Vancouver: Of Descriptions, Labels and Identity….

I’ve just finished my time in Vancouver where I facilitated three events and had a number of meetings with various leaders. Vancouver has the highest population of glbtqi people in Canada several of the locals informed me. One would think, therefore, that a conversation that takes into account the reality of diversity and seriously considers the implications of such diversity for embodying an incarnational posture would be welcomed. It was…. by some. What I found this time around in Vancouver, different from previous trips and previous events, was a powerful polarizing reaction. These reactions seemed to arise at a surface level from misunderstanding, particularly in the area of language, and from rather strongly held assumptions. But deeper than these surface level realities, there seemed to be spiritual dynamics at work that made it difficult to press through to actually have much real conversation. This profound irony drained me. While I presented our posture as seeking to be grounded in humility and intentional choices to be non-patronizing and not coercive, reactions at times seemed to come in a completely opposite spirit: arrogance, power-plays, pressure, and overt condescension. While I spoke about our desire to nurture generous spaciousness that acknowledged diverse perspectives and created safe places in which to engage respectfully, with a commitment to listen, to honour our shared humanity as image-bearers of God, and seek common ground through shared values and goals – we could not actually experience such space because of the hermeneutic of suspicion and tone of accusation. The idea of generous spaciousness seemed to be profoundly threatening to some folks. They probably wouldn’t say it was threatening to them, they would likely say that their concerns stemmed from their sense that generous spaciousness waters down the truth, doesn’t address sin and repentance and is simply a manifestation of moral relativism. The reality is, of course, that our concept of generous spaciousness is only one aspect of a Christian response to the questions and dilemmas that can arise at the intersection of faith and sexuality. It is not the whole story – but rather one part. It is the part that seeks relational connection in a space that is intentionally hospitable, loving and safe for people with diverse perspectives. I happen to think this part is critically important – because I think everything flows out of relationship. God, himself, exists in relationship. Our spiritual exploration and formation emerges out of relationship. The refining of our character and the development of the fruits of the Spirit in our lives happens when relationship exposes our need, weakness and failings. I am particularly convinced that as we welcome the ‘other’ it is a spiritually formative experience. It is the mysterious opportunity to discover the power of powerlessness that is at the heart of the Incarnation. For when we relate to, in a humble and hospitable manner, the one with whom we disagree, we are enlarged in our capacity to simply be present in full dependence on the Holy Spirit. The idea of the ministry of presence is a profound one for me. One of my last connections in Vancouver was with a friend who has converted to Orthodoxy. He and