In a few short weeks, I will gather with my Denomination to worship, study, play, and conduct business. On the business docket is a resolution that reads ...
"Be it resolved that the General Assembly ... calls upon the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to recognize itself as striving to become a people of grace and welcome to all God's children though differing in race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, physical or mental ability, political stance or theological perspective."
I keep trying to wrap my head around why we're fighting over this.
I mean, I know why we're fighting over this ... it's two little words: "sexual orientation."
But I can't get my head around it!
If the CC(DOC) were to make the exact same statement and leave out "race" or "age" or "physical ability," it would never pass! We'd likely vote unanimously that this document isn't welcoming to all because we left someone out.
But we added those two little words and we're clawing at one another's eyes as if our root is not "in all things charity."
My brothers and sisters, we've forgotten who we are!
We were founded on a desire to stop keeping people out. I make no effort to hide the fact that I am in favor of this resolution. But I know those who are not - and it's because of those two words. In their theological perspective (which is included in the resolution as one area where we will be a people of welcome and grace), all of these other attributes are biological attributes and sexual orientation is a moral attribute. I understand that in principle. I understand that you can look at a text and see a moral mandate where I see a cultural description of sexuality at the time. I understand that you see this as a slippery slope, where we're sliding away from our Biblical heritage. I understand that for many people this is a scary step.
Here's what I believe. I believe that this is a biological issue, as well. I believe that we have had the same fear time and time again: over race, over gender, over ethnicity. I believe that most of us now look at those debates and realize we made the right choice to include. I believe that the winds of change are blowing and that this will eventually be as much of a non-issue as an interracial marriage being performed in our sanctuaries.
I also believe that our theological perspectives are different on this; I don't expect you to suddenly believe what I believe. That is not my goal in this conversation. My goal is to have a conversation.
To that end, I do have a question for each one of us:
Why are you Disciples of Christ?
What is it about this denomination that draws you in?
Because if we can't live in charity to one another, why don't we move to a denomination that encourages like-mindedness? Regardless of your stance on sexual orientation, you'll find a denomination that thinks like you do. If this (what I view as) non-essential piece of our theological perspectives is so important to you, perhaps the Disciples are not the home you seek?
Please don't hear me asking ANYONE to leave the Denomination! I'm not. In fact, it's quite the opposite - I'm asking you to stay Disciples - to stay Disciples both in membership and in your deeply held beliefs. I don't understand why these two little words are threatening to rip apart our denomination.
I don't understand and it breaks my heart to see this happening to us.
I want your voice in our struggles!
I want to hear you challenge me on my beliefs!
I want to push back against that and talk with you about my faith!
It's what I love about who we are.
But what I see happening right now is not this challenge and push back. I see both "sides" of this debate digging in their heels, refusing to budge, and presuming that the other side has it 100% wrong.
Let me tell you what I believe.
I believe we're all in the wrong - myself included - because we've lost our focus. We've forgotten that the history of who we are is a people who disagreed on many things but were committed to unity. We've lost sight of the fact that the reason our title is so long - Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) - is because we chose unity and maintaining identity at the same time. We've lost sight of the fact that the mainline denominations are suffering and dying because we can't live with one another. We've forgotten how to be good neighbors.
My dear brothers and sisters, please pray with me for the next few weeks.
Pray that every word we speak in Orlando would be filled with grace and charity.
Pray that we would see another's opinion without seeing that opinion as a threat to our own.
Pray that when we leave Orlando the city and the world will be able to say, "See how much they love one another."
In essentials, unity.
In non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, charity!
Charity even in the discussion over what is an essential.
Charity even when our feelings and beliefs are deeply wounded by another.
Charity even when a resolution does not go the way we have hoped and prayed.