Choose your own……gender
I wonder how many of you ever read any of the children’s books “Choose Your Own Adventure”? Essentially, they were books where the reader was able to determine some of the outcome at certain points in the story. Each decision altered the scope and conclusion of the story. Netflix has even come out with its own, rather dark, version in video form. The current title is ‘Bandersnatch’ and does not come recommended by this author.
This week’s text, ‘Homosexuality, The Bible and The Church’ came at a fortuitous time for Dave Watermulder and myself as it coincided with the PCUSA conference in Seattle – Next Church. This movement within our denomination is seeking to develop a way forward to become the church of the future, a more inclusive, progressive community of faith. That means that at various times during the worship and seminars one can expect some discomfort as there is a very broad range of perspectives promoted (read progressivism). This included, to even my own surprise, the encouragement to ‘choose your preferred pronoun pin’ so that conference attenders would be properly addressed. (In case you are wondering I chose He, Him, His though it was nice to consider other options for a moment. You will have to ask me privately if you want to know what Dave chose. I also heard some fantastic stories about his seminary days that I am certain he would not mind me sharing. )
It should be obvious to all as a result of this week’s book and the very messy public battle in the United Methodist Church a couple of weeks ago, that with the LGBTQ issue there is no simplistic and clear way forward. One may argue that they will ‘follow the teaching of the Bible’ but even authors writing for the rather conservative Zondervan publishing house do not fully agree on what that teaching is or how it is to be interpreted. Thus, we have multiple perspectives in our text this week. Add to that the myriad other perspectives that fall all along the theological spectrum and it is not difficult to understand why there is so much contentiousness regarding this subject.
It was not that long ago that divorce was seen in a similar light, but few now would eliminate a divorcee from inclusion or even leadership in the Church. Similarly, as Colleen pointed out last week, exclusion is still practiced against single adults, people of color, and others who do not fit the ‘norm’. As I said in another post recently, I wonder which of those groups Jesus would engage with if he were present in our context today, much to the consternation of contemporary, Bible believing Christians.
Yes, I certainly do believe that there is a standard, that there are universal truths that transcend our human rules and interpretations. I believe that there will be a judgement though as I get older, I am less and less certain whether that judgement will be in line with my theological interpretations. However, I do not believe myself to be any more capable of clearly discerning the ‘truth’ in this matter than our contributors this week appear to be.
Call me a liberal, or a progressive, or simply a confused Presbyterian if you will, but I cannot find it in myself to define someone by their sexuality any more than I wish to be defined by mine, or my pride, greed, gluttony, bigotry etc. I too am a work in progress. I also do not want any of you to condone my sin and simply allow it to continue. But you and I have relationships and you therefore have the right to speak into my life as a brother and sister in Jesus. It is far more difficult for me to make pronouncements regarding my (or my church’s) stance regarding LGBTQ issues as they are not usually received through relationship. They are more likely received as exclusiveness, as unloving, as hurtful, as hypocritical, and if that is what is ‘heard’ in my message and it would prevent someone from actually hearing and receiving the love of Jesus in the midst of whatever brokenness they are experiencing I can’t bring myself to say it. I just can’t. As I mentioned last week, (and you all discussed for what seemed like an eternity) I have experienced a profound and undeserved love and it has transformed me. I cannot put any barriers in the way of someone else receiving the same even if I believe those barriers to be biblical. I am reminded that it was his own people who put Jesus on the cross for his progressiveness and that scares the hell out of me.
At the end of the conference in the corporate worship time we sang the Hillsong chorus ‘Who You Say I Am’. There, in that room there were people of all descriptions: Latino, Asian, African, European, First Nation, male, female, Bi-sexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transexual and Queer, married, single…. all singing these words:
Who the Son sets Free
Will be free indeed
I’m a child of God – Yes I Am
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God – Yes I Am. 
It was a beautiful thing and I believe it to be absolutely true. Broken, imperfect, sinful, bigoted…all have a place in God’s house. That is the Church I hope to be a part of, even if it causes me discomfort. That is the Church I want to help establish, even if it costs me power and influence. Who is in this with me?
Sprinkle, Preston, ed. Two Views on Homosexuality, the Bible, and the Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016.
 Morgan, Reuben, and Ben Fielding. “Hillsong Worship – Who You Say I Am (Live).” Genius. March 02, 2018. Accessed March 15, 2019. https://genius.com/Hillsong-worship-who-you-say-i-am-live-lyrics.