“Surely Not, Lord!” – The Unfolding Story of God

 

Imagine writing something so confidently, so purposefully, so convinced you were helping, just to re-read it a few years later and feel ill to the stomach because you authored something you now find so offensive and upsetting and beyond that…harmful.

Humans have a habit of changing over time. I realize this isn’t profound by any measure, and yet it’s something I want to unpack here.

The post I wrote in January of 2012 was entitled “Hope. (A discussion on Homosexuality).”  I leave it up on this website because I think a lot of people who have only recently come to know me in these last few years make the assumption that I grew up in the thinking that I currently hold. Or that I’m some Raging Liberal Democrat who is antagonistic towards all things Conservative and Christian. This simply isn’t so.

Throughout 2011 there was a lot in the air around Chick-fil-a and their stance on “biblical marriage” and the use of their profits in conversion therapy. (Conversion therapy is the pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual using psychological or spiritual interventions.) It brought to the center really ugly depictions of the Church and views about Christians that, for me, at the time felt so very misunderstood. My faith community was being compared to the likes of Westboro Baptist who protested and brought inflammatory signs to the funerals of Gay Soldiers. I hated that because the Christians I knew weren’t anything like those folks. The Christians I knew were not trying to be discriminatory, but obedient. For them, God’s word was clear. That sexual conduct outside of marriage (the marriage between one man and one woman) was sinful. That our beliefs weren’t singling out homosexuals (a term I’m no longer very fond of) but equally applicable to all sex acts (both gay and straight) outside of the union of flesh meant for marriage.

I bring all of this up because I wrote a post in which I did my best to explain this in a kind and loving way. And the theology that I spoke of in that post, in early 2012, is not something that I somehow forgot, or chose to ignore, or rebelled against for the supremacy of my own thinking. I didn’t just say forget God and the Scriptures, and come to a place of affirmation of my LGBTQIA+ siblings. I know the beliefs inside and out that people use to stand against same-sex marriages and relationships, the verses they quote, the interpretations they use to stand in opposition of openly gay and trans people. I understand all of these teachings because I once was a person who fought people like me.

I get messages all of the time from Christians who know in their bones that what they’ve been taught  feels rotten and harmful, especially towards people that they truly do love. But the faith that they were brought up in gave them certain parameters for understanding God and others. They reach out to me, because I’m a Youth Minister who is very public about my total affirmation of LGBTQ+ persons and they wonder how someone in my line of work could have gotten there. They reach out because they sense something is wrong, but they’ve yet to find an explanation that allows them to move forward with what they already know. They don’t want to simply abandon Christian theology for what “feels right” to them. Because that, for them, feels like conforming to the world and their cultures, rather than being obedient to God and God’s teaching.

My hope here is to help give you the tools you may need to open your mind about your gay and trans siblings. Let me say from the outset that love is the only tool you need, but often our communities and cultures, especially those of faith give us special glasses that shade us from total colorful vibrancy. There was much working against me that was creating a narrative that overruled things I was learning, as well as my experiences and in turn, my ability to see clearly enough to own my own phobias. I projected these losses of foundation on those unlike me. And in so doing, I hurt people. In so doing, I passed on this narrow thinking to children and Christians in my care. Part of  my repentance is owning this, and changing this, and illuminating a way forward towards greater love, inclusion and understanding.

So let’s talk about this, let’s move forward, and let’s move deeper. Lives are on the line.

 

-Human understanding is not static-

Here is the primary question I have for you. How do you understand sexuality and gender, and why do you understand it that way?

We are not static beings. We accumulate data throughout our lives and shape and form our beliefs and values. So your understanding perhaps is rooted in the Scriptures, in your Church’s traditions. Perhaps it is based on your own experiences rooted in your culture, your community, your nationality, your religion. Or maybe it is based on the research and data of the sciences. The things that we say that we know are all informed by these sorts of things. In sum, I cannot know, what I do not know, and what I do know is based on the limited information that is available to me.

