Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Discussion, disagreement, directions...

Lectionary passages for Feb. 1, 2015.  Deut. 18:15-20, Ps 111, 1 Cor. 8:1-13, Mark 1:21-28

One reason I write this blog is to discipline myself to read scripture each week, but the more important reason for the blog is so that scripture can help me as I "read" daily life.

It's amazing how often the lectionary passages speak directly into my personal life and my life in the church.

Last night our congregation held a meeting to have open discussions on the issue of sexual orientation and welcome with our church body. What are our hopes? Concerns? The turnout was very good, the discussions respectful, our desire clear, our direction....we're not sure. It was clear that the 50 or so people who showed up (on a Wednesday night!) desire to move toward being a church that welcomes and includes people regardless of sexual orientation. It was also clear that we desire to do this well, respecting each other's beliefs and place on this journey and respecting our valued connections within the larger church bodies we are part of, and bringing some sense of hope and healing for those hurting because of our lingering inability to work through these issues. 

We have some disagreements about how to do this well. Should we have a "yes-no" vote right now to clearly and officially makes a statement? There are good reasons for this. Should we avoid a vote and instead work at a different model for decision making, such as seeking consensus? There are good reasons for this. Should we table the motion for one year, to engage with the national, area, and local church bodies a bit more and then make our decision? There are good reasons for this.

1 Cor. 8:1-13 speaks into a situation of discussion, disagreement, and directions. Like in our situation, the people involved in the discussions are at all different stages in their understandings and practices. Paul begins with an encouragement to let love, not knowledge, guide the decisions. He doesn't discount knowledge, but tells us that knowledge applied without love and understanding is harmful. He has no issue with the eating of food offered to idols, because he knows the idols are inert. His issue is that not everyone has the same knowledge, and their well-being is important too.

We don't all have the same knowledge either. Some have studied, (the Bible and current science), discussed, prayed, and experienced friendship and faith discussions with lgbtq people. Others have not had, or taken, these opportunities, or have different information. Some of us are clearly decided, others are still struggling. That doesn't mean the church can never make a decision, but it reminds us that any actions must be taken in love and humility and openness to continue to walk with each other as we struggle. We have to extend care and genuine hearing to all "sides." Even if we vote, we are not finished with our struggles to understand and respond faithfully.

For myself, studies of the Bible, discussions with gay and straight Christians, reading of some of the science of sexual orientation, prayer, and concern for justice ---have lead me to a place where I want to work to become an officially open and welcoming congregation. I want to do this well, with respect for all, with openness to change should new truths be revealed (the same openness I expect of those who have a different opinion than me!), and with respectful engagement with the larger church. 

I don't know how all of this will play out, I'm not sure yet what direction is best. I am sure that Paul's words; "love builds up" will be a helpful guide. Unlike Paul, we don't have the simple option he has in verse 13 (avoiding the meat). Paul says the meat doesn't matter. He's right. For us though, our brothers and sisters and friends and parents and children do matter. There is nothing easy here, any decision will be hurtful to some. We have to keep praying, discussing, disagreeing, and finally, setting direction. We may not get it all right, but if we decide with love, trusting in God, we will be right enough. We'll have to trust God to sort it all out with us as we make our best efforts.

The following is a little piece I pulled from the "Rumours" newsletter Ralph Milton used to produce. I like his thoughts, sort of a modern Paul.

This passage is, it seems to me, is primarily directed at those of us who are in positions of leadership in the church. It’s tempting, as our understanding of our faith grows, to change our way of acting and to expect others in our community to follow us.
This has been particularly true in our changing understanding of human sexuality. Leaders in the church find themselves with a new and more open understanding, and then feel a sense of anger or confusion when others don’t quickly follow their lead or actively oppose them. But they may not have the educational background or the intellectual tools to follow our thinking.
This passage warns me that when my convictions lead to changes in the way I act or speak, I need to be very aware of how my ideas and actions are heard and seen by others in my church community. I especially need to be careful not to respond in anger or defiance or confusion.

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