Tell the Truth, Suspend Church Weddings

If you’re one of a growing number of clergy troubled by the policies of your church, here are two steps you can take to stand in solidarity with LGBTQ people.

First, tell the truth on your church website. Make sure it clearly spells out any policies affecting LGBTQ people. If you were a sexual minority wouldn’t you want to know up front? It’s just common decency. This recommendation is based on hearing from many who have gotten involved in churches under false pretenses—thinking the “warm welcome” expressed on the church website or from personal interactions with pastors, only to later discover that even sympathetic clergy are forced by their church polity to discriminate against them (in matters of marriage and ordination, for example.)

Second, have you considered simply not performing any weddings until your tradition changes its policies? Yes, it would be an inconvenience, maybe a heartache, for those straight congregants who want you to perform their weddings. But it’s time for more of us to carry the pain that LGBTQ people have been carrying alone, lo these many years. (For that matter, if you are engaged and you support the full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the church, consider giving up your privilege to be married in/by the church so long as this privilege is denied to your sisters and brothers.)

Believe me, I’m aware of the trouble this might cause. But standing with the disinherited always causes trouble for us. Always. You could take a small share of the trouble on yourself so that those who carry the full weight of it don’t have to do so alone.

End the Bait and Switch for LGBTQ People

The stories are piling up. A gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person is drawn to a church that brands itself as “welcoming”. They search the church website to see whether they are welcome without conditions and find nothing. Instead they often see code words that suggest full inclusion–words like diversity, justice, multi-cultural, etc. In a surprising number of cases, they speak with a pastor who assures them they will be supported. But later, they learn the pastor was fudging his answers. No, they cannot serve in this or that position unless they commit to lifelong celibacy. No, the pastor cannot perform a same-gender wedding, “for the sake of church unity.” For lack of a straight answer up front  they endure a kind of psychological torture, falling in love with a church that cannot love them back. Continue reading

Time for InterVarsity Staffers to Speak Up for Vulnerable LGBTQ Students

The largest evangelical campus organization, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, is now ready to terminate any staff members who support gay marriage. In the everyday work of campus ministry, this means that  staff members cannot bless and support the desire of gay students who believe they are called to faithfulness in a same-gender marriage relationship. Scratch beneath the faux warmth of some phrasing in the IV position, and you will find that it is rooted in the traditional view that all same-gender sexual relationships are indisputably covered by the language of abhorrence used in a handful of biblical texts, including Romans 1. All the important cultural-historical work done to interpret the divorce texts ignored in the work of interpreting the handful of texts that have been used by the church to forbid all same-gender sexual relationships. (The IV policy allows for divorce and remarriage in the case of the ill defined and “wide-open-to-interpretation” phrase, “psychological abuse.”)

But this exclusionary LGBTQ policy is carefully stated to discourage (mostly young) IV staffers from openly expressing their disagreement with their supervisors. Because these supervisors, we now know, will be required to terminate those employees with 2 weeks notice as soon as this disagreement is stated. The IV campus ministers will not be asked their views on the policy, but if they share their views, they will be fired. The wink and the nod here is clear: “If you disagree and want to continue your ministry with IV, don’t reveal your disagreement to us. Keep it to yourself.” Continue reading

Third Way Developments from Ken Wilson

I had a little break from Third Way Newsletter thanks to a generous 3 month sabbatical from my co-pastor duties at Blue Ocean Faith, Ann Arbor. But I’m back. Here’s what’s been happening in my life as it pertains to all things Third Way.

Second Edition of A Letter to My Congregation

During Sabbatical I finished up revisions for a second edition of the book that got this started. Various reviews and critiques alerted me to a few sources I hadn’t been able to include, primarily the work of James Loader, mentioned in the Tim Keller review. So I incorporated these into the second edition. I made the most changes to the chapter on the biblical texts dealing with same-gender sex. It’s the chapter I was least satisfied with and it felt good to re-work it for added clarity, in addition to a couple of scholarly updates.

I also added two chapters. First, an introduction to the Second Edition, which also dealt with the question of my claim to the label “evangelical.” Second, a “What Happened Next” afterword chapter that updates the reader on the surprising and painful effects (best of times/worst of times) of publishing a book that was ultimately rejected by my former denomination, Vineyard USA. By the way, if you’re ordering the book from Amazon, it usually ships in 2-4 days, not 2-4 weeks as Amazon incorrectly reports. Continue reading

Too Often, the Welcome Mat is Bad News for Sexual Minorities

In an effort to be seen as loving, friendly, and welcoming, religious organizations put out the welcome mat for LGBT people. But once in the house, the reality of donor-distress-driven policies emerge. A kinder and more honest approach would be to say, “You’re not really welcome as you are. Enter at your own risk.” Read the latest example in Time’s piece by Julie Rodgers.    

Beyond the Elevator: A Report from the Gay Christian Network Conference

“What conference are you here for?” the respectable looking woman in the elevator inquired, innocently enough. We three middle aged men with the GCN conference lanyards around our necks stole a quick glance before one of us answered, “The Gay Christian Network,” hoping for the best. The woman stepped back reflexively, raised her eyebrows and saucer-eyed us while letting out a drawn-out Texan, “Ohhh…,” a word pregnant with polite discomfort. We smiled and stared at the floor until the doors opened. Continue reading

O Holy Night, the Bastard Jesus, and Donald Trump

The baby born in a manger became a rabbi with a unique gift: to make the soul of the outsider feel its worth. As Greg Carey notes, his dinners with prostitutes, tax collectors and sinners–serious outcasts–were as much a sign of his kingdom as his teachings, healings, and exorcisms.

Perhaps because exclusion was part of his own experience. Continue reading

Dr. Larycia Hawkins and More Wheaton Woes

urlWheaton College is in the news again, this time for suspending Dr. Larycia Hawkins for asserting that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. (Check out recent coverage in The Atlantic and New York Times.) Wheaton also houses one of the biggest collections of the works of C.S. Lewis in the world. Lewis’ Mere Christianity is on course to sell nearly 100,000 copies again this year. I’m partial to this little gem of a book because it fostered my return to faith after a brush with adolescent atheism.  Continue reading

The Daunting Costs of Implementing Third Way

It’s been nearly two years since I proposed Third Way as a new approach to the full inclusion of LGBTQ people with the release of A Letter to My Congregation. Many existing churches have transitioned to Third Way, including congregations in a new church network called Blue Ocean Faith. Several other church plants have launched with Third Way as part of their foundation—a much easier task than transitioning an existing congregation. From the collective experience of many churches, transition to Third Way is challenging. It requires, so far as I can tell, five things. Continue reading