Seasons of Life: Spiritual Practices

I had the privilege of being asked to speak at the WeConnect women’s event that preceded the Gay Christian Network Conference in Portland.  I was both honored and humbled to be asked – I guess it helps when you’re friends with a bunch of the folks organizing the event.  I also felt myself faced with a dilemma.  As a mainly straight, married to a man for 20 years, gal who serves as an advocate for the LGBTQ+ Christian population, I am acutely aware that my role ought to primarily be about seeing LGBTQ+ Christians being given a platform and opportunity to lift their voices and share their stories.

In my work with New Direction, this is often a point of tension.  In many of the church contexts we are serving, there is still the reality that they will give a platform to someone like me much more quickly than to my LGBTQ+ colleagues or members of our Generous Spaciousness community.  I suppose the thought is that I’m “safe enough” in that I live the heteronormative life of privilege that the majority of our church folk do.  And while I might lament this, in our current context among Evangelical churches this is simply the way it is right now. I try to live in the both/and of going and speaking and extending platform whenever I can.

Top 5 Blog Posts of 2014

2014 has been a relatively lean year for the New Direction blog.  With the release of the book, a busy schedule of ministry events, and my focus on my doctoral work, I haven’t had the space to write as much for the blog as I’d like.  With Beth Carlson-Malena also contributing regularly, we look forward…

New Direction’s 2014 Top Ten

As the final days of 2014 wind down, I thought it would be apt to reflect with a top-ten list of experiences in the ministry of New Direction.  Here we go:

10.  Relevant Engagement: this is New Direction’s annual event, as much a friend-raiser as a fund-raiser.  In 2014 we held four events, the most ever, in Waterloo, Waterdown, Toronto, and Whitby and introduced a lot of new folks to the ministry.

9.  Art: has always been a vital part of New Direction’s message. We are well aware that the rhetoric at the intersection of faith and sexuality carries a lot of baggage.  We believe that art is essential to bring a redeemed imagination to this conversation.  In 2014 we welcomed new contributors to our awesome arts blog The Space BetweenAmy Hall was honoured with the John Franklin Art Award for her amazing original poem.  We commissioned Andrew Roblyer to prepare a theatrical performance piece for our annual event.  And Peter Reitsma gifted the ministry with an original piece, created in the desire to open new doors for justice in the church for LGBTQ+ people.

petersart

Part 9: Exhortations to Family & Friends

This is the final installment in this 9 part series responding to a (typical) evangelical sermon on homosexuality.  If you would like to listen to the actual 58 minute sermon, feel free to email me through the staff page on the website and I’ll send you the link.  My purpose with this post was not to criticize this particular preacher – as I think the content of his sermon is pretty standard fare for many of the evangelical sermons I’ve heard on this subject over the years.  Rather, my focus has been to try to raise questions and experiences of sexual minority and LGBTQ+ people of faith to enlarge the space for conversations on these matters within the evangelical community.  After 13 years serving in this arena of ministry, I think there is more complexity and nuance now than I thought there was when I started.  And my prayer is that the church will have the humility, the commitment to hospitality, the investment in mutuality, and the persistence to pursue justice that will reveal the need to divest power and privilege so that truly all of God’s children can flourish in one family.  So ….. back to the sermon …..

The preacher finishes up his sermon with two exhortations for family members and friends.  In the first one, he says, “The way you treat your same-sex attracted loved one depends on what kind of same-sex attracted person they are.”  He goes on to describe three different types of same-sex attracted people:  the unrepentant unbeliever; the unrepentant professing believer; the repentant believer.

Part 8: Sufficiency

This series is already pretty long – but just in case you haven’t read it (and you happen to be fighting insomnia) you can start with first post here.

The third exhortation for sexual minority folks in this evangelical sermon on homosexuality was, “Jesus is enough for you.”

Of course.  God’s grace is sufficient for us.  And when we are weak we are strong.

Living a sustainable faith means that one has inevitably gone through the refining fire of finding our life and our identity as the Beloved of God.  It is stronger than our greatest strength, or the strength any of our family or friends can offer.  Many followers of Christ will have some story to tell of going through the wilderness and feeling that Jesus was all you had to cling on to.

It doesn’t mean, however, that all of followers of Jesus only find our needs met in Christ.  Now before anyone freaks out – let me explain what I mean.  In my last post I talked about all good gifts ultimately coming from God.  In that sense, it is God who meets our needs.  God does that through relationship, marriage, family, meaningful work, access to food and housing, mobility, education etc.  Christians very rarely go find a cave to live in relying only on the presence of Jesus to sustain us.  (Although let’s face it – it seemed to do pretty amazing things for Brennan Manning!)