Let me give you an example:

I grew up just south of the Georgia border. My mom took me to the Florida Capital to see George W. Bush win the recount. I was nine years old and held up Political signs that said “Sore Loserman.” In 2008, when Bush’s tenure was ending, I was a senior in High School. I believed whole heartedly that America was a Christian Nation and that Democrats didn’t want it to be. I thought Obama was likely more Muslim than he let on and it baffled my mind that anyone would choose him over a war hero like John McCain. I was not in the minority of my community either. My peers and my part of town were dominantly Conservative. The values I held were held by nearly every person I knew. To vote for a Democrat was to vote for Socialism and to vote for the murder of unborn babies and for the destruction of Biblical family, marriage and values. In sum, I did not believe it was possible to be a Democrat and a Christian. And in kind, I felt it was the duty of my faith and my nation to stand against Barack Hussein Obama.

I was into my third year of College when the 2012 election was in full swing, and I was living with two Christians who were involved in my ministry…that were also staunch Barack Obama supporters. They would put their Obama sign in the yard and I would put two Romney signs in front of them. Most nights we would stay up late talking about faith and politics and I began to see how they as Christians believed that the policies they were upholding were helping the poor and the sick more than the Conservative policies I was upholding. They asked me questions about abortion, and healthcare, and about making all people obey my beliefs that really challenged me. In addition, College opened me up to countless diverse experiences that surpassed the limited experiences of the bubble that was my conservative area of town. I was having dialogue with people I’d never gotten to know before. This diversity of people, and beliefs and even Christianity, challenged me to think in new ways that I had not previously done. And by this exposure, my understandings began to change. I was able to ask questions about Barack Obama that I simply was not asking before. I was able to see him in new ways that did not match the anger that I once held when things were more unfamiliar and by definition ignorant.

Fast forward to 2015 and I’m living in D.C. and waiting for hours in the cold just to get a glimpse at President Obama.

Now if the human experience was static and unchanging, who I was in 2008 and who I was in 2015 would be clear contradiction. They could not be reconciled as being of the same source. But we don’t understand ourselves that way.
Regardless of your personal views of Barack Obama you can see that overtime I was able to weigh the knowledge of my home community, with the knowledge and experiences of a greater community. My understanding evolved based on new information, discovery, and experience. So much so that I started to view my former understandings as misguided and incomplete. I even began to see Obama’s faith as very similar to the Christian faith I was growing into.

Now, every human being that has ever existed, is just like this in one way or another. It may not be political. It may be a racist in a community removed from people of color one day meeting people of color. Or a victim of 9/11 who vilified all Muslims meeting another Muslim who also lost a loved one that day. Or a child’s blatant fear and disgust of green foods. Sometimes experiences are withheld from us. Sometimes more exposure changes our beliefs (or our taste buds). Sometimes we’ve yet to receive information that liberates us. Sometimes we build entire identities, communities, and values in places of ignorance that have yet to receive certain information. And often we look out at those unlike us and create narratives to discredit or vilify them. Because we know what we know, and things that challenge this are not easily received. Because they are the new idea working against years of our built up understanding and brain development.

I bring all of this up because when I wrote that post in January of 2012, there were many things I had yet to learn about the Bible. There was Christian tradition that I was not yet aware of. There was a kind of intimacy with God that had not yet been modeled for me.

And if you are still in communities of faith like I was, it’s very possible the same is true for you. That you have been given a narrative of understanding that preserves and protects your community and their beliefs just like my predominantly white, Conservative, Christian community that I grew up in had.  In that space, I learned very extreme, racist and bigoted beliefs about Barack Obama and very slanderous and vilifying beliefs about the Democrats. It wasn’t simply that I disagreed or had a different understanding, it’s that beyond that I was given a framework to understand the other in such a way that kept me from even wanting to associate or learn from them. That made their views dangerous to me. That made conversation nearly impossible. It was very us and them and was not rooted in any experience of Obama or Democrats. Yes, just like this, there were also things I was taught about the Bible that I now know were simply not informed or tested. I was also taught ways to see and view those who thought differently about the Bible than I did. And I had to venture into lands that I was often protected from, lands that were even vilified, in order to see this. And one of those was studying Religion from a secular vantage point which led me to see something…rather obvious.

