The question of including Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer (GLBTQ) people in all of aspects of life, inside and outside the church, is here to stay until it is answered in the affirmative. The voices clamoring for GLBTQ inclusion are increasing in number and volume. For the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the GLBTQ issue will be an unavoidable buzz, question, issue, discussion and agenda at every General Assembly until it is answered in the affirmative. It will happen. It can be delayed. It cannot be stopped. The only pertinent question is: How will this affirmation occur?
GLBTQ affirmation is not a victory. Victory directly implies winners and losers, us and them, divisiveness, even schism. GLBTQ affirmation as victory is unacceptable – worse than counter-productive, it would be a catastrophic failure procedurally, theologically and communally. Much is made of churches being revitalized by being “missional.” Yet this effort rings hollow without an accompanying effort to invigorate a denominational sense of community. Advocates for GLBTQ inclusion must be willing to leave the comfort and affirmation of the nursery of their own congregation and learn to walk and grow and develop relationships with other and differing congregations. Advocates for GLBTQ exclusion must be willing to leave the comfort and affirmation of the nursery of their own congregation and learn to walk and grow and develop relationships with other and differing congregations. To the extent that advocates do not engage in building community, they do a grave disservice to their point of view and harm all of us by denying us their presence and participation. To the extent that non-advocates do not engage in building community, they deny themselves the fullness and breadth of the table at which they gather. It is not a matter of building bridges. It is a matter of eliminating “there” and “them” and realizing that all congregations are “here” and “us.” In the resulting relationships, a way forward will be found – not through win-and-lose, not through persuasion, not through giving up or acquiescence. A way forward will be found when relationship, being children of God – being the body of Christ, is more important than dogma and agenda.
Advocates for GLBTQ inclusion act, sometimes arrogantly, as though only warm fuzzy appeals are necessary to gain acceptance and affirmation. It is not. Advocates for GLBTQ inclusion need to constantly bring their complete and toughest “A” game. While the scientific community no longer considers GLBTQ to be pathological or dysfunctional, where is the research validating GLBTQ as normal? It does exist – find it. Do your homework, gather the research reports, compile them into a single document and have copies available. It is OK to be nice, it is not OK to not be thorough.
Advocates for GLBTQ inclusion must always address their stance on long-term monogamous relationships. Very simply, at this time, the stronger the affirmation of marriage and long-term monogamous relationships, the advocacy for GLBTQ inclusion will be more effective and have a better reception.
Theologically, scriptural details are a red herring. There are two pertinent questions: 1) Do we worship a God of war and hate and exclusion OR are we in a relationship with a God of undeniable love and unconditional grace? 2)To what extent are we controlled and obligated by the Bible – especially the Torah and the Pauline letters and passages that were not written by Paul? These are the big theological questions that need to be publicly answered and frequently repeated by theologians, clergy and the denominational leadership. To not answer these questions plainly and out-loud is an irresponsible abdication of pastoral leadership and clerical responsibility. The answers to these two questions are crucial to determining the parameters and motivating the progress of the GLBTQ conversation.
The question of GLBTQ inclusion will not go away until we leave our comfortable pews and approach each other with open arms, open hearts, open ears and open minds. The question of GLBTQ inclusion will never be answered until we search more for reconciliation than resolution.
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Doug is a member of Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 4950 East Wabash Avenue, P.O. Box 3125, Terre Haute, IN 47803-0125 (812-877-9959). Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is an open and affirming congregation where Doug has served as Elder and Treasurer and enjoys his continuing membership in the choir as the lowest voiced bass. For 2011-2012, Doug is an At-Large member of the Indiana Disciples of Christ Regional Board. He graduated in 2009 with a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Indiana State University and a BS in Management Information Systems from Ball State University in 1997. Since August 2005, he has been a member of the CIS Adjunct Faculty at the Terre Haute campus of Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. He has been published in DisciplesWorld and Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice. In the summer of 2010, Doug became a contributor to [D]mergent. Of the 9 articles he has written, 5 are in the top 10 all-time most-viewed articles at [D]mergent. Doug is married to Carol, a First Grade teacher, and is the father of two sons. Jason is a professional musician (oboe, flute, English horn, and piccolo) who is working on a Master’s degree and licensure in Special Education.