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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Let's imagine a creative future with God and each other together. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Some Possible Responses to an Impossible Situation

You may have heard that the denomination Prairie Table Ministries is part of (the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America-ELCA) recently discerned that gay and lesbians who are sexually active can, in certain circumstances, be rostered leaders (usually pastors) in congregations. As with this issue nationally, irrespective of religious concerns, this is not unanimously accepted. There are many people who believe sexually active gays and lesbians are behaving contrary to the way God wants them to behave, and so gays and lesbians have been denied, up until now, to be leaders AND sexually active.

There are a couple of things that have to be said, sort of to clear the deck, before I can go much farther on why or how my denomination came to this decision...
* Throughout most of its history, and even now, the Christian Church has not dealt with homosexuality in any positive ways. The most common response the Church does is sort of a "Don't ask, don't tell" type policy. The worst, at least for homosexuals, is ex-communication and death.
*The ELCA currently allows gays and lesbians to serve in congregations. They just cannot be sexually active. This is true for single, heterosexuals as well. They can serve congregations but they cannot be sexually active. (The biggest difference, of course, is that in 44 states of the Union a heterosexual can get married if they wish to be sexually active. Such an option is not available to homosexuals in most states.)

That is the current situation in which these decisions were made. So the decisions allowed us to expand out current policy to include as rostered leaders gays and lesbians in a committed relationship. ("Committed relationship" is language we use because in most states gays and lesbians cannot be "married," and for some reason we didn't want to use the phrase "sexually active." Although, that IS what we are talking about. In my experience people who do not like homosexuals do not like them because they are loving, trusting, caring, generous, or creative...they do not like how gays and lesbians have sex. It's the sex that's wrong.)

Because for some it is the "sex" that is wrong, anybody who practices that kind of "sex" is wrong, regardless of how loving, caring, creative, tender, judicial, or perfect a Christian leader they are. God in this case is against sex that is not a man and a woman...and there is no way to get around that.

Yet, that is precisely what it seems that my ELCA denomination did...I will not pretend to analyze all 550 people as to how and why they voted to break with long-standing tradition in Christianity in order to allow gays and lesbians to be leaders AND sexually active...but I can tell you why I don't have a problem with this...

First,I don't think "gay sex" goes against God's will for humanity or creation. I know that sex is powerful, almost drug-like, and that like anything if it gets obsessive it takes you away from the wholeness God intends for you...but if it's the only sex you have once, twice, three times a week (or for those in a committed relationship once, twice, three times a year)'re probably OK. Scripture has never convinced me that gay sex runs contrary to God's will...mostly, because Jesus never seemed to address the issue...but then again, did anyone ever ask him? (I can just imagine, say, Philip going to Jesus and saying, "What do you think about what those women in the hovel over by the well are doing for sex?" "Shsss," Jesus says, "Don't talk about that. And John, don't write that down!")

Secondly, communities have a need for authentic leaders. People need leaders they can relate to...leaders who can make them see the larger picture, and in this case, who and what God calls them to do and be...Here's the thing: can you be authentic if you spend most of your time hiding or ignoring your sexuality? We have a congregation out here on the prairie who a few years ago had to have their pastor leave because he was sexually active with his partner, and he didn't want to lie to his congregation. The congregation loved their pastor, even when they found out he was gay, and they petitioned our ELCA to let him stay...but he could not. So, rather than leave his partner (we do not have gay marriage out here in North Dakota), he left the congregation, he left the ELCA, and he is now a pastor in the UCC, who have allowed sexually active gays and lesbians in committed relationships to be pastors for the last decade or so...So I say let's drag sexuality out of the closet and into the world...Oh, wait...Hugh Hefner did that sixty years ago??? Well, better late than never, I guess...

I imagine one of the most effective congregations the ELCA could have would be one where the congregation is pro-gay and the leader is not, or vice versa. Imagine how closely they'd have to work together in order to keep each other accountable? They wouldn't be able to assume anything, they would be in open communication (not hostility I hope), and they would be required to admit on a daily basis that agreement between congregation and leaders on sexuality is NOT a requirement for ministry and mission in the kingdom of God. What a great congregation that could be.

Enough for now...there's lots of talk already, and I want to listen to questions and concerns people have. Perhaps, I will offer some more thoughts later from what I've heard. I know there are many who may read this who do not agree with me on gay sex...but I trust that our agreement in the Christ of God, Jesus of Nazareth, as our savior far outweighs any differences we may have. Blessings.


Anonymous said...

Well said, friend. Refreshing change from the hysterics that I have heard from other people.

Anonymous said...

I disagree and don't think that is an accurate interpretation of scripture.