-The human beings who wrote the Scriptures behave like you and I do-

Earlier I asked how you understand sexuality and gender, and why you understand it that way. Growing up I was always taught to be weary of reading myself into the Biblical text. That I shouldn’t just assume things about the Bible without learning about the authors, the communities, and the history of the passage, because I may misinterpret it.

I needed to ask how the authors of scripture and their communities understood sexuality and gender and why did they understand it that way…

It is first necessary to get at the root of what the authors were trying to say rather than merely read it and make our own assumptions. In truth, this requires a lot more work than the average Christian is prepared for and it’s why we put our trust in the leaders who teach us, the leaders that spend years studying the Bible and going to seminary. But I spent years of my life under these leaders without ever learning things like, “gehenna” (the Greek word for “Hell,”) translates to the Valley of Ben Hinnom, and that this is a real place outside the city of Jerusalem. Or that there are two creation stories that begin the Bible that differ in the order of creation. Or that there are two genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke that are not the same. Or that the Gospel accounts vary in the recounting of Jesus’ life in ways that cannot be reconciled if they are to be understood as historically accurate. Or that Jesus’ words are reworked in certain Gospels. Or that we have historical documents that teach us that Caesar Augustus was called the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and that his birth was “the beginning of the good news for all men.”  In other words, there are some really foundation shattering things that I never learned from my pastors that were freely and openly talked about by others, including Christians. If I had known this information from the outset, how different would my formative years of Christianity have looked? In sum, we are often under the leadership of people who have only tried to interpret the Bible without actually studying things critically or historically. In other words, they believe the primary source for all things Biblical is the Bible. I had many faith leaders who always taught “let scripture interpret scripture.” Or that I should always bend my truth towards the Bible. But if my concern is actually truth, do you see how restrictive that is? How protective that is?

But even if the Bible is all that I had to work with, so many of the things I was brought up to believe do no stand upon simply reading the book and seeing what it does. And what the Bible does, is exactly what we do.

The Bible, just like you and I, is not static. The Bible is not some consistent book that holds the same line of thinking from Genesis 1 all the way to Revelation 22. It doesn’t do this because we haven’t done this. Like the Bible, the story of American beliefs is not some consistent thing. We have changed as a people over the last 240+ years. We’ve become more diverse, more representative of the world’s cultures, and with that our beliefs and understandings have changed. Slavery is no longer legal, Jim Crow laws abolished, “Merry Christmas” no longer standard, white men are no longer the only acceptable candidates for President. We now have a telephone that fits in our pocket that can watch movies, communicate to people on other continents in an instant, and be immediately notified of world news.  It works ever so slow, but over time cultures and communities change, and with them their beliefs and even their understandings of the divine. They’ve had time to practice things certain ways and they’ve been able to weigh the effects of them or ask the hard questions about them. It ammounts to the belief that God doesn’t change, but we do, and as we change, so do our understandings of God and human.

For example Christians believe very openly that there is but One God. But that’s not what the Ancient Israelites once believed. They believed in many gods. Tribal, warrior gods who demanded sacrifices for their appeasement. That each god had a dwelling place that you could visit like a temple. This wasn’t exclusive to the Israelites but the ancient world at large. This is how people once understood and explained things. In fact our human foundation reveals this. Genesis 1 reads “Let us create man in our image after our likeness.” Christians too quickly insert the Trinity into an ancient Jewish people who had not yet thought of this. The Ten Commandments even declare that “Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me.” It doesn’t say that Yahweh was the only god or even that the Israelites could not have other gods, simply that they should not come before the LORD. The same is true for the Law, and for sacrifices, and for diet, and especially is true for Gentiles. When we read the Scriptures we see a people growing and maturing and evolving in their understandings just like we do.

