Thursday, March 26, 2009

What Is the Middle Way?

I stand in a place few would envy, advocating for a position most reject. I believe I truly stand in the middle, advocating a middle way. For my conservative/evangelical friends, this means I am a traitor; for those on the progressive/liberal side, I may be a "useful idiot," as Lenin called capitalist traders.

I believe that I am neither-- and that there is a true middle way through the bloodbath that we have endured for these 30years. That middle way is not a "harmonizing" that the pollyanna optimists of 1978 thought would happen-- it is a combination of two mutually contradictory truths:

I cannot agree that homosexual practice is not sin.

I cannot agree that those who believe that homosexual practice is not sin are not my brothers and sisters in Christ.

The poverty of the PC(USA) shows in our need to control and understand outcomes. We too often are functionally atheistic, making our determinations on what we analytically deduce without leaving room for the God for Whom nothing is impossible. I wait for that God-- in the middle.

I stand in the middle, reaching out to those who disagree because Christ calls me to; I will not move from the middle, because Christ called me there. The middle way is not a shrugging "I don't know" but a determined holding on to the stranger in Christ. It is the place of crucifixion, not a safe seat with those who have power to crucify.

The middle way is the way of suffering. William Sloane Coffin years ago said that Christ was not on any side of any war-- He was in the middle, and every bullet and shell tore through His body before it reached its intended target. The middle is the place of witness to a Way the world cannot understand, Truth beyond my comprehension, and Life that no suffering on this earth can destroy.

I stand in the middle, ready to speak the truth as I understand it in love, ready to listen to what is said to me-- and ready to stand there even if I do not, or cannot agree. What an opportunity we have wasted in these 30 years to be a witness to this my-way-or-the-highway culture! Whatever the rest of the PC(USA) does, I will not let the opportunity go by anymore. I love you, brothers and sisters hurt by the decisions of this Body. I cannot agree with you, but I recognize that I cannot be the witness Christ has called me to be without you. If beating on me will assuage your anger, have at it. I accept that as the cost of standing where I stand. But I can do no other, God help me. I will not leave. I love you as Christ has loved me. I will not move.


  1. "I cannot agree that those who believe that homosexual practice is not sin are not my brothers and sisters in Christ."

    I'll stand there with you, brother, triple negatives and all. :)

  2. Brother, I would never call you a traitor. Who on our side has called you so?

  3. Toby, I think I straightened it out with that brother. But it's an interesting experience to be called out in a group of people I thought were friends.
    We distrust too easily-- perhaps with historical reason, but still too easily.

  4. Well put. I agree. Allow me to stand with you in that holy place in the middle where the bullets come from both directions.

  5. Clay,

    Thank you for this post and for your commitment. I will stand with you with a slightly different statement.

    I cannot agree that it is not a sin to discriminate against God's lgbt children.

    I cannot agree that those who believe differently are not by brothers and sisters in Christ.

    We want a solution. We are given a community instead.

    Thank you for your witness. You give me hope.


  6. Clay, as I have read and re-read this post, I am reminded of the many times I have heard you say "love hurts, love is suffering" and it is so true! At OCPC we also feel hurt by the decision of the Body and I wish that those bullets would be directed at us as well as at you! You are not standing alone in the middle! I know that I am not the only one standing there with you ready to feel the pain of the bullets.

    In Christ's Love!

  7. Clay,

    I too stand in the center.

    I refuse to believe that the Holy Spirit has stopped calling our culture's equivalents of "uncircumcised Gentiles" into the leadership of the church (a la Cornelius), whether or not we are ready to receive them (a la Peter)[Acts 10]

    I refuse to believe that those who do not see this as the work of the Spirit of the one, sovereign God are not my brothers and sisters in Christ.

    I refuse to believe that we cannot still do ministry, even as Peter did ministry to, with and among those to whom he was called and Paul, to with among those who whom he was called.

    I know many who agree with me who stand with you, unwilling to let their siblings in Christ go...

    The question is, when will we recognize that we are standing in the center, holding our hands out to each other, and that we have never been as distant as we have pretended to be?