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.