A little over five years ago, in the exhaustion that is the General Assembly experience, two years of life together with my brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I disagree came to a conclusion with the adoption and publishing of the fruit of our years together, the Report of the Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage.
Having just reread a lot of our work-- Emily Anderson is the world's best proofreader! I couldn't find a single wince-inducing oops!-- I thought it was appropriate to look back and see what's become of our gift of love, life, and worship to the Church.
So much has occurred in my life in this short span of time. Everything that I thought was solid in my life has given way; everything I knew was trustworthy and true in my personal life was destroyed. I walked through the death of all things that mattered to me-- even my own identity, my own virtue, my own life. In the span of 24 hours in March of 2011, all was set alight, and no matter how I tried to stop the conflagration, everything went up in flames, and burned to the ground.
Divorce is sin. Anyone who has walked through it can tell you it is a "gift that keeps on giving," so to speak. Like every form of death, it forms an impenetrable barrier between past and present for everyone it touches. And we are all caught in sin's death grip. No one gets to God alive. But resurrection is an amazing gift!
So much has occurred in our life in such a short time! Everything that I thought was solid in my faith life has given way; I am practically alone in a PC(USA) which used to have a place of honor for we who disagree with the current majority of people in the USA. Everything I knew was trustworthy and true in my vocational life was destroyed; I will never be as comfortable as I was inside the Body of believers where my Lord planted me. We cataloged the slow burning match that would change the law of this land in one decision, and the diametrically opposed reactions that still burn among us because of it. There appears to be no stopping the firestorm until everything I have loved is burned to the ground.
I must still confess that I believe that homosexual practice is sin, and I have suffered, and will suffer, for that belief. I will be, and have been, told that I hate because I say it. In a time where complex issues of relationship are distilled down to bumper stickers most useful for judging and persecuting, there is no room for disagreement.
I refuse to play that game. I do not condemn, I confess what I believe. I do not seek to hate or exclude. Sin is sin; I have sinned. I will live for the rest of my life with that sin, and with its effects. But I believe that my life, whatever remains of it, no longer belongs to me. It belongs to Christ! My hope is not to dodge the consequences of living nor to escape from this life, but to give this life to the One who through relentless undying love does not lose a soul that He claims as His own.
Five years later, I believe even more strongly that “We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes: "What does this mean? It means, first, that a Christian needs others because of Jesus Christ. It means, second, that a Christian comes to others only through Jesus Christ. It means, third, that in Jesus Christ we have been chosen from eternity, accepted in time, and united for eternity."
So while the church we all loved burns-- and while some of us have chosen to leave her-- I will stand, love, confess, and accept whatever pains and humiliations come with that call. I cannot stop the conflagration. I can only stand beside, weep as beauty burns, and know that somehow the Christ who claims us as His own will make something beautiful of what remains in His time.
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different results, but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the benefit of all. I Cor. 12:4-7
As the days have passed since the momentous passage of amendment 14-f, which transformed the PC(USA)’s definition of marriage, I have read and witnessed signs of our continued sickness, and have seen more than a few diagnoses for what ails us. One thing that is distressingly common about these diagnoses is that they demonstrate our cultural blindness to what was once widely acknowleged, but today is lost: the common good, or “the benefit of all.”
The Body of Christ is, was, and probably shall always be a mess. From the first day, even among the original twelve, there has been backbiting and jealousy, struggling for position, resentment, even vengeance for perceived slights and pains. Original sin mars us to the bone—down to the chromosome. Yet God brings light, love, and peace through the mess. On the cross, Jesus Christ opens up a way that no sin can shut, no pettiness can diminish, no pride can stop. Jesus Christ accomplishes much more despite us than because of us. We are each blind (selectively), naked (overclothing our nakedness with shame), and afraid.
That humility is largely unacknowledged in a culture and time that promotes Margaret Thatcher’s dictum that “there is no such thing as society,” and that enables us to reshape reality to our liking. We no longer know how to deal with people whose ideas we do not like, and who have the effrontery not to be persuaded by our inescapable logic. We find the humiliation and pain of learning to be too much to bear, and promote an understanding of the good life as a life without any kind of pain.
Loving is painful, hard work. It doesn’t change the beloved as much as it changes the lover. We can see just how hard and daunting the task is as we look at our current state—because it seems to this observer that love is the first casualty of our attempts to come to grips with this insoluble divide amongst us.
I have read and seen triumphant posts from Millienial Christians urging a purging—to make “progress” towards a “purer” church by continuing on. It is a blindness that discards the wisdom of age and experience, and too easily believes that previous generations failed to clean up the earth from a lack of skill or will that the young now possess. Sadly, every young person has made this same mistake, and only come to see it with age. We need each other, old and young.
I have heard demands from Progressive Christians that the Church become more Progressive in its theology, that this change is too little, and somehow those who see it otherwise are cultural captives, not Christ’s own. Our pride has led us to perpetrate much violence; it is the humiliated often who most enjoy humiliating others. The role of victim does not ennoble the one who claims it as he/she picks up the mantle of power. Power corrupts, and corruption in the Body of Christ closely follows division of it.
I have heard claims that the PC(USA) has now left the bounds of the “one, holy, catholic, apostolic church.” The Scriptures define the opposite of love not as hate, but fear. Fear and love cannot exist in the same space at the same time. For too long, we have relied on fear to bind us because it is swift, effective, and easy. Fear costs the instiller of it nothing, and gains that one all that they desire if it works.
Love costs the lover everything, and often seems to gain little for them in return.
Enough of fear.
Enough of pride.
Enough of underestimating the problem.
Beloved, let us love one another. Let us love one another if we cannot stand what we hear the other say. Let us love one another even if we weep for the danger we perceive for the other’s soul. Let us love even if we chafe at the injustice of this broken world, and believe our brother/sister to be in some way responsible.
Whether you applaud this day or grieve it, pray for the one who doesn’t think like you or act like you. Pray for the Christ bled into each of us to be more powerful than the blood shed from the shards of the broken image of God within us.
Jesus Christ is Lord.