It’s why some things in the Bible feel barbaric. It’s because they are! The beliefs of the Bible were just as cultural as the beliefs of our communities because on the whole, they function just as we do.  You cannot know what you do not know, nor have not yet experienced. It is hard work to eradicate your cultural upbringing from your understandings because that is how you came to learn and to know everything that you know. It is why if I were born in the heart of India, it is very unlikely that I would be a Christian. If I were born 2,000 years ago I wouldn’t know that it was possible for man to stand on the moon. I wouldn’t know what an atom is. Or a blackhole is. Or a radio wave is. Or what germs are. Or what English is. Or why redheads are redheads. Or what is actually happening when we have sex. When we look to the ancient world to inform our views of the universe, we’re hopping over all the advancements we have made in the time since. Before the advent of science and the enlightenment. Before humanity had the tools that we use today. We should not expect them to articulate from the same point of understanding and information that we have today. They used to believe that the sky was a glassy firmament that had doors that would let the rain in. The church destroyed Galileo for the heresy of daring to report that we actually revolved around the sun. He observed something that threatened the confines of understanding that surrounded him. And he was ruined for it.

You can actually follow when some Greek ideas began to find their way into the Bible. Even notions of the afterlife are profoundly absent from the Old Testament. And how ideas like the depths of the dead borrow language from Greek Mythology. The lands that dominated the Israelites often shifted the thinking of the Israelites because they brought in new ways of understanding, and with that changed the notions of their faith and practice. This is something Paul is writing about constantly because he doesn’t want the people of Christ to just blindly conform to the deep pull of the Greco-Roman world. But Paul has already dramatically changed and reinterpreted much of the Old Testament and how we understand the law and salvation. So much so that James writes a clapback to him about how faith without works is dead. All of this is playing out in the same book that we call the Bible. When you read Paul, you a reading a person doing their best to make sense of what they believe in light of Christ and the resurrection. Paul was a Pharisee, he knew the law inside and out, and so letters like Romans are Paul piecing it together as best as he can. Just like you or I would.  We honor the text by following the method of its authors, by interpreting how to best follow God here and now.
(For more on this, pick up Peter Enn’s How the Bible Actually Works)

Christians in my experience have no problem stating that the Bible was written by men, but they get really cautious and defensive when you point out any resemblance of humanity. Because to fight the new revelations of our observation the Church created concepts like inerrancy and infallibility to ward them off. I believe this is a disservice to the Bible because it is not honest with the Bible that we have. It tries to make the Bible something that it observably is not. What we have is the beautiful account of humanity over a period of 6,000 years wrestling with God. Asking the questions that we are still asking. What is God like? What is going on here? What does it mean to be human? And in it we find not a static rule book for all of time, but a guide for wisdom that illuminates a way to be and think and understand in relation to all things. We find a people who are helping their communities towards health and understanding. Pointing their people to the Christ; that which is over all through all and in all. That which holds all things together. This is why the Gospel account take liberties. They are telling the story in a way that will help their particular audience connect to the divine. For Matthew and his Jewish audience it was painting Jesus through the retelling of Moses’ story. We too often have claimed the humanity of the authors of scripture while speaking of the authors as if they didn’t have the exact same limitations and questions and confusion and doubt that we do. This is something that has never made sense to me. Why do people believe “God breathed” means perfection? The Bible refers to mankind as god-breathed. The whole of creation is a God Breathed story, and we have been entrusted to tell it and wrestle with it. Our stories unite us and hold us, they give us life, and they should not be thrown out but brought in to our time and our world, and re-imagined in ways that help us connect to that which is greater than ourselves. This is the power of the sermon.

