Journey of a 1000 Words
A thousand words are not enough to really delve into the controversy that this topic brings up. A thousand words are a drop in the bucket to the research that has been done or even time spent in explanations of them. They are not enough to describe the friends that I have that struggle with same-sex attraction or even the friends who struggle with excepting the gay lesbian community inside and outside the church. What can I say in this short amount of space that even begins to express the journey that I or each of us are on. Within these thousand words, I hope you catch a glimpse of some of the challenges of leading in this complex world.
Two views of Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church by editor Preston Sprinkle is intended to open the door to a discussion. Spinkle writes, “No longer is this a Christian versus Non-Christian debate….[then later on talking about the authors says, they are] able to be direct without being demeaning, forthrights without being fearful or feisty.” I believe the desire was for those from somewhat opposing views to have the opportunity to write and react to some of the differing views concerning the issue of same-sex relationships, especially marriage. Finding that place of trust where difficult conversations can take place requires of level of vulnerability that many are not willing to participate in.
Defanza understands the complexity and potential for conflict concerning this idea of same-sex relationship when she writes, “ In light of these controversies of old, I do not believe Christians will come to a complete agreement on the matter of same-sex marriage, but I do hope that we will continue to listen to one another, that we will remain open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.”1 Finding that common ground to have ongoing discussions or finding unity even while disagreeing will take a maturity that not everyone will be able to have. To digress a little, I’ve been frustrated this week as there is an individual that wants to be baptized in our very diverse international fellowship. This has sparked an argument on what is acceptable form of baptism. Contextually this is happening in a hotel banquet room knowing we will be observed. We have been told that if it is not immersion than it is a “sham”. I am amazed at the things we are not just passionate about but also draw a line in the sand over. Some would say this is true concerning same-sex relationships. Holmes writes, “..Pastoral questions are properly answered at the level of individual lives…[he continues challenging people] …I encourage them to think about real people and their experiences in thinking though the issues.”2 It is easy to think in simple solutions when you have no skin in the game or when your relationships are not affected by thoughtless solutions.
Of course this kind of topic produces responses that do not agree with the goals nor the direction this book took. One such reviewer said, “The most important value [in the book] appears to be, unity is better than orthodoxy.”3 This critic also had issue with it being described by the editor as an evangelical book but felt all but one author didn’t take scripture seriously. He writes, “With some exceptions, the question is less what scripture says than what this is taken to mean for the church and how this is appropriated pastorally.” I do think this reviewer makes a point that this books seems to be how to deal with this homosexuality issue within the church more than a four author discussion of the Biblical understandings of this topic. Indeed this is a subject that definitions and common words are still being argued over. How Christ is represented inside this LGBT+ community will lay the foundation for how a common ground can be found.
My oldest daughter lives and goes to school in California. She attends what many in our denomination call the “liberal” school. She has a passion for those that are marginalize and unlike many millennials (sorry Kyle) wants to do something about it. For the last 2 years she has attended and help lead worship at a church plant. This church chose to place themselves in a community known for its strong LGBT+ community. Through her journey with this ministry her love has grown for those that are ostracized from the church. I attended this church a little while ago and they had someone that I knew was in a same-sex relationship up front calling the congregation to worship. This church has embraced those that love the Lord and fall into a place that are not accepted in most evangelical churches. I will admit I wasn’t totally comfortable with all that took place that day but know that is a journey I am on.
While typing this blog, I received word that our baptism was canceled by the individual to be baptized due to this disagreement. I find myself frustrated that there are those that don’t see the world as I do, that don’t value the unity Christ has called us to, that we are not as flexible as our Father in heaven. I…am…having…a…hard time …seeing with the log in my own eye. Whether it is the topic of creationism, speaking in tongues, baptism rites…the church finds ways to separate ourselves from those “not like us”. Loving and finding common ground with those that are not like us is one of the terrible and awesome challenges of our walk on this earth. These thousand words might not change the world but have allowed me to once again look upon this journey that is both great and maddening. Praise His name!
1 Sprinkle, Preston. Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church. Zondervan. 2016. 101
9 responses to “Journey of a 1000 Words”
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I am so disheartened with you about the baptism scenario. What a bummer, and now my mind wonders if this person will ever seek baptism again?
