Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Gays, Lesbians, & the main-line

This past Sunday I enjoyed a lunch with my aunt and her children after a wonderful worship service at Central Presbyterian in St. Paul. During our lunch my cousin went on a rant about how Brett Favre should have retired years ago and will not help the Vikings. After her rant she waited for me to yell at her for her viewpoint. (I had said earlier that I am in favor of the signing of Favre.) After some silence I said that she can believe what she wants—it makes no difference to me how she views Favre’s return—the beauty of America is we have freedom of speech.

We live in a culture that has a hard time tolerating disagreement.

For us main-line churches our capacity for tolerating disagreement will partly determine whether we will stay together.

For us main-line churches our knowing how much we have to agree upon will determine whether we will stay together.

I wasn’t surprised by the ELCA vote last week about the ordination of homosexuals and lesbians. I didn’t follow the debate that closely. I’ve been through these debates many times before. I respect the passion of people on both sides of the issue, but there are other issues about which I have much more passion—e.g. poverty, war and peace, cultivating a different type of follower of Jesus Christ, starting new churches.

I was impressed by the acknowledgement of Bishop Mark Hanson before the debate took place that some people were going to leave the Lutheran assembly unhappy. He said that the key piece was how those folks were going to deal with their unhappiness. Now that the vote has taken place those Lutherans who believe that gays & lesbians should not be ordained to the clergy will have to decide how much disagreement they can tolerate.

I lean to the left on the gay/lesbian issue, and I have great respect for people who lean to the right on the issue. I can understand how a person can come to the conclusion that homosexual sexual activity is a sin. I don’t think a person with that viewpoint is necessarily judgmental or homophobic. I certainly can worship with a person with that viewpoint, serve on governing bodies, go on mission trips, pray, and be in community with that person.

A person’s viewpoint on homosexual ordination doesn’t define for me their capacity for faith-based leadership.

One reason I’m proud to be a Presbyterian is we decided a long time ago not to be a subscriptionist denomination. If I was told that I didn’t have the ability to think for myself, I could not stay as a Presbyterian. Sure as an ordained leader I take ordination vows, and I have no problem truthfully affirming those vows. But there is latitude and freedom within our system. I do subscribe to a set of beliefs, but that subscription doesn’t limit my own exploration.

The ability to be in community with each other despite different views has always plagued the church. This morning I read 1 Corinthians 7 in my own personal devotions. Talk about a faith community with different views!

I guess every congregation and person has to decide how much disagreement is too much and how much agreement is needed.

I don’t need a person to agree with me on Brett Favre’s return to the Vikings in order to enjoy a lunch. Just as I don’t need a person to agree with me on the ordination of gays and lesbians in order to work with that person to create the Kingdom of God.

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