More on GLBT inclusion

Wow! It’s been an eventful week!

First, there was the spat over Sojouners decision not to run an ad. I posted about that here.

Then we learned that the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted for full inclusion of GLBTQ clergy.

The same day came the news that chaplains in the US Navy could perform same-sex blessings. That was walked back later.

And in Uganda, continuing confusion over the progress of the anti-gay bill, that would allow capital punishment. Episcopal Cafe has the rundown on the on-again, off-again debate.

To follow up on the Sojourners issue, my friend Brian Maclaren, who served on Sojourners board of directors, shares his pilgrimage on full inclusion. In Part I he writes:

But at this point I was a pastor and had to deal with the conflict between two commitments: first, one of my primary job requirements – to keep together rather than divide my congregation on the one hand, and second, to stand up with integrity and be counted as an advocate for people I had become convinced were being treated with neither justice nor compassion. I negotiated this tension by speaking up when I could and by seeking to use my influence to increase sensitivity to people whom I felt were being treated by Christians in a truly sub-Christian way.

But at every turn I felt that I couldn’t speak out too strongly too fast without dividing the church that I was called to serve. At times I probably pushed too far too fast – and got angry letters and emails about it, and at times I didn’t lead strongly enough – and got angry letters and emails about that too, just from other people.

In Part II he writes:

If I were to boil down messy contemporary reality to an equation, here’s what it would be:

– You can’t lead a coalition of progressive Christians without being an outspoken leader on LGBTQ issues.
– You can’t lead a coalition that includes mainstream Evangelical and conservative Catholic Christians if you are an outspoken leader on LGBTQ issues.

For progressive Christians, it is often difficult to comprehend the excruciating problem for conservative Christians to move toward a position that fully includes Gays and Lesbians, what the toll is personally, and what the toll is for their relationships. Brian’s two posts on the topic may help others comprehend.

For a profound theological perspective on the Christian argument for same-sex blessings, Eugene Roger’s piece in Christian Century is breath-taking.

Christians duking it out

There’s quite the dust-up going on over Sojourners Magazine’s decision not to run an ad from Believe Out Loud urging congregations to welcome gay families to worship.

Here’s the response from Episcopal Cafe. Here’s Susan Russell’s take 1 and take 2.

Religion Dispatches never misses an opportunity to comment on religious conflict (especially when it involves Evangelicals, even “progressive” ones).

whether Wallis actually represents a movement that could be described as the religious left is highly doubtful. First, Wallis himself has rejected the “religious left” label. Moreover, many who would consider themselves on the religious left reject Wallis as their leader.

I find all this rather amusing. Jim Wallis, to my knowledge, has never claimed to be a voice of progressive Christians or a leader of the Religious left. His roots are in conservative Evangelicalism and Sojourners has consistently opposed abortion, to take one example. Sojourners has distributed bumper stickers that shout: God is not a Democrat or a Republican.

Quite apart from the merits of the ad campaign and the importance of the inclusion of GLBT individuals and families into churches, it should not surprise anyone that Sojourners refused to run the ad. The issue of inclusion is as hot-button in more conservative denominations as it is in mainline ones, and we Episcopalians have reached no consensus on it. To see how it is playing out in one such denomination, check out gaymennonite.wordpress.com.

More importantly, I think it is important to admit that “progressive” Christians were quite willing to accept Jim Wallis as their spokesperson, because he high visibility and access to the halls of power and the media. They were happy to downplay significant theological differences and ethical/moral differences (a woman’s right to choose) and let Wallis speak for them because of his visibility. Wallis tries to make clear his reasoning here. Here’s another piece from Sojo, written by Tim King.

Such conflict provides media outlets with something more to write about. Controversy sells–witness the Rob Bell phenomenon. At the same time, the whole incident reminds me of the controversy a couple of weeks ago having to do with the law firm that was going to represent the House of Representatives defending DOMA in court. We have a tendency to want to damage, destroy, or silence those with whom we disagree. Whether or not one supports the Sojourners editorial decision, one ought to recognize their right to make it and hope that it is consistent with their editorial and theological positions. We should also hope and pray that in time their positions will evolve to what we believe are ones more in keeping with the Gospel and the Love of Christ.