Wednesday, April 12, 2006

From My Mail Box

There are dozens like it in my inbox, but this is perhaps the most eloquent of those "voices crying in the wilderness" -- voices I hope the "communion-at-any-price" folks will weigh before they consider sacrificing the justice the prophets have called us to do for the uniformity the primates have blackmailed us with.

"I am still in the process of reading the Special Commission's report in anticipation of the 2006 General Convention. As I read, however, a feeling of not only disappointment, but actual heartbreak is coming over me. One reason for that may indeed be that as a performing arts major, I can be overdramatic (hey, it's what we do!). But part of that comes from realizing that there is still so much to be done to work for the actual full inclusion of GLBT people in the life of our beloved Church.

Allow me to share a bit about myself. As a 21-year-old college student, many people have told me that I have yet to experience what the "real world" is like. But I beg to differ. The real world is full of joy and happiness, yes, but also disappointment and heartbreak. Somewhere between the age of 12 and 14, I figured out that I am gay. But fear kept me from saying anything about it. In fact, I went the opposite direction. In my later teenage and early college years, I affiliated myself with conservative organizations such as the American Family Association, Forward in Faith NA, the American Anglican Council, the Network, one very conservative Episcopal diocese, and even some in the continuing movement. Not only was it a lie, but it threw me into some
very deep depression.

I had always tried to make myself attracted to, even love, girls. At times, I played the part extremely well. But upon going to college there was one person who caught my attention, someone I eventually developed very deep feelings for. I had to opportunities to begin a
relationship with him, but was too afraid of my own Baptist family and the rest of the world around me. So I stayed in the closet. My coming out was too late, I had lost him to fact that life changes and people cannot wait for something they are not sure will ever happen.

The Episcopal Church was one place that I thought I could count on for support and acceptance. My family cannot accept me as I am, but I thought for sure that my spiritual family would. The executive summary to this report says that if we have to choose between communion with members of the Church here in the U.S. and Anglicans in other parts of the world, then we will choose to jettison members of the domestic Church based solely on sexual orientation.

Because I have the capacity to love someone of my own gender I have to take a back seat to those who would seek to divide the Church. Rather than celebrate the fact that I have the capacity to love at all I may very well be asked to keep such a thing "private," to use the words of the Report.

I have already decided that I have to put off seminary until I can figure out how all of this works--being open and honest is not one moment, but an entire process. Do I now have to be driven to the back of the bus to appease some African bishop who says I'm unfit? Do I have to act as though there is something wrong with me, as if love could ever be wrong? Fear has already cost me the possibility of a very wonderful relationship. Does the Church want a part in causing that fear for other people like me?

I am doing the best I can not to lose faith. I will never lose faith in Christ--He is the constant. However, I am quickly losing faith in the Church. I hope the Episcopal Church does not precipitate that, for I am not alone in this." -- April 8, 2006

23 comments:

rmf said...

Ok, let's hear how it is absolutely essential to salvation, indeed, how it is necessary at all, that this fine young person be forced to lead a life devoid of loving intimacy.

The only thing that the dissidents in The Episcopal Church and their allies can offer this fine young man is a list of denials.

Ask them what it is they want for gays and lesbians, and they will not present you with a body of possibilities for them, because they do not envision any positive roles for them whatsoever.

These dissidents some of whom are just bigots, will never tell us what gays/lesbians may do, only what it is that they can never do.

They can never love; nor presume to experience the God-given gift of loving intimacy; nor presume that they are called by God; nor presume that they are holy; nor presume to stop lying about who they are; nor presume to share or use their gifts for God's glory in building up His church.

This is all a disgrace. It is wrong.

And you do not have to be any special sort of person or be in any kind of demographic or anything of the sort, to understand this.

You simply have to believe what the Lord said--Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself.

I want this young person to know that there are many of us, like myself and my wife, who are prepared to stand up and allow him his place at the Lord's table. Because it is not our table, but the Lord's, who came to claim us for Himself, each and everyone of us. And we are not prepared to stand in His way and tell Him, No, you may not have this person, this one is not for you.

Now if this is too much for anyone in the Communion to bear, then this is to be expected, for the stunning reality of the Lord's love and mercy, which He alone offers us, can confound each and every one of us.

Laine said...

