Generous Space: Encouraging Discipleship

At its core, generous space acknowledges that on the question of covenanted same-sex relationships faithful Christians disagree about what is the most faithful path for a disciple of Jesus. We promote the idea that the church ought to make room for people to be honest about their convictions and/or their uncertainty on this matter without pressure to conform to a uniform interpretive conclusion. This is much more than a merely theoretical cultivation of space. This has tremendous impact on the lives of real people. I have met too many hurting Christians and post-Christian LGBTQ+ people to ever view these matters theoretically or as a one-dimensional theological exercise. I refuse to erase the faces of the lesbian moms whose request for baptism for their child was refused; or the young man who once dreamed of being a pastor but was kicked off the worship team when he came out; or the teenager with two dads who heard rejecting language at Christian camp; or the widower who was excluded from the family grieving process for their same-sex spouse. The reality that I encounter every day is Beloved children of God encountering Christians “taking a stand” or “drawing a line in the sand” that tells them that unless they read scripture and hold the same convictions that those in ecclesiastical power hold, they cannot participate and contribute within the Body of Christ.  No matter what your theological view of sin, repentance, or same-sex relationships, this seems to be less about obediently following scripture and more about power and control. Jesus had strong warnings for those who would get in the way of others pursuing relationship with God.

In the course of developing and articulating the nuances of this posture of generous space, where ALL are welcome to pursue relationship with Jesus regardless of theological positions, I encounter push-back, assumptions, and, at times, accusations. As a posture, there is freedom for generous space to continue to develop and mature, be contextualized, and tested. One of the joys of my work is that I am able to learn from distinct communities as they seek to embody generous space in the particular relationships and experiences that are shared by that unique group. In addition to the 13 generous space groups that New Direction supports, there are many church communities that are seeking to incorporate various aspects of the posture of generous space. Not only that, I have found a wonderful sense of collegiality with Ken Wilson and Emily Swan and their work with the concept of Third Way, the Colossian Forum and their new curriculum, the Marin Foundation and their Living in the Tension conversations, Evangelicals for Social Action and their Oriented to Love dialogues, and Tim Otto and his work on Oriented to Faith, and all the communities that they have engaged. There is no question that this is a season of momentum in opening new dialogue and re-evaluating priorities regarding our engagement on matters of gender and sexuality. Many celebrate this movement, but others view it as dangerous and something to expose and oppose.

I understand that. I used to be a zealot for a clear and certain theology of marriage that demanded defending and preventing the encroachment of anything that even smelled like generous space.

I have gone - my shadow remains via photopin (license)

I have gone – my shadow remains via photopin (license)