Friday, June 01, 2007

MY BIG THOUGHTS

Well . . . that was fun. I put up a little post (just below "The Three Most Hated Words") linking to an article about the church being "bigger than that," and quite the exchange ensued between The Young Fogey and Fr. Tobias. First, I want to thank the two of them for participating in a lively debate here, and for keeping it civil. I know that the two of them don't, and probably will never, agree on "how things should be," but I appreciate the two of them refusing to fall to the level of some other people on some other blogs (which shall remain nameless and link-less here). So, to YF and Tobias, I say, "Thank you."

Now, onto the post. I've thought long and hard about the position I take in this whole debate about who's in and who's out, inclusion vs. exclusion, etc. Part of the problem with stating your position and defending it with scripture is that a) anyone can do that with any scripture passage, and b) it often appears as proof-texting. That said, one also can't state a position without the benefit of a scriptural basis. So, here we go.

On the big issue of full inclusion of glbt people in the church, I think this is the right thing to do. For starters, let's look at Matthew 25:31-46. This is the story of the final judgment, the sheep and the goats, the righteous and the damned. The righteous are surprised at the verdict because they didn't see the Lord. What they did see were people on the outskirts of society whom they saw not as "other" or "untouchable" or "sinner," but simply as people.

The accursed are aghast at the verdict because neither did they see the Lord. They spent their entire time looking for him, but never finding him. That's because he is among the "least of these." He dwells with sinners and outcasts. He himself said he didn't come for the righteous but for the sinner. He won't be found among the ultra-pure churches. He is found among the outcast, the sinner, the other, the less than. And if we don't include those people in our lives, we'll miss our Lord.

In Luke 14:1-24, there are several descriptions of how to behave around meals. This is driven home in vv. 16-24 when all of the honorable people were invited to a feast, yet all declined. The invitation then went out to the poor, crippled, blind and lame. It is made clear that those who were not initially invited would be allowed to eat. If we are staking our claim based on our original invitation, we will again miss the party.

Luke 15 is all about regaining the lost. It was the upstanding religious people of the day, the Pharisees and scribes, those of the pure faith, who were complaining about Jesus welcoming sinners and eating with them. Our job is to follow Jesus' example and invite the sinners and outcasts into our midst so that they can become part of the family. What good is it for us to proclaim our purity while continuing to leave out those whom we deem to be unworthy?

And then there is Acts 2 and 10. Acts 2 is the day of Pentecost when the disciples were baptized with fire and filled with the Holy Spirit and began to preach to people from all parts of the (known) world. Peter quotes Joel in saying that God's spirit will be poured out on all flesh. There is no partiality here, all are welcome into the kingdom.

Acts 10:9-43 is Peter on the roof. The sheet of unclean food was presented to him and he refused to partake because he had kept himself pure and undefiled. God, however, thinks differently, and Peter points out that God shows no partiality to those who fear him and does what is right.

In short, I am opting for the full-inclusion of people. We are in the business of welcoming the outsider, outcast and sinner. We are here to recover the lost. And we are here to set examples. A gay couple living faithfully and in fidelity can just as easily be an example of a loving couple and God's grace as can a straight couple. An openly gay bishop working with all walks of people is a much more effective example of Christ's love than a straight bishop who demonizes people different from him.

I will welcome all people into the church. There are rubrics and canons to be followed, to be sure, but ultimately You Are Welcome Here.

And finally, I will take Matthew 13:24-30 to heart. It's my job to work the field. If the enemy comes and sows weeds amongst us, so be it. I will work to raise them up together, not worrying about which one is the righteous vine and which one is the abhorrent vine. In the end, I will simply have to trust that I cared for both equally and let the master of the vineyard determine who is in, who is out, and whether or not I was a faithful worker.

2 comments:

Young fogey emeritus | 9:16 AM, June 02, 2007  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Young fogey emeritus | 2:00 PM, June 02, 2007  

Thank you, Father.

Part of the problem with stating your position and defending it with scripture is that a) anyone can do that with any scripture passage, and b) it often appears as proof-texting. That said, one also can't state a position without the benefit of a scriptural basis. So, here we go.

Nasty Protestant habit that, proof-texting. :) Scripture is a part of tradition; it must be read in context.

For starters, let's look at Matthew 25:31-46. This is the story of the final judgment, the sheep and the goats, the righteous and the damned...

The person who loves God and neighbour but no matter how he tries 'misses the mark' in one or more departments has a good chance of heaven - certainly that includes the 'GLBT' - while the self-righteous face the terrifying possibility of hell. At least on that I think we agree.

We are in the business of welcoming the outsider, outcast and sinner. We are here to recover the lost.

I will welcome all people into the church. There are rubrics and canons to be followed, to be sure, but ultimately
You Are Welcome Here.

Here we aren't that far apart at all... fits with 'all are welcome to come and pray in a Catholic church'.

But another part of that English, Anglican and Catholic tolerant conservatism in our heritage (too easygoing for the Puritans?) was summed up in a folksy way recently by a commenter in a conservative Anglican blog:

I have dear friends who are in all kinds of trouble and I love them. But that don't make what they do right.

Part of the church's job is to do both of these things: welcome but like Jesus say 'go and sin no more'.

That is, 'God loves you and so do I but that don't make what you do right'.

We're not called to be self-righteous but we are called to be righteous.

A gay couple living faithfully and in fidelity can just as easily be an example of a loving couple and God's grace as can a straight couple.

A good friend and unofficial theological adviser of mine came up with a good answer to that:

To my mind, if you're going to raise up sodomy from its traditional place in moral theology, and still condemn certain other positions, you have to do some theological heavy lifting. The Roman position, although demanding and counter-cultural, is at least consistent. The "reappraiser" position, which allows same-sex gratification, but still wants to take a stand against polyamory, prostitution, consensual incest, etc., etc., is a theological house of cards.

(IOW if you're going to redefine Christian marriage why stop at two people? More love to go round.)

Getting back to the sheep and the goats, and speaking of inclusion, 'who's in and who's out' etc., none of this presumes to say anybody is definitely hellbound any more than (going back to an example from my chat with Fr Haller) your friend and fellow minister turning down a request to have a secular funeral in her church was a statement damning the dead man!

He won't be found among the ultra-pure churches.

That needs some explaining. There's a difference between self-righteous people and a 'pure' infallible church. Catholics believe the church is the sinless bride of Christ, infallible and indefectible. Of course that's not true of its members individually! There's the paradox of course (like the Incarnation - true God and true man in one person?! - though of course Jesus was sinless) of the infallible church made up of sinful people.

Of course in one sense 'we are the church' but as long as one remembers 'I ≠ the sinless church' things should work out fine. :)

(I fixed the spelling and re-posted this: after all I am an editor.)

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