I understand exactly what he's saying! I can only say, "Hang in there!" There are other gay, performing arts majors (who come from Baptist families, and came, full of hope, to the Episcopal church) who understand exactly where he's coming from! I would love to talk to him!

Peter Mac said...

Susan: Would you explain how the Church's blessing or not blessing same-sex couples is of the same order of significance as the socio-economic issues that I presume you mean by "the justice the prophets have called us to do"? Which prophets recognized in the scriptures and therefore throughout Christianity do you have in mind?

Jon said...

The church can be one of the most wonderful things in the world. It can also be one of the most disgustingly rotten things in the world. It is a horrible set of truths, but I've never seen any way to make them change this side of the Last Judgment.

Jon

Anonymous said...

Again, I ask the question that I have asked on other posts- why the name calling? Why do you get to speak ugly words about what someone other than you believes? How is that what Jesus would want? You want to put words in our mouths, but are unwilling to really listen to what is being said.
RMF is right-"This is a disgrace. It is wrong" No where have any of his points ever been presented. "Loving intimacy" doesn't have to be physical...you can receive that without ever having physical contact. And any single person living outside of marriage the way it has been understood for 2000+ years is expected to remain physically pure- regardless of who they are attracted to.

hg said...

Dear rmf:
I want every GLBT person to be welcomed at the Lord's table and into the community of the Church. I think sexual orientation is irrelevant as a qualification for elected laity and people in holy orders. However, I just don't think it makes any sense for the Church to bless GLBT people's same-sex intimate relationships as though they are comparable to the marriages between men and women. (We already bless far too many insincere marriages anyway. Sad that ever got started.) Anyway, not blessing does not equal condemning. Call me a dissident if you have to resort to smearing, but I suspect it's you who have more quarrel with the Episcopal Church's historic teaching than I do. May God forgive us both for any misunderstanding and failure of charity - which are all too easy these days.

jg6544 said...

The problems with your approach, "anon", are

1) if "Loving intimacy" isn't physical, what is it?

and

2) maybe we were meant to be "pure" until we are married but were we ever meant to marry only those people with whom we cannot be lovingly intimate, much less physical?

Or did Paul just flat-out get the bit about celibacy wrong and is it a punishment inflicted on those of us who do not respond physically to the other gender?

hg, how are same-sex intimate relationships different from opposite-sex intimate relationships?

hg said...

jg6544:

Only opposite-sex intimate relationships, particularly on account of their instrumentality in reproducing and nurturing sociable and constructive successive human generations, have been blessed by God, according to the stories and teaching of Judaism accepted in Christianity's traditional scriptures. On the topic of same-sex intimate relationships, the same stories and teaching of Judaism and the further uniquely Christian stories and teaching in Christianity's traditional scriptures speak only and strongly negatively (just as they do with intimate relationships between humans and animals, between closely related family members, and between promiscuous males and females).

Jeff Martinhauk said...

Hg, I categorically reject your characterization of scripture but accept your right to interpret it that way for yourself. The way I interpret the scripture you refer to is that it was written years before caring, loving, compassionate same-gender relationships were formed. Those scriptures refer to sex without love. They need to be taken in context. We have many such scriptures- without taking scripture in context the banning of slavery, woman's ordination, even shopping on Sunday are issues that scripture argues against. Interpret how you want but leave room for those of us who interpret the Bible differently AND please make sure that you also leave room in the church's sacraments for others to read them differently too-- so that we can have marriage if our interpretation of scripture so allows us. What about your interpretation is so privileged that it should prevent us from having that same right to interpret, and have our public affirmation and consecration of our relationships in front of God and our faith communities that opposite-gender couples have? If you don't read that interpretation, don't participate in a same-gender marriage. Just don't stop us from having one because you don't believe you can participate in good conscience.

We should not be denied that just because we interpret scripture differently than you do. The Episcopal and Anglican tradition is based on the "broad church." To define Anglican tradition on doctrine instead of worship, on specific confessions of belief instead of our communities, is revisionist (although the conservatives claim the opposite).

I am so tired of scripture being used in this discussion as the reason why GLBT people should be oppressed, treated differently, and downcast. Today, this Maunday Thursday, as per Susan's blog today, the scripture that matters in my book is "love one another." If there is any judging to do it is up to God, not us.

