Posts Tagged ‘Homosexuality’

Inclusion and Division

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

Many read and comment on this blog who are interested in church growth.  That is the audience for today’s post.

Fascinating to read the challenges and changes facing the Catholic Church.  And the amazing part … simply change the names and you have the same contentious “script” that many Protestant churches are moving through.  And what are the main issues embedded in that script?  It seems the seminal issues appearing again and again include the role of women, divorce, homosexuality, concern for the poor and the environment, and the role of clergy.

These are clearly heated, contentious issues argued with great vigor by those desiring a more inclusive church and those desiring a more traditional church.   Given that rawness, civil dialog comes hard and at times appears impossible.

So what is the solution? The way forward?

I would imagine there is no one solution.  I imagine this is a tension we will live with in the upcoming years, not a problem we will quickly solve.  Likewise this inescapable tension will gather more “steam” so to speak as numerous churches experience continued decline. (Only 6% of churches experienced growth last year)

My hope is that respect … even through gritted teeth! … reigns.  Both sides claim to be stewards of the Christian message.  Both center on God.  On God’s Word.

My belief is that a more inclusive model is being born.  My prayer is that it remains inclusive.  Inclusive of many of the groups noted before. And inclusive of those who see the world and the future of Church differently – traditional and progressive.  As one priest noted in regard to welcoming back divorced parishioners to communion…

Everyone is trying to find a solution, putting together concern for the institution of marriage, and compassion to people in difficulty.  We just have to find a way to put these two together. 

A beautiful statement.  A meaning underneath the words that echoes a third way.




Brave New Voices

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Brave new voices.  Have you noticed some brave new voices?

We live in a time that appears more shrill, more shallow, more lean, more sensationalist.  Example … Ebola in the US … two cases … receives far more coverage than 1,000′s of deaths in Africa.  So we fear monger.  One recent pole noted that 55% of Americans now favor sealing, completely, all our borders.

And in that shrillness, brave new voices are speaking.  Malala Yousafzai.  Pope Francis.  And many others.

After having spoken of Malala and her growing legacy I want to speak for a moment of Pope Francis and the immense shifts he is stewarding in. These shifts will not just benefit Catholicism.  They will benefit all of Christendom.

One case in point was the declaration at a recent synod,  “that homosexual persons have gifts and talents to offer the Christian community and that pastoral outreach to them is an important educative challenge.”  While clearly not an advocate of church sanctioned same sex marriage in Catholic churches, Pope Francis with this statement opened the conversation around ENGAGEMENT.

Churches and denominations that refuse that engagement with any number of groups around any number of issues will find themselves out of step with broader trends in the Christian world.  Engagement takes work.  And engagment take courage.  The easy solution is to always cordon ourselves off, building clerical walls of rightness that we mistakenly see as walls of legitimacy.  They are not.  Take stands we must.  And one of those stands must be engagement.

In a famous Biblical passage God offers, “I stand at the door at knock.”  Sometimes He stands at the door at knocks to get in.  And sometimes He stands at the door and knocks to get out.  I see these brave new voices reflecting the latter, and reflecting what Emanuel Swedenborg called true faith.

“Faith is more than knowledge… First and foremost it is obedience to everything that faith teaches; and the primary thing faith teaches and requires our obedience to is love – love for the Lord and love for our neighbor.”  Secrets of Heaven, 36


The Religious Practice of the New Church

Friday, June 21st, 2013

What is your religious practice?  For many of us, we employ formalized church answers … Sunday worship, prayer, alms, participation in rituals/ sacraments.  They are typical answers because there is life and grace there.  And there are other atypical answers to round out the concept of practice.   Such answers grow from the position that “a religion is valued for its goodwill and faith, not for the rituals that accompany them.”  (True Christianity, 660)

Practice as seeking value in goodwill and faith.   Goodwill meaning loving kindness.  Faith meaning trust.  So we are then to practice holding loving kindness and trust as more defining of church than ritual.

“The new church unites faith in the Lord with goodwill toward our neighbor as two things that are inseparable; this is the nature of its religious practice,” (True Christianity, 647)

Not that that practice is easy!  But that practice pulls us away from the more shallow definitions of religion-as-ritual, definitions that feed “worship wars” and endless confrontations around the “hot button” issue of the day like homosexuality.  We find it easier, I fear, to bring enraged indignation to human sexuality than we do to birth loving kindness and trust into a world so sorely in need of both.  I don’t see that as saying that choices around sexuality are unimportant.  I do see it as saying, approach those questions with loving kindness and trust.

A Glass of Water: The Third Way and the issue of Sexual Orientation

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

I have immense admiration for a church by the name of “North Point” in Atlanta.  Several months ago their Pastor, Andy Stanley, shared the following story.

Andy was a new minister serving in his dad’s church.  With the annual Gay Pride Parade approaching, Andy’s father, knowing that the parade organizers had routed the parade right by his church, timing its arrival to the same time as church was to let out, decided to end church early.

The parishoners poured out at the close of church, believing that in so doing they would rob the parade organizers the supposed satisfaction of a confrontation with the congregation.  However, the parade had actually arrived early.

Andy watched the somewhat awkward stand off.  And then he noticed.  He noticed the church across the street.  The church across the street had a table set up with glasses of water for those in the parade.

That is the Third  Way.

We talked Sunday of the danger of dividing the world all too easily into “boxes.”  That most often is the self centered endeavor of the human ego.  As we discussed, the reality is that we carry those boxes around in what we judge their most useful form – ammunition boxes packed with rationalizations for our positions.  It is not a posture from which one listens but often only a position from which one attacks.  In the story above, Andy’s father had an “ammunition box” as did no doubt some of those in the parade.

But water is the “universal solvent.”  By sharing simple glasses of water the neighboring congregation was refusing to pick up the weapon of words.  Did that congregation have members opposed to homosexuality on moral grounds?  No doubt.  Did the parade likewise include those who held similar judgements about Christians?  No doubt.  But by that simple act of water, a Third Way was opened.  The confrontation of “either” “or” gave way to something more profound.

Religious movements, from a New Church perspective, can figuratively be seen as gardens, gardens judged in the end by their fruit, by what that produce – by the effect of love.    Religious movements – institutionally or individually – that close down conversation and simple human connection are not bearing useful fruit.  Religious movements that open conversation and connection – “Come let us reason together” – in their own very simple way make a profoundly courageous stand for the Third Way.

We are to make stands.  We are be firmly unwavering at times.  Our question is what does that look like for us?  I vote “water.”