I want to thank you for your daughter’s ministry. A quote I heart this week–“Untold millions are still untold.”
― John Wesley
I am glad she is there telling…
Good opening and I agree with your comment that we need to “remain open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.” That is a huge “conditional” premise that many might just give lip service to, but I believe it is the key to our problem with sin. Why, because He, the Holy Spirit, lives, abides, dwells, leads, convicts, challenges, and even helps me pray when I don’t know what to pray for.
Greg, thanks for sharing the challenges and frustrations. I believe and practice immersion baptism. I like rivers, lakes, and outdoor settings, but flexible based on the leading of the Holy Spirit. So, what if we had a need to baptize in the desert away from sources of water and I sensed he or she was ready, and the Holy Spirit was consenting. I think I would consider substituting sand or some spiritual type of MacGyver thing to help accomplish the intent, which is a metaphorical spiritual death to sin and resurrection to new life in Christ.
The struggle is worth it, but if I may, please consider Satan as the dividing force that schemes, tricks, and deceives the church “to separate ourselves from those not like us.”
I have long said that the world is perfectly aware of what the church hates, much to the chagrin of God I would imagine. We are called to love others as God has loved us and this means in the disagreements as well. My heart breaks for the person who choose not to be baptized because of the judgment of someone, I always reach back to the Ethiopian when he said what stops me from being baptized? Today it would be that person who called it a sham. Thanks for your post.
I know this subject isn’t easy considering the context of your denomination. That being said, I’m so thankful that your heart is always open, always seeking, always willing to follow the Holy Spirit. I’m so sorry to hear about the canceled baptism…I wonder if the others seeking baptism are questioned about their finances, lying, respect, etc. I find it so frustrating that we single out the other…just like you said: “the church finds ways to separate ourselves from those “not like us”
So happy to hear your daughter’s journey as well.
Greg, your lead in comment was perfect: “Finding that place of trust where difficult conversations can take place requires of level of vulnerability that many are not willing to participate in.” I know our class is divided on the appropriate response to this situation; so it no question the church as a whole would be. I believe there are three primary types in this fight;
1. The compassionate: they have a heart that sees those around them and feels for the plight they are suffering through
2. The bible-thumper: they see what they see in scripture, and are compelled to preach that message
3. The hater: These corrupt and twist to justify their own wickedness of prejudice and hate.
I am the second one; I believe the call to preach against sin is blatant and required in scripture; regardless of the offender or the offense. To truly teach the truth, I do not get to pick and choose; though that would certainly be easier. I believe the third group has made it much harder for group 1 & 2 to communicate properly; instead, we just find hostility most of the time. That is sad, as you mentioned, for a people that are supposed to find unity.
I do think you’re onto something with the quote from the reviewer who said “unity is better than orthodoxy”. It sounds heretical. But is it? I wonder if we started with unity rather than getting our doctrine straight, it might mean a healthier church. It’s what Jesus prayed, so if it’s His heart it is definitely central to what we need to be.
So sad about the baptism being kai-boshed. SO SAD. So wrong.
Love to you and Michele today.
I think that for future generations like that of your daughter and my own children this will be a far less contentious issue than it has been for us and ours. It seems that many in the emerging generation are more concerned with including the ‘other’ than excluding them and while that may make us old dogs uncomfortable at times, ultimately it will no longer be our church or our theology in a matter of breaths. I too am saddened by the seemingly endless efforts to create division in the Church but am somewhat heartened by the NT texts that demonstrate this is not a new difficulty but one that existed from the beginning. It seems as though in our human frailty and attempting to find a safe place for ourselves to stand, we frequently force others to be as we are. Fortunately, Jesus consistently demonstrated an alternative to exclusivism.
Thanks for this personal blog, Greg. It is definitely a topic that is too big for 1,000 words, or even 1,000 conversations. I think you have the right metaphor of being on a journey with this. In looking back over the past 30 years or so of my life as a Christian, I have come a long way in my own thinking, even as some would say that I am still “far off”. I think there’s a lot of grace for self and others when we place ourselves in the dynamic image of a journey, rather than simply a static one like a “position”. What’s my position on this topic? Well, we probably need to talk about my journey, and yours. God bless you, my bro.
Great job Greg. Yah that would be an uncomfortable church service for me as well. Thanks for sharing this with insight int your persona world.