of the New Testament". Great exegesis, insights and compassion.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home