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

Nothing Hidden: Implications of a René Girard Insight for Third Way by Caroline Kittle

Split-Shire

The Gospel of Mark teaches that nothing hidden will remain covered and all secrets will come to light (Mark 4:22). In this vein, René Girard’s work on scapegoating effectively busts myths. He uncovers the violent origins of ancient myths. His analysis compels us to examine our own tendency towards victimization and violence. Since our victims often seem to be people marked as different, it makes sense to join the work on accepting our differences. As a feminist, I have embraced Audre Lorde’s call to recognize, accept and celebrate our differences. Too often we victimize people who are physically/mentally/socially different. We exclude or condemn LGBTQ+ people from churches and leadership. We want women and men and people of color to fit into certain categories and punish them if they do not fit. However, Girard writes, “Despite what is said around us persecutors are never obsessed by difference but rather by its unutterable contrary, the lack of difference” (p. 22). As we learn to celebrate our differences, Girard challenges us to consider a bigger threat: lack of difference. This insight holds implications for Third Way and may shed light on some of the strong negative reactions to a Third Way approach. 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

Oriented to Faith Podcast: A Third Way is Possible – Interview with Ken Wilson

Burning candles in darknessTim Otto, pastor of The Church of the Sojourners in the Mission District of San Francisco, interviewed Ken Wilson on Third Way for his Oriented to Faith Podcast. Tim is the author of Oriented to Faith: Transforming the Conflict over Gay Relationships. He describes Third Way as “a way of including LGBT Christians while not excluding conservatives.” He gives Ken Wilson the opportunity to clarify Third Way as a faithful path through this painful conflict. They explore critiques from people on different sides of the issue and bring light on matters of moral approval, power and privilege as they dig deeper into the Gospel.

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A Pacifist’s Thoughts on Being Among “The Weak”

One of the frustrations I have discovered writing about LGBT questions from a Third Way perspective is that I, and many of us who take this perspective at present, end up writing from the standpoint of the “strong”. As a result, I am constantly in danger of coming off as condescending (a perennial temptation for “the strong”) and am regularly accused of arguing for an approach which would privilege my take on the relevant theology. 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

Thanksgiving, SNL, and Overcoming the Scourge of Religious Intolerance

Many of us will soon gather for Thanksgiving dinner with extended family and remember what an odd, glorious, and Saturday-Night-Live thing a family is. Family! Nobody is born or adopted into a family they have chosen. We get assigned, like roommates in a freshmen dormitory. And often we find ourselves thrown into close proximity with people we seriously wonder about. Continue reading

The Chorus is Swelling: This is a Disputable Matter

In A Letter to My Congregation, I offered criteria to suggest when a matter might legitimately be regarded as a “disputable matter” in the church, invoking the gospel demands of Romans 14-15. But there is one criterion which is fairly simple: a matter is disputable when it is actually disputed in the church—when we find that faithful Christians who love Jesus, seek to be guided by the Spirit, and take the Bible seriously, find themselves disagreeing. Continue reading