I haven’t really blogged about what’s happening in the Presbyterian Church (USA) when it comes to changes in its ordination standards for a simple reason: I get paid by them. I know people who are more conservative and opposed the change and liberals who supported it and I haven’t really wanted to offend folks or get people upset.
But I also know that most people just have to look at my Facebook page to know where I stand. And that doesn’t change how I would work. My job is to serve the whole church with love and grace, not just those who happen to agree with me.
That said, I would like to say one thing to those people and churches that are leaving or thinking about leaving.
I wish you would stay.
I wish you would stay because we need your witness in the larger church.
But I have a more important reason that I’d like you to stay: I want you to get to know gay folks like me; especially those us who happen to be or want to be pastors.
I know that’s uncomfortable. I know that might even go against what you understand in the Bible. I understand. I know you take the Bible seriously and want to live a righteous life. I also know that you already feel that you aren’t really welcomed in the PC(USA) as it is. I think sometimes you have been treated poorly for your beliefs. I don’t think my side has always treated you with love , let alone respect.
But I wish you would stay and be willing to be a bit uncomfortable. That you would try to live in this changed environment and see what God might do.
Yeah, I know it’s hard. I get that. But I want you to remember this. People like me, who are gay, well, we’ve had to live in the tension ourselves. We’ve had to put up with laws and rules that we didn’t like. Some of us got tired and left, but a lot of stayed even though it was uncomfortable. We waited to see what God was going to do, what God is doing. And while I can’t speak for every gay person, I want to be a bit uncomfortable myself and get to know some you more.
I’m not under any illusions that you will change your mind. But I do think if you got to know us, you’d learn that we love God as much as you do. That we gay folks can take the Bible as seriously as you do. It might be a different verse, but in a lot of cases, it’s the same song. Maybe if we live together in that tension, we will learn to love and respect each other even when we don’t see eye to eye. Maybe we can learn to do mission and ministry together instead of in our little silos.
I know that I’m not even Presbyterian. But my own denomination, the Disciples of Christ, is having a big debate this summer. I can imagine there will be a few people who will want to leave if the vote goes my way. I want them to stay too and learn to be a bit uncomfortable for the sake of the kingdom.
You see, I think the Christian life is about living in tension. We live in the now and the not yet. We are saints and sinners. And in honor of the late Will Campbell, we are bastards and loved by God. The Christian life is kind of messy at times and doesn’t always make sense. Sometimes things are clear, and sometimes things are a bit cloudy. Maybe the Christian life isn’t always a birthday party, maybe sometimes it’s that uncomfortable Thanksgiving dinner. Either way, God is there and might just surprise you.
I tend to think that heaven is going to be a shock for all of us. We’ll be thinking to ourselves “God let him in?” Which means heaven might be a bit uncomfortable at first as we get used to God’s truly amazing grace.
So, we might as well start practicing now.