It happened at the end of a long meeting, one of many that I had that week, at my beloved church. I find it is after some meetings that the ”real” things get done and “real” communication takes place. This was to be one of those times.
One of my fellow church members said, “John, you were once a minster. And I have a question for you.” I had a hunch what that question was going to be. I jokingly said, “I am sorry. I was trained at seminary never to answer that question at all costs. It is just too divisive. It could cause a church split.”
Another person, who was eaves dropping on us, exclaimed, “What? How do you know what she was going to ask?” I told them that experience has taught me that when people start out with the “minister” comment and the seriousness of her tone, she probably wanted to ask my opinion of homosexuality and the Bible…… am I right? My inquisitor affirmed that yes indeed that was the question she was going to ask.
She told me that she has a sister that she love very much, but …she is a lesbian. She prays that someday she would repent of her sinful ways. She asserted that the Bible was quite clear in its condemnation of homosexuality. I wanted to say, “ if you are so sure, why are you asking me?” I think she had been arguing with someone and wanted more ammo for her assertion.
I told her what Jesus said about being gay – nothing. He said a lot about loving one another and He didn’t have much tolerance for hypocrites. So if homosexuality is such a big deal, I think He would have said something about it. And another thing, it didn’t make it into Moses’ list of the Top Ten Commandments either. Maybe, it was in the next five commandments that he dropped and shattered on his way down from the mountain top. (Mel Brooks did just that in History of the World – Part 1 ) All I know is that it didn’t make it into the Top Ten.
Please note that I was not trying to trivialized a serious issue, but I find a little humor can bring down the walls of defense that people can get when they are discussing weighty issues. My inquisitor would not let go. She said, “Seriously, what would you say if two people of the same sex came to you and asked you to perform a wedding for them?”
Six more pairs of eyeballs were now staring at me. I got a pit in my stomach. I knew that there would be some of my fellow church members that would not agree with me. What would they think of me? They might not even like me anymore. Might they not respect me or my opinions anymore? How would I be able to steer and influence our church on other issues of great importance of our day? Like: Should we have red, pink, or white poinsettias this year for Christmas? (The answer is always red…..pink or white poinsettias are just not scriptural for Christmas. It is in Revelation….Look it up)
Wow, here I was a 62 year old opinionated old man. Struggling just to state out loud what I believe and think about being gay, to a bunch of sisters in Christ who love me…..and I was in a supposed safe place … a church. I was struggling. How much harder must it be for a young man or woman to express their sexuality to their loved ones – family, friends, and ministers? Do they feel that they too might not be respected and loved?
“Well what would you say?” she said.
Pause, pause…“I’d be glad to. When and where is it going to be?” Much conversation with all ensued. It went well into the hallway and out into the parking lot.
So far I have not been asked to leave the church and I have not been shunned by her. I think she still thinks her sister is going to hell. But she did say she wanted to talk with me more on the subject. Maybe, this was the point. That people of faith should find a safe place to talk, question the issues of our day that would divide the body of Christ. As we say in the Disciples of Christ statement of identity: “We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. As part of the one body of Christ we welcome all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us.”