The communities the Biblical authors existed in worked much like ours do. They influenced the understandings of their people. So when you find harmful patriarchy, well, yeah, that’s not surprising. When there’s no blatant condemnation of slavery, well yeah. When God commands people to wipe out their political enemies, well…so did everyone else’s god, so yes this isn’t very surprising. When God tells people not to eat shrimp, when the scriptures say women should be quiet and submissive, when God commands his people to smash babies on rocks, when the Bible commands the stoning of adulterous women, or that we should kill animals to be cleansed of our sin, we don’t do these things anymore because the world has moved on. It is not how we understand any longer. We as a people have grown, and matured, and learned, and evolved. This progression is present even in our holy scriptures, just read it in the book.

 

-God is ahead of us-

I have the fundamental belief that God’s best for us is not back there in all of its limited understanding, but forward, ahead of us with all of its infinite possibilities, and all of the things we’ve yet to discover or understand.

I model this belief on what I see and observe happening in the Bible.

I do not look to the ancient world to define sexuality in categories they had never once articulated or thought of. It is the basics of semantics. I do not look to them to understand Gay and Straight or Bisexual when the ancient world had not yet thought up these sexual categories. I do not look to the ancient world to tell me about anatomy or quarks, or galaxies, or weather patterns, that they did not have the tools to understand or observe. While also understanding that they attempted to explain anyway. Likewise, I do not think of God in the violent and angry ways the ancient world once did. Because I too ask the question that they did, what do I believe God is like?

It is good and necessary work to ask the question what did the authors of scripture mean then to their people, but it is equally important to ask the question where was this message headed? What was the trajectory of these ideas and how can we continue to take them further, just as they did for their time and their people. What’s so brilliant and fascinating about the Bible is how often it took a cultural step forward. Somehow in the wrestling with God, Scripture, tradition and really thinking on the method of the love of neighbor, the Bible passages represent social strides for the day even if they seem archaic to us here and now. They represent communities confronting abuses and restrictions and even discrimination.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible represents this idea. In the book of Acts, Peter is stopped by a vision of a sheet of animals rolled out before him, “Get up Peter! Kill and Eat!” a voice from the heavens declares. But Peter is a good Jew, and he argues for his cultural understanding, he defends the Law and the Scripture, “Surely not Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean!” And the voice responds, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean!” Peter understood this as an inclusion of the excluded. That the Gospel of Jesus was not just for the people of Israel but also for the Gentiles who were previously understood as unclean. In my mind, I imagine that it was harder for the Jews in the ancient world to extend their message to include the Gentiles, than it has been for Christians in the modern world to extend it to the LGBTQ+ community. There are passages of scripture debating this progression. The Apostles had arguments about it. And yet, here I am, 2,000 years later, a Gentile in love with Jesus.

We can only escape our cultural and communal understandings when we open ourselves to more and even then, it’s hard work. Using the Bible as a source for our moral standards is not always fruitful because our moral standards have always evolved and they will continue to do so. (As made evident in the 6,000 year old story of The Bible.) Silly things that were once “abominations” and “sinful” like wearing clothing with more than one kind of fabric are now accepted by nearly every person of faith. Try and tell a Texan they shouldn’t eat BBQ.  The “rule book” Bible has not worked well for us, but using the Bible as a model for wisdom, for wrestling with these questions and bringing them to God openly and honestly here and now, well now we’re getting somewhere.

So when we approach something like the LGBTQ+ community, is a Christian’s position against them based on ancient moral standards, or is it something we believe is true today based on what we now know, observe and understand? Is this what God wants for us? Is it a static understanding, or have we grown towards new understanding? Do we go to the Bible to figure this out, or do we, like the authors of the Bible, go to God?  When I was younger, bringing my thoughts to God meant weighing them against the Bible and the Bible alone (sola-scriptura). But now I see that bringing my thoughts to God means bringing them to God, in prayer, in community, in fasting, in contemplation and with Scripture. The Bible is my model for this approach to wisdom. Looking for the fruit of what I am thinking through and learning.

