UMNS Photo by Mike DuBose
Mark Miller stands at the microphone, surrounded by supporters, to protest the church's lack of inclusiveness in its process of Holy Conversation April 26.
It is interesting to watch the tensions mount and see a large gathering of competent, mostly-professional, self-possessed people get all flustered and fall all over themselves when someone raises an uncomfortable issue. It won’t be surprising to anyone to know that the gay/lesbian/bi-sexual/transgender relationship to the church was raised — and ruled “out of order.” Whether it was a good or appropriate time or not is a secondary issue to the root problem we have. We don’t know how to deal with this! It is about relationships with God and one another, and we are looking to books (pick the Bible, the Book of Discipline, or both) and legislative process to tell us what to do. Oh, heaven help us if we didn’t have our books (add Roberts’ Rules of Order to the list, can I hear an “Amen?”) or our cheat-sheets for parliamentary procedure. We might actually have to deal with each other as human beings, and then where would we be?
I really don’t want to take a side here, or draw a line in the sand over which others are forced to take a stand. The body of Christ is injured and in need of healing. No one is doing well in this current state. We are allowing our emotions to run rough-shod over both our reason and our faith. People who know me know that I don’t even really approach this as “the homosexuality issue,” because for me, it isn’t an issue, and it really isn’t about sexuality. I don’t have any control over anyone but myself, and there are those who think I do a pretty lousy job of controlling myself. What I believe is right or wrong for someone else is a non-issue. As for me, I love people. I am from the camp that we are all in the same boat, and that we are better together than apart. Does this mean I condone everything that everyone wants to do? Of course not. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want them to enjoy the same blessing and benefit in this life that I do.
I think the Golden Rule and the Great Commandment are real. I think God and Jesus actually meant what they said, and that the Holy Spirit is sticking around to make sure we listen. If I ever err (and I do, many times daily) I want to make sure that I err on the side of mercy, compassion, grace and goodness. If I act, I want the fruit of my actions to be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If I hold fast to God’s grace for myself, then I can do no less for someone else. Am I saying this is what everyone should do or believe? Absolutely not! I am only saying to others, this is what works for me.
I love the Bible and I revere the writings it contains. I believe it offers us contextual instructions that apply differently in different times, cultures and locations. I believe the Holy Spirit is still at work in us to guide us in our interpretation and application of Biblical guidance. I study scripture religiously (pun intended) and I honor a wide variety of readings and interpretations. Yet, as much as I love scripture, I believe God lives and breathes in my brothers and sisters, and I know that in our relationships God is still writing sacred text for a new day.
The bottom line? I want everyone together. I want even those who test my capabilities to be with me, because if I cannot love them, then the love I do feel is suspect. It is so easy to love those who love you. It is so simple to accept those who agree with me in thought, word and deed. It is so comfortable to never have to face anyone who makes me uneasy. But if I want comfort, ease and simplicity, then I cannot be a Christian. Christ not only asks me to accept the unacceptable, but to reach out and embrace it. I need to be with everyone. I need to learn to see the Christ in those who have a very different relationship with God than I do. And even when I think another might be wrong, it doesn’t free me from my obligation to treat them like I would treat the Christ.
My heart breaks for the brokenness of the church. I don’t want brothers and sisters, children of all ages created in God’s image, to be hurt and disgraced. I want to connect and build bridges and bond and be challenged and witness to what I hold true and dear, and trust that God will do what God will do, so that I don’t have to judge or decide who God loves and who God doesn’t. I want everyone IN. In God’s house, in God’s grace, in my circle. It is the hope I get when I see us at General Conference sing and dance and shout and laugh together — when we look and act as one body, the body of Christ.