Monday, April 21, 2014

“Gays,” the “American Church,” and 2 Severed Relationships

 BY 

brokenChurch
While copious amounts of time and money have been invested by churches and denominations across the country on who’s right and wrong on “the gay issue,” the little band of Jesus-Followers that I’m a part of has been quietly walking the Way of love within arguably one of the most influential gay communities in the country.  We don’t have any statements or stances on sexual orientation, nor do we spend time crafting them.  Instead, we simply follow Jesus’ lead by spending our lives on the repair of severed relationships.  Really incredible things have happened as a result (like this moment).
Simultaneously, I train everyday peacemakers to see the humanity, dignity, and image of the Creator in as well as the plight of others and to immerse into the radical center of conflict seeking to understand rather than to be understood.  We train peacemakers to embrace the beauty of their own silence so that they can listen longer than feels comfortable and respond in creative, intelligent, costly ways.
In the aftermath of World Vision’s epic flip-flop on LGBT employment and the ensuing discourse between Christian evangelicals and post-evangelicals, rightists and leftistsliberals andconservatives, etc., the lack of curiosity and listening exposed why each are more needed now than ever before.
Three recent experiences illustrate why.
  1. As I sat with and listened to friends of diverse spiritual backgrounds and sexual orientations, I discovered that their critique didn’t focus on World Vision, but, rather, on “the Church.”One friend said, “The World Vision debacle exposed two severed relationships: the one between the American Church and the LGBT community and the other is between the American Church and itself.”
  2. As I sat with and listened to leaders of national and global non-profits, I heard two different responses: (1) most hadn’t heard anything about it; and (2) for the ones who had, this latest Christian discourse served to reinforce their belief that the “American Church” is obsolete.  On two separate occasions, I was a part of cross-sector dialogues in which the faith-based sector had not been invited to the table.  When I asked why, one friend simply shrugged and guessed, “10,000 UN-sponsored kids?”
  3. As I sat with a dear friend who seeks to follow Jesus as a gay man, I discovered how we dehumanize the LGBT community by talking about them as though they’re not sitting in the room. As the Christian discourse emerged, it was clear that we were engaged in simultaneous monologues with ourselves rather than humbly inviting the gay community to a dialogue.
In the midst of all of this, I got curious with two gay friends.  The outcome of our dialogue was a set of four co-created questions that the two of them committed to authentically, colorfully, concisely, and constructively answer.  What follows in the next four posts are their responses to our questions.
Here are the four questions:
  1. Can you reflect with us on your experience of being a gay, lesbian, or same-sex attracted human being? (Post to go live on Tuesday, 4/22)
  2. If you were to isolate this most recent outpouring of Christian discourse about same-sex orientation, what does the entire episode communicate to you about the “American Church?”(Post to go live on Wednesday, 4/23)
  3. Christians understand that, for whatever reason, God chose to attach His reputation to human beings…specifically to the Church.  Again, in light of the recent discourse, how would you describe the Jesus that is being represented by His Church? (Post to go live on Thursday, 4/24)
  4. If there were one teaching of Jesus that you wish the Church took seriously today, what would it be? (Post to go live on Friday, 4/25)
Let me introduce my two friends:
  • Annika has been an “out” queer woman for over seven years and is a contributing author to various resources that focus on issues of segregation and integration between the LGBT community and the contemporary American Church.  She’s an agnostic whose passion it is to see an interfaith network of queer and straight people, alongside atheists and agnostics, working together in order to see equitable treatment for all people.
  • Constantine is an artist, a theologian, a minister, a follower of Jesus, and a gay man.  His journey, which has taken him in and out of some of the most influential evangelical churches in the country, has shaped his desire to see the conversations shift from “sexuality” and “marriage” to “identity” and “intimacy.”
A Final Thought:
Regardless of where you “stand” on the “gay issue,” my hope that is we would all listen longer than feels comfortable and, in so doing, learn something about ourselves, about “the American Church,” and about the LGBT community.
Before contributing to the conversation, please ask yourself this question: “Is my contribution civil and helpful?” 
If the answer is “no,” then I humbly invite you to listen longer. If the answer is “yes,” then please offer your contribution.
Tomorrow, we’ll begin with Question 1.

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