-Look for the fruit-

 

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

A few years ago, I was working for a ministry and our leadership development was led by a woman. She was remarkable and so helpful in leading us to practical methods of communication. I was a bit of rebel-rouser but she always made space for the points I was bringing to the table and I really appreciated this. It was rare in that season of my life. Week after week we would sit in a classroom for several hours as she helped develop us into better leaders and caregivers of the gospel. I was learning so much from her, we all were.  At one point during a lesson she confessed that she struggled with whether or not she should be teaching us, because she was a woman, and the Bible certainly seemed to imply that she should not presume to have authority over us men and that she should remain quiet (1 Corinthians 14:34). I did not hesitate to look her in the eyes and say…”That’s bullshit.” I had so clearly witnessed the Spirit working through her to teach all of us. She had wisdom and education that many of the men in my life did not. The fruit of her presence and teaching was our growth. And in no capacity does it make sense that God would be against the growth of his people and the expansion of the good news. A good tree was bearing good fruit and toxic fruit of how many understand that scripture was trying to put it out. That has upset me for some time. That I would meet so many women who are against women preaching from pulpits. What a loss for the church that began because of the testimony of the first women who witnessed the resurrection.

I believe and affirm this teaching, that a good trees bears good fruit. Jesus said his people would be known by their fruit. It is my observation that the church’s teaching against homosexuality and same-sex relationships is rotten to its core. It has led to broken families, forced celibacy, self harm, broken communities, split churches, and too often suicide. When I have been in communities that totally affirm their LGBTQ+ members, I have seen healing and love abound. I have seen genuine goodness and abundance, real transformation come from this! I have seen my own faith grow from their witness, and the church reach those that I never could. So observably “good fruit” and observably “bad fruit.”

I have only witnessed love as victor. A good tree bears good fruit. A bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

We all read the Bible and understand God from our social location and time. The authors of Scripture were no different. They continued to bring the message forward and to align themselves with a God that was present. They brought the message forward because they believed it was their sacred responsibility, I believe it is ours too.

I refused to accept same-sex people because to do that, I had to let die the false categories that I depended on for my certitudes. I preferred the easy knowledge of right and wrong, in and out, to the intimate and prayerful journey of wrestling with God. And that was a hard death, one that took years of seeing that the Bible didn’t operate the way my pastors taught me it did. I spent years at University doing all I could to hold on to the Bible that the Christians in my life told me about. But that Bible to my pain and my hurt and my loneliness, was not honest with the Bible that we actually have. I simply cannot express how painful it was for me to accept this or how long it took for me to feel comfortable with this.  But it is the Bible that we have and I am thankful for it. I am thankful for the faith communities that do the hard work of interpretation and of growth. Who operate with intimacy, to navigate the questions of our day, and who continue to build on the story of God. Not forsaking our intellectual integrity, but aligning ourselves with the wisdom revealed in the Scriptures. Pointing all that we learn to that which holds all things together, the Christ.

We are all fearfully and wonderfully made. The Creation Story of the Bible may speak of binaries like night and day, land and sea, land animals and sea animals, male and female, but the Creation speaks of a far more beautiful diversity. Of dusk and dawn. Of swamps and marshes. Of turtles and crocodiles, of male and female, and non-binary peoples. The world is to be witnessed and named. And we are called to grow and evolve and follow God forward towards kingdom in Christ where there is not male or female, Jew or Gentile, slave or free for we ALL are one, from the same essence, dust to dust.God breathed. The Creation bears witness.

To love your neighbor is to bring love and good fruit into their lives and to confront and pluck out the bad fruit restraining them from their full being. It is why I will not tolerate your exclusion of these people. Because the story of God is ever-expanding, reaching further than the smallness of our understanding. God will continue to reach the margins, and man will continue to say “Surely, not Lord!” If there is any pattern in the people of God, it’s that the good news of God’s love expands further than man was comfortable with at the time.

