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…Details
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 Between. Amy 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.Details
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.Details
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!)Details
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.Details
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?”Details
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.Details
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.”Details
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.Details
Just like the insanely popular podcast “Serial”, this post is part of a series. If you haven’t read the first post – this one will probably make a whole lot more sense if you take a few minutes to read Part 1.
The first theological proposition stated that because the Bible contains the exact words of God, the Bible has the same authority as God. This proposition presumes a dictatorial (ie. dictated by God) view of Scripture. This is certainly one of the ways that some Christians understand how Scripture is God-breathed and inspired. The question it raises for me is, “How then do we view Christians in other parts of the Body who do not hold to a dictatorial position?” If the position of this preacher is based on this being the absolute, only way to understand Scripture and authority – which is how it seemed to be presented – then is every other follower of Jesus wrong? In error? Not submitting to God’s authority? Let’s remember that the articulation of some of these ideas really only gained momentum in the 1970’s and 80’s by those who feared that historical criticism would unravel the faith. My question, “Is God so remote that only a dictated bible can connect us to his will?” “Is Jesus not continuing to reveal God?” “Where is the Holy Spirit?” “And what do we do with the reality that there are such diverse perspectives on so many theological questions within the church?”Details
A pastor emailed me the other day. A sermon had been preached in his home town by the influential preacher at the mega-church in the area. It seems the online recording was making its rounds by the word of mouth encouragement to listen. When this pastor listened, explaining that he had recently read “Torn” by Justin Lee and was currently reading my book, he was unsettled by the sermon. It seemed too simplistic to him. And he wondered if someone with my experience and expertise might listen to it and offer some sort of response.
Yesterday was a snow day, one of those cozy-up-in-a-quilt kind of days. A perfect day to listen to a sermon – all 58 minutes of it. The sermon began with the preacher reading an excerpt from Matthew Vine’s recently published book, “God and the Gay Christian.” He read Matthew’s account of his friend Stephen and his experience of profound depression and heartbreak in the aftermath of falling in love with a friend, seeking to remain committed to celibacy, and the eventual break-up of the relationship. And while the preacher read the piece with a somewhat detached tone, I immediately recognized the story of my friend, someone I know, someone who I’ve been connected with and journeyed with for a few years. And I had the sinking feeling that this was going to be a tough one to listen to.Details
It’s been two and a half weeks since our staff returned to Toronto, and I’m still sitting here, trying to make sense of what happened during the three weeks of our Epic Road Trip across western Canada. At risk of stating the obvious, the trek, for me, was a mix of the expected and the unexpected.
I expected to bond with my co-workers, and I did. We enjoyed so many shared experiences: the hotels (good and bad), the restaurants (good and bad), listening to the addictive Serial podcast (always good) as well as Danice’s highly educational musical playlists – overviews of music through the decades – and of course, lots and lots of Tim Horton’s, the one blessed constant across the many miles and time zones of Canada. There were many “firsts” for us – Danice got her first speeding ticket, Wes tasted his first Vancouver sushi, and for the first time, I held up traffic while driving off a docked ferry because I couldn’t figure out how to disengage the parking brake. Among other things, I learned that Wes always finishes eating one dish on his plate before moving on to another (leaving his tomatoes uneaten), and that Wendy observes “licorice-o-clock” almost daily, at least on road trips, though the actual hour varies.Details
The ministry of New Direction has positioned itself in the midst of the unenviable reality of differing Scriptural interpretations on the question of what faithful discipleship ought to look like for LGBTQ+ followers of Jesus. The truth is, of course, that no one can be neutral in these conversations at the intersection of faith and sexuality. A particular individual will hold one of three positions: holding the belief that Christian marriage may only be between one man and one woman; or holding the belief that the grace of Christ and the Christian church may affirm marriage between two consenting same-sex oriented individuals; or being uncertain of which of the first two is most faithful to the Scriptures. Now I realize that a lot of different experiences could be described other than these three categories – but I have used them for simplicity’s sake. A community, because it is made up of many members, might find itself at a fourth position: The response to the question is a disputable matter. In this case, the community recognizes that in light of our limitations in the interpretive task, there may be more than one faithful way to interpret Scripture on a given controversial question. Entire denominations have recognized this option in relation to topics like women in ministry.Details
On November 1st, my colleagues and I loaded into my family’s van and began the adventure of a 21 day road trip, visiting 15 cities, and speaking at 24 events. My colleague Wes made a short video, something he would try to do most mornings of the trip. I think we were all a mixture of excitement and trepidation. A lot of unknowns lay in front of us.
Our first event was that cold Saturday night at Sudbury First Baptist. I think only 4 or 5 people had rsvp’d and so we were a little unsure how the night would go. To our surprise, 25+ people showed up. Baptist, United, Lutheran, Mennonite and maybe a few others that I can’t remember. It seems our emails to churches in the area had actually borne some good fruit. An older woman disclosed that as a lesbian she felt hurt and alienated by the church. An aunt expressed concern for her niece’s friend who’d come out and was now couch surfing at various friends’ places due to a poor reaction by her parents. And the goal of encouraging unity in our diversity, prioritizing our public witness over polarizing debate, was demonstrated in small group conversations where people listened and shared and discovered common ground.Details
Good God host Kevin Makins interviews Wendy and they discuss grace, good questions, writing, queer Christians, and “smelling like Jesus.”
Listen to the episode (podcast) and find out more about Good God here.
(Full link: http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/wwwstitchercompodcastgoodgod/good-god-with-kevin-makins/e/003-wendy-vanderwal-gritter-new-direction-lgtbq-advocate-35693018)
It happened again. I was watching an episode of the excellent new TV series “Transparent,” and Jeffrey Tambor’s character Maura was preparing to come out as a trans woman to her adult son, Josh. Maura stood on her balcony and watched Josh’s car pull up, and as she stepped back, anxiously considering what his reaction might be to seeing his dad as a woman for the first time, I suddenly noticed my own body reacting. My heart was pounding intensely. My palms glistened with sweat.
I remember the same thing happening this past Valentine’s Day when actress Ellen Page chose to tell the world she was gay near the end of her eight-minute speech at the Human Rights Campaign conference. By the time I watched it on YouTube, I had already heard she would be coming out during the speech, so I knew the reason for the tremor in her voice, the trembling in her hand, and the awkward posture of this usually composed and confident actress. And I felt it. For those agonizing few minutes, it was my quivering voice reading the words on the prompter, bringing me ever closer to that life-changing paragraph: “I am here… because I am gay.” And the elation and relief on her face after the audience gave her a standing ovation – those belonged to me, too.Details