I take particular offense to your point about opposite-sex couples and their "instrumentality in reproducing and nurturing sociable and constructive successive human generations." I have two wonderful children with another man, and quite frankly we are better parents than most straight parents I know. My children are better adjusted, more caring, more loving, and better cared for. Your statement is arrogant, disrepectful, and ignorant. You will be in my prayers tonight, and I will pray that you will meet a wonderful GLBT family that will show you how "normal" we are.

AND - while your comments make me angry, I do not want you to feel in any way unwelcome or think I believe you should not be a part of this church. This church is big enough for all, as Jesus Christ is big enough for all. Making someone mad isn't qualification for exclusion, as some of our brothers and sisters believe!

jg6544 said...

hg, thanks for the rant, but you didn't answer the question, which was,

how are same-sex intimate relationships different from opposite-sex intimate relationships?

If you're going to trot out the procreation argument, we don't need relationships to procreate; we need an egg cell and a sperm cell for that.

The rest of your post is hogwash.

hg said...

jg6544:

I regret that my earlier answer did not seem like an answer to you. I thought it went without reminding anyone that, through the Church's foundational Old and New Testament scriptures, the Church developed an understanding of one-man/one-woman marriages - but not any form of close same-sex relationships - as sacraments of the relationships between God and Creation and between Christ and the Church. While I happen to support GLBT couples being allowed civil marriage, just as heterosexual couples are, I think the Church of Christ violates its historic integrity by pronouncing God's blessing on relationships that the Church's scriptures are so consistently and strongly against. What the Church can say about straight and non-straight intimate relationships without sacrificing the Church's historic integrity: that's the difference that matters to me in the context of this blog forum.

jeff:

I do know both gay and lesbian adoptive couples, and their parenting is clearly comparable with that of straight couples. But in several thousand years of memory of human society passed down through oral story-telling and then written texts that became the Church's scriptures, such same-sex parenting was inconceivable.

Look, religion literally means “linking back.” Religion is intuitively traditional, not progressive. Earth's religions are very slow to change their understandings or teachings about anything. It took Rome about 1,000 years to decide in favor of priestly celibacy, and they are only barely beginning to whisper about discarding it now. Vastly more Protestants still do not allow women even to speak in worship, than there are Protestants who do. Worldwide Anglican Christian evangelistic identity for a few hundred years has been predicated on the "middle" position between Rome and Protestantism that was expressed in the phrase “One Canon, Two Testaments, Three Creeds, Four Ecumenical Councils and Five Centuries.”

My prayer for you is that you won’t continue to hit your head against the Church’s creepingly slow wall by insisting on receiving a blessing for openly living your life in a way that, within the history of the Church, was unthinkable. Not blessing does not equal rejecting or condemning.

jg6544 said...

hg, you didn't do much better on the second go-round.

You can talk all you want about the Church's "traditional" view of same-sex relationships. I don't buy a bit of it.

But my question was, for the third time,

"how are same-sex intimate relationships different from opposite-sex intimate relationships? "

Take another crack at it, why don't you.

hg said...

jg: Since it is clear that you have been unwilling to hear my answer, would you please offer me yours?

jg6544 said...

You haven't answered the question. It's a very simple one. I don't care what your views about Church history are, I'm asking a different question, which is,

"how are same-sex intimate relationships different from opposite-sex intimate relationships?"

Try again.

Jon said...

I suspect you're starting from the wrong place, jg. Trying to ignore traditional views about the appropriateness of same-sex sexual partnerships by pointing to the common reality that such partnerships are very similar to marriage partnerships in their day to day working out is only setting yourself up to be taken as a joke. It isn't a theological argument explaining why the tradition which prohibits same-sex sexual activity is wrong, but such an explanation is essential if you want to convince those within the church more interested in other topics to support you.

So how about it, jg? Is there any reason to think the traditional answer is wrong other than your complaint that celibacy is so impossible?

Jon

jg6544 said...

That's why I'm asking the question, jon. Would you care to take a crack at answering it? hg seems to prefer to dodge.

jg6544 said...

Oh, by the way, celibacy isn't impossible. It simply isn't something I have been gifted with.

revsusan said...

"It isn't a theological argument explaining why the tradition which prohibits same-sex sexual activity is wrong ..."

OK -- try this on: It's wrong for the same reason the tradition which prohibited women full access to life and ministry in the church was wrong. That historically orthodox postion was held for centuries -- and backed up by the "biological fact" that "maleness" was normative that women were the result of a flawed conception process and (therefore) were "ontologically incapable of being an efficacious bearer of a sacerdotal presence." (see also Thomas Acquinas and/or +Bill Wantland.)