Lastly, a message for the person I may have offended or angered by stating things the way I have.  If you still disagree with me, and this view, I intentionally did not go verse by verse here because those conversations in my life have been fruitless and in my experience your issues are not really about what the Bible says, rather your need for clarity and acceptance in your community. I freely say this because your life is representative of a person who has been able to explain away, or ignore, various verses for their own ease and well-being yet buckle down when it applies to things you do not struggle with. (Yes, I think it’s fair to say this even not having met you. Because I’m talking to me too.) As a fundamentalist, nobody ever changed my mind arguing about how we understand a particular passage of scripture. To take one passage of scripture and say it represents the whole story of God is not honoring the totality of the story. Because the Bible is not static. And neither are you. And neither am I. It took experiences and the realization that what I was teaching was ACTUALLY harmful and dangerous to countless lives to inspire movement in my thinking. May slavery be the ever-present gut check that we might be doing harm with the words in the Bible. The Story of God is not confined in one passage and so debating one passage without reflecting on the whole and the movement and expansion that the authors of Scripture felt comfortable enough to promote to their audiences, is probably not the best use of your time. But furthermore, ask yourself if you have opened your mind to the possibility that some experiences may have been withheld from you. That you haven’t yet encountered all things. That you may have strong beliefs taught to you by those who have been given unhelpful parameters to their understanding. Parameters that excluded the possibility for their growth and vilified those who attempted to care. That the anger or hatred you may feel at those trying to inform you, is likely not about your quest for truth, but your discomfort with challenge and your need for certainty.

People do not resist change, they resist loss. And the fear of a loss of my certitudes and my clarity led me to teach things I didn’t actually believe for years. And so I understand, if this is too much. Because it was way too much for me not years ago. It has cost me a lot. And I understand that loss. I lost friends, I lost community, I lost jobs by following this beyond my comfort and beyond my parameters.

But I think God desires my trust more than my “correct beliefs.” And the intimacy that I have found in bringing all of this to God and listening to the Spirit, has brought more love into my life than bringing all of this to a book ever did. Wrestling with all of this in open and honest community is where the real beauty happens. And looking to the scriptures for a model of wisdom and discernment has been fruitful to my life.

The tradition is the growth.

May every “Surely, not Lord!” that calls a person unclean see that in Christ we are all made one. That from the very beginning we have all been fearfully and wonderfully made.

This past Sunday was a beautiful display of vibrancy and love. A love that the author of that post in 2012 had not yet experienced. A love that the author of that post had tried to put out.

We gathered as a faith community the Sunday after learning that our denomination had chosen not to include our LGBTQ+ siblings in the ministry of the church.

There was too much glory that morning to express. But we gathered, we cried, we held hand in hand, and we loved with all we had.

This is church to me. It’s the women blessing the Eucharist, it’s the congregation receiving Christ’s body and blood from its openly gay leaders, it’s the saints confessing their sins, it’s the church owning its harm, it’s the old and the young gathered, it’s the blessing of healing, it’s the rainbow of humanity, it’s the joyous song of the mourning, it is the work of freedom and justice, it’s open hearts, open minds, and open doors. It is I, and it is you, and it is we. It is the Christ at work in the most shocking of ways, the most shocking places, the most shocking moments. It is kingdom.

May you all know it is here now, and that we will fight for our hopes and our people and for every eye to see and every ear to hear that in Christ we are all made one. As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.

This Church has room for you. It has room for what we have even yet to understand. And it has room for all who’ve been told it doesn’t.

You are welcome and so is your “them.”

We are the unfolding story of God.

May every tree bear good fruit!

Further resources:
God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines

How the Bible Actually Works by Peter Enns

Does Jesus Really Love Me? by Jeff Chu

Transforming by Austen Hartke

Shameless: A Sexual Reformation by Nadia Bolz-Weber

The Liturgists Podcast: LGBTQ

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