Last night we had a small group of people gather to hear the story and journey of New Direction. I was asked a fantastic question, one that I have pondered a fair bit. The questioner inquired about the trajectory and future of New Direction. He talked about the race issue and the implications of generous spaciousness ….. musing that at some point you wouldn’t want generous spaciousness to include the position that would continue to relegate people of colour to the back of the bus. He wanted to know whether generous spaciousness was a temporary posture – and one that would give way to a fully and completely affirming perspective – challenging any other position.
This is a great question – it demonstrates a real wrestling with matters of justice and equity and what generous spaciousness really means – and what it creates space for. Clearly, generous spaciousness is not meant to be a shelter for injustice or the perpetuation of inequity of persons. There is a commitment to honouring our interdependence as persons with the understanding that “If I diminish you, I diminish myself.” In light of that, if someone truly holds convictions that differ from mine – held without fear, anger, prejudice or shame – then I want to ensure that they have the space to hold those convictions in alignment with their conscience.
The challenge with the topic of same-sex sexuality is that it is not a perfect parallel to the issues around race and racism. While there may be similar issues around status, privilege, equity and justice – they are also distinct and can’t be spoken about as if they are exactly the same. One of the ways I have viewed this reality is to think about it as somewhere between an issue like race and an issue like women in ministry. As I’ve written about before, as a woman in ministry I encounter people who believe that women should not be allowed to preach or teach. Some of these people may hold these beliefs because of internalizing a patriarchal system the views women as less than men. I believe the system of patriarchy must be addressed and dismantled – because I think it is in contradiction to what scripture tells me about who I am as a woman who is a child of God and created in God’s image. But there are people who do not hold these convictions because of patriarchy – but because of the way they approach and engage with scripture. They believe, sometimes with some degree of pain, that women ought not to teach and preach or lead because of the way they interpret particular passages of scripture. While I might disagree with them, I believe that scripture calls me to honour them and their convictions.