The church was wrong because the biology was wrong ... and to continue to hang onto old theology based on failed science means we're back to persecuting Gallileo.

The theological tradition that prohibits same-sex activity is wrong because it's based on the idea that heterosexuality as an orientation is normative and homosexuality is deviant. Gays and lesbians are no more "failed heterosexuals" than women are "failed men." We are different -- not deviant.

What the church is being called to do is once again rise above failed science and think theologically: offering a theology of relationship that transcends orientation and gives ALL Christians equal opportunity AND responsibility to aspire to lives that are holy and whole.

jg6544 said...

Bingo!

:-)

jg6544 said...

By the way, Jon,

" such an explanation is essential if you want to convince those within the church more interested in other topics to support you."

It's not as though we just started this debate yesterday afternoon. This thing has been going on for a good fifty years, first in the scientific community and more recently (only thirty years) in the Episcopal Church. If someone hasn't heard all the arguments on both sides of the question now, it's probably because they weren't paying attention and they probably weren't paying attention because they didn't really care. They're not apt to pay attention or care at the umpteenth repetition, either.

We've talked long enough. Time to vote.

hg said...

jg6544:

No vote outcome on Earth can change the will of God, expressed through the canonical scriptures, for how people God calls are to live together. If you and others GLBT people genuinely feel a spiritual calling to live out of accord with what the scriptures call for, then it can only be an ungodly spirit that is calling you. I really don't mind how hurt or angry this makes you in the my direction, or in the direction of other orthodox believers who may have expressed themselves similarly to you, or what words you choose to dismiss me, because I am sincerely concerned for your soul's susceptibility to evil's first big lie, which is to insist that it doesn't exist.

Jon said...

Whether we have talked long enough is a matter of politics as much as theological arguments, assuming you want to win, and the political situation at the moment strongly suggests we haven't talked long enough. Fortunately much of the rest of the Communion should finally be listening, although not all of it will be.

The argument from biology works fine for proving that sexual orientation isn't sinful or an appropriate bar to ordination, but, as with WO, this just shifts the argument to whether the example presented in scripture is binding upon us or not because the pieces of scripture do not explicitly endorse the sexist or homophobic position. This is, incidentally, part of why Rome can continue to prohibit WO, while rejecting the bad biology which denied women's full humanity (see "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis" and "Inter Insigniores"). If the "traditional" understanding of what scripture requires is binding, celibacy or heterosexual marriage are the only permited ways to live out one's sexuality. This is where I think those advocating the conservative view start to fail; they ignore Paul's teaching that celibacy is not something everyone is able to do, and practically never ask gay and lesbian people if they have been gifted with celibacy. As jg says, and other stories I have heard suggest as well, it appears that not all gay and lesbian people are called in that direction. (Making this step is essential to resolving the argument in the way preferred by groups like Integrity.) Since God's grace is always sufficient for the day this rather directly suggests marriage is the only reasonable possibility. Of course, the sexual aspect of marriage makes it unreasonable to assume that gay and lesbian people are called to heterosexual marriage. This only leaves gay marriage as the most reasonable conclusion. The other option is reparative therapy, of course, but what I have heard about their success rates and methods isn't even remotely encouraging.

If it isn't obvious, I'm in favor of same-sex marriages, but I also believe in taking people, in this case those favoring the conservative viewpoint, seriously. If they say their concern is about behaviour rather than orientation, that is where I would prefer to wrestle. If they don't reciprocate that respect, *shrug*, disrespect like that will eventually make them a laughing stock and when one has become a laughing stock one has lost the argument.

rmf said...

hg's error is his presumption of his own inerrancy.

closely aligned to this is his presumption that since his position is inerrant and errancy is the work of un-good, then those who do not take his position are un-good.

he may proclaim however that it is not his own innerancy he proclaims but the Lord's, in which event I direct him to the beginning of this post.

i would also direct hg to the fact that although the Lord did not, not once, never, mention same sex affections, he did categorically reject divorce, and yet hg finds himself in the interesting position of calling un-good because contrary to tradition, that which the Lord never mentioned.

But apparently hg has no qualm being a member of the Church descended from the church established on the violation of the Lord's crystal clear ban on divorce.