Part 7: More Exhortations

I know, I know.  This blog series is long.  Just be glad my colleagues talked me out of posting it as one long piece 🙂  Again, if you’re new:  I’m responding, from a hopefully generously spacious posture, to a 58 minute evangelical sermon about homosexuality that I think covers a lot of the typical points made in these kinds of sermons.  We’ve covered four theological propositions and now we’re on our second exhortation (with three more to go).  But ….. rather than jumping in here …. feel free to begin at the beginning (because I hear, according to Julie Andrews, that that’s a very good place to start).

The preacher’s second exhortation states, “You (the same-sex attracted person) need to take captive the arguments and opinions of the culture.”

Now there are certainly ideas about sex and sexuality that diminish our worth and value as image-bearers of the Triune faithful God.  Violence, betrayal, objectification, addiction, reductionism, and individualism have all cheapened the beautiful gift of intimacy and sexuality that God has given to human beings.  These ideas have infiltrated the lives of more Christ-followers than I’m sure many pastors would like to admit.  After-all, in our daily lives we are bombarded by sexualized marketing  and media while our churches seem to be strangely void of candid, concrete, common sense conversations about sex that would help us to reimagine God’s good intentions.  But this is a human dilemma regardless of your sexual orientation.

Part 6: Sermonic Exhortations

After 5 posts responding to four theological propositions presented in an evangelical sermon on homosexuality, I now turn to the three exhortations given in the same sermon to sexual minority folks.  If you need to catch up, check here.

The preacher’s first exhortation was to “accept our apology for treating this as a super sin.”  And certainly a false hierarchy of sin has caused tremendous pain and alienation over the years.  But I can’t help but wonder if this simply sounds like “love the sinner, hate the sin” with a little bit of lace trim for LGBTQ+ folks. I wonder if the preacher, a white, heterosexual, married, well-educated, man is aware of the position of privilege he holds as he offers this exhortation.  I wonder if intentionally divesting one’s power and redistributing power might bear different fruit?  Do you think this apology might set a different tone: “Please accept our apology for not listening more carefully and with open hearts to the particularities of your experience and journey.  Will you give us a second chance and share your story?”

Part 5: What about repentance?

This blog series is going through a particular, yet typical, evangelical sermon on homosexuality.  If you haven’t read the other parts, you may want to begin here.  This post responds to the last of four theological propositions that the preacher beings his sermon with.  These propositions may well be things that you have heard in church contexts – and they are propositions that I think many evangelicals simply don’t question.  My purpose is to raise questions from the perspective of generous spaciousness in the hopes that it will catalyze more conversation within our churches.

The first of the preacher’s theological propositions stated that because the Bible contains the exact words of God, the Bible has the same authority as God.  The second theological proposition was that the Bible is clear on sexual ethics.  The third theological proposition declared that “We’re all born that way.” And the fourth theological proposition proclaims that repentance is the mark of a true follower of Christ.

In this fourth proposition, the assumption in the sermon seems to be that such repentance for sexual minority persons is the relinquishment of same-sex sexual behaviour and ongoing commitment to sexual chastity.

Part 4: Responding to Evangelical Sermons on Homosexuality

I’m in a multi-part series responding to a very familiar series of points and sub-points consistent in many evangelical sermons.  If you haven’t read the early posts – going and doing so will probably make today’s post make a lot more sense.

At the beginning of the sermon, the preacher indicated that he would offer four theological propositions.  Here in part 4 we’ll look at the third of these propositions.

The third proposition declared that “We’re all born that way” which I took to be a nod to both Lady Gaga and Calvin’s notion of total depravity.  It is a long held Christian belief that humans are conceived and born into the reality of a broken and sinful world.  “No one is righteous, no not one.”

Part 3: Evangelical Sermons on Homosexuality

Welcome to a series in which I give my responses, from the perspective of generous spaciousness, to a sermon given in an evangelical mega-church.  Another pastor in the area asked me to respond to this particular sermon – and because it seemed like so many typical evangelical sermons that I hear seeking to address homosexuality, I thought it might be helpful to make these thoughts more widely available through the blog.  I would encourage you to read part 1 and part 2 before diving into this piece.

The preacher stated that he wanted to make four theological propositions, offer three exhortations to same-sex attracted people (his language), and two exhortations for family members and friends.  In this post we look at the second theological proposition.  It is one that we hear so often.  The bible is clear.  Period the end.  No conversation.  No questions.  No historical or cultural context to consider in any weighty manner.  No matter that the concept of homosexuality was completely foreign to any of the authors of Scripture at the time of writing.  Never mind that the idea of sexual orientation would not have been comprehended in the cultures and by the people that the Scriptures were originally intended for.  And yes, of course these things were not surprises or unknown to God.  But God spoke through particular people in particular times and in particular places.