Since publishing A Letter to My Congregation: An Evangelical Pastor’s Path to Embrace People Who are Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender into the Company of Jesus, a great deal has happened. A lively discussion of a proposed Third Way has begun. I’ve been temporarily out of the conversation for the past few months owing to developments in the church I helped to found—Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor. One of our pastors, Emily Swan, entered a same-sex relationship heading toward marriage. This occurred just before my denomination formally rejected Third Way as a legitimate response to the care of people who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender.
While there was substantial support for an inclusive approach in our local church (Emily received a standing ovation when she told the church her story) our denomination, Vineyard USA, informed us that the church would be disaffiliated if we didn’t comply with the new national policy on LGBT. This meant firing Emily, something I was unwilling to do. Despite deep misgivings with the VUSA policy, our board decided to stay with VUSA and reluctantly asked for our resignations, encouraging us to plant a new church, which we are now doing.
While all this was painful, in the providence of God, I make sense of it by understanding that Third Way, especially as it is applied to LGBT in 2014, required new wineskins for what is essentially, new wine.
For now, the church we are planting is called Blue Ocean Faith, Ann Arbor. We are a Jesus, Spirit, Scripture, science, all people friendly church. We combine the vigor of an evangelical and renewalist faith with a culturally contextualized Christianity extending welcome to a growing sea of people –those who have opted out of faith, or can’t find a faith community in which they experience full acceptance and welcome.
In this Third Way Newsletter we hope to provide articles, links, audio and video samples, book reviews and personal stories, all to flesh out Third Way: A New Way of Being Together. We invite your feedback, asking for (requiring actually) something all to rare in online venues: kindness, courtesy, respect, and restraint.