Wednesday, January 11, 2012

MLK and LGBT

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This Sunday in worship we will listen to a clip of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech to remind us that God's dream for the world is one where all human beings are treated with the dignity and value that comes with being created by God. The Christian faith took off like wildfire in the first-century and beyond because it did something that no other religious or social movement had ever done; it transcended the walls of seperation that we build between one another, walls of race, economic class, and gender. From the beginning, God's dream's for his people would be that we would be willing to step across what divides us in the name of Love.

Most of you reading this have probably heard that in a couple weeks we will be having a two-week event that will focus on the issue of the church and same-sex relationships (see post below). Although the feedback I have received so far has all been positive, I suspect it will not stay that way. I do strongly encourage you, though, to refrain from forming a judgment until you hear what is said. I understand that this is an enormously difficult and anxiety-producing issue to talk about. Believe me, if anyone is nervous about it, it is me. In all honesty, I would rather ignore this issue. But I can't. I can't because I am convinced that if the church is not a place where we can have honest conversations about what matters most, then the church isn't doing its job.

You may also know that we are going through a stage of change in the church, and that our consultant suggested that we start another more "high-energy" contemporary service in order to draw more young adults. We are starting another service, and the music will be a little more louder and energetic (although not a big change from what we are already doing in our current contemproary service). However, as a young adult, and as someone who has read the most recent studies on why young adults are not attending church, I don't think the reason has very much at all to do with music styles. I think it is because the church in general has often refused to engage with some of the tougher issues in life that really matter out of a fear of offending someone. We play things too safe, and thus become irrelevant. Because church attendance is no longer a cultural expectation the way it was several decades ago, young folks drop out if it doesn't seem to enhance their engagement with real life issues. Who can blame them?

In a recent major study, young adults outside the church were asked to describe their impressions of the church, and the #1 word that 91% came up with was "homophobic" (UnChristian). Think about that. Not "loving" or "compassionate" or "honest." "Homophobic" is the dominant impression young people have of the church.

So, I put together these two events to stimulate thinking on the church, the Bible, and our LGBT brothers and sisters because I don't want us to be a church that remains silent about what really matters. We are a very diverse church, and we plan on staying that way. I love being a part of a church where diversity isn't just a PC slogan, it is actually a reality. The goal is not to try to get everybody thinking the same way about this issue (as if we could do that even if that was the goal!). The goal is to increase understanding and to encourage all of us to be willing to love as Jesus loves. Jesus didn't say that the world would know we are his followers by our right opinions. He said the world would know we are his followers by our love (John 13:35).

So, I hope you'll plan on coming and bring your friends. Let them know we want to wrestle with the tough issues. Let them know that we are a faith community that doesn't want to stay silent about things that really matter.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Church and Same-Sex Relationships

This issue poses one of the most painfully divisive and polarizing moral issues in the church today. Conservatives are suspicious that liberals have thrown away the Bible, while liberals are suspicious that conservatives are being driven by mere prejudice. The only way for the church to go forward in struggling with this issue is to really listen to what the Spirit is telling us through both the experience of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, and through the Scriptures that have always been at the heart of our Christian way of life.

To this end, we have planned an important event on January 24th and 31st, 7:00-8:00pm, in Wesley Hall. At our first gathering we will hear from a guest speaker, Mary Lou Wallner. Mary Lou and Bob have travelled across the country speaking about their experience with their lesbian daughter Anna, who tragically took her own life in 1997. They are one of the families featured in the highly-awarded documentary For the Bible Tells Me So (trailer below). Mary Lou and Bob have founded T.E.A.C.H. ministries (To Educate About the Consequences of Homophobia) and work tirelessly to help the LGBT community to know that God loves them.

The next week I will offer an overview of the debate about what the Bible says, and doesn’t say, about same-gender relationships. Our final presentation that evening will be from Rev. Britt Skarda, and will focus on the place of sexual minorities in the United Methodist Church today. At the end of the presentations both weeks we will take time for Q & A with the presenters. Childcare is available for those who request it.