I was on the mission trip when I had a conversation with a man named…well lets say Bert. Bert ended up in my car by miscommunication. He had joined the Disciples under the delusion that our bumper stickers (not doctrine!) meant we were a good conservative church and since the congregation we were in was so vanilla (Neither intentionally liberal, conservative, or moderate (of course they weren’t intentional about much)) he never really clued into how different the DoC was. The conversations I am about to invite you into we had as we drove about Ohio. They happened after staying at an Open & Affirming church in Cleveland. I’m also condensing these conversations down for the sake of size.
Bert: So I saw this brochure in the bathroom and I thought “seriously?”
Me: What was it?
Bert: Something about how being gay is not a sin, which just doesn’t make any sense. I mean the Bible says it’s a sin.
Me: Well that depends on how you interpret things. I mean to understand why those things are in the Bible you have understood how the ancient Israelites who said it/wrote it understood human sexuality and reproduction.
Bert: What do you mean?
Me: Well one of the reasons Leviticus states those things is because Israelites rightly thought of reproduction as a gift from God. Only they thought the man alone held the “seeds” of reproduction and his seed was limited. The woman was just a vessel. Therefore to “waste seed”, meaning not for reproduction, was a waste of a gift from God and therefore an abomination.
Bert: Well okay fine, but the Bible is still the Bible. Our knowledge of the world might change but God’s values and morals are forever.
Me: Okay well according to Leviticus your committing an abomination right now.
Bert: I am?
Me: Yup. Leviticus says it’s unclean to wear fabric worn of two fibers, so anytime you were poly-blend fabric you’re committing a sin against God.
Bert: Well… I’m not interested in… ancient Israelites social…clothing customs.
Me: But you are in their sexual customs?
Bert: Well you know when I first joined the Disciples I read all these good conservative sounding slogans like “Where the Bible speaks, we speak. Were the Bible is silent we are silent.” How does that work with what you’re telling me?
Me: That’s about freedom of interpretation, one the founding principles of the Disciples was that to be church doesn’t mean you have to agree, to be church simply means you commune together. In other words the Disciples founders didn’t mistake unity for uniformity, so people can have radically different thoughts, but all are children of God and all who claim Jesus Christ are welcome at the table. They were trying to unite all Christians so they stripped Christianity down to it’s essentials to try to come up with a church were everyone could lay claim to the Gospel.
Bert: But then the church stands for everything and that means it stands for nothing.
Me: No it means certain levels of the church aren’t meant to take a stand they are meant to be forums for discussion. They way we are designed congregations and individuals can create Disciples groups and take whatever stands they want, but the regional and general represent everyone. I like it because it makes it harder to stifle decent, it’s not impossible, but Disciples can’t just throw people out like other churches. It’s our theology of a table set for all in practice, even the people we don’t agree with and rather wouldn’t be there.
Bert left the Disciples about a month after this conversation. I guess he wanted uniformity. I want unity.
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