Friday, August 27, 2010

Reconciling Homosexuality and Church Unity: Is it Possible?

John Shuck, on his blog yesterday, wrote about Rev. Jane Adams Spahr, and the ongoing ecclesiastical trial underway because of her choice to officiate at a number of same sex marriages. Personally, I have no problem with her choice. In many ways, I admire her willingness to minister grace to these believers who have often been rejected and marginalized within their very own communities of faith. This is a very unfortunate situation that certainly needs to be resolved.

With this said, however, I think that there is a larger proposition here, embedded in this extremely controversial and polarizing subject, that troubles me greatly. Every time I contemplate same sex unions being embraced by the church, and the installment of Gay and Lesbian believers into ecclesiastical positions, such as pastors or Bishops, etc, my mind always takes me to the opening verses of Ephesians chapter 4:

"I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (vs. 1-3; NRSV; emphasis added]

 Paul's subject here is unity; his tone is one of utmost urgency. The, "I beg you" disposition adds extreme weight to the matter. If you haven't heard anything I've said up to this point, please, I beg you, do not miss this! This is an injunction of unequaled importance to the Apostle Paul.

Therefore, the question is not can we do something. It is, and always has been, should we do something. All things are lawful for me, Paul said, but not all things are expedient [1 Cor 10:23]. To do something in isolation without broader consensus, is inviting dissension and disunity; a condition deplorable to Paul's theology. 

Ultimately, the acceptance of same sex unions, and their recognition, their right to be, are matters of social justice. In my opinion, these are judicial issues, that will require a metamorphosis in our social consciousness. Fundamentally, this is a civil rights proposition, and should be pursued, with due diligence, as such. These matters should be addressed judicially, and I support, wholeheartedly, the granting of equality and legal status equivalent to heterosexual unions. 

Furthermore, as a matter of principle, I have no problem with these same people serving in the church in any capacity. It is in this domain, however, where I struggle to reconcile Paul's injunction regarding unity, with these
intermitent, rogue attempts to arbitrarily change the ideas of any given faith tradition without a broader concensus. The Episcopal Church is a prime example here. The consecration of Gene Robinson as a Bishop in 2003, absolutely shook the very foundations of the Anglican Communion. It is still reeling over the matter, and an inevitable schism is almost an absolute certainity. 

This is a huge conundrum. Gene Robinson has made invaluable contributions to the church, not just in his particular faith tradition, but to the church at large, allowing us to get a glimpse of the gifts and callings bestowed upon this man, regardless of his sexual orientation. Yet, his very existence, irrespective of these inestimable virtues, is a source of huge contention.

So, I ask the question, are we doing the right thing here? Should we not work within the church to try and build a concensus that will protect and sustain these individual's right to be, and their callings, yet at the same time, perserve the unity indicative of the Apostle Paul's admonition?


John Shuck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Shuck said...

Hey Chris, thanks for the link. These decisions certainly should not be made lightly.

There are certainly verses in the Bible that can be used to support unity at the expense of justice and there are verses that are used to support justice at the expense of unity.

Was it Gene Robinson who divided the Anglican Communion or was it the response to Gene Robinson that did so? Gene (and TEC) would welcome unity with the Anglican Community.

Not long ago a group of well-meaning clergymen declared that Dr. Martin Luther King was going too fast, making too many demands, disturbing the peace and the unity before a broader consensus on civil rights was reached.

King responded with one of the most import documents of modern times and one that has inspired and challenged me. It is Letter From Birmingham Jail.

In the end each individual acts upon the dictates of his or her own conscience, no exception to that. Whether your conscience leads you to unity or to justice, you must do what you must do.

We all have roles to play. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for the link!

Peter J Walker said...

Lovely post. I believe reconciliation is possible. I also believe it's impossible. It's all up to the individual Christian, and the individual church. If you want to find reasons to dismiss our queer sisters and brothers in Christ, based on Biblical texts, theological models and church doctrines, you can. If you want to embrace, love and affirm our queer sisters and brothers in Christ, there are Biblical texts, theological models and church doctrines that support that too.

There's always a choice. I choose friendship, fellowship, unity and love. There are lots of arguments for why that's the wrong choice. I had to choose to leave them behind...