I was invited to a book club that I am only sporadically (if at all) going to be able to attend. Still, there's a lot of wisdom in the pages of this book, so I'm going to write some thoughts on each week's reading on this blog.
That's the plan, anyway. I'm terrible at blogging with regularity, so we'll see what happens...
With all of that said, here are some thoughts and stories that came to mind after reading chapters 1 and 2 of Oriented to Faith by Tim Otto.
Tim Otto makes clear early in this book that he is not going to answer the question, "Is homosexuality sinful, or should the Church affirm gay relationships?" Rather, the underlying question of his book is "How is God working for the good?" What is God doing through the debates about LGBTQ in the church? How is God working in the lives of LGBTQ Christians? How is God working through the disagreements found throughout the Church today about gender and sexuality?
As Otto says: this question forces us to consider the perspectives of others, rather than simply focusing on whether or not our own perspective is correct.
In an effort to help us understand the perspectives of others, Otto shares his own experience of growing up gay and Christian; as well as he and his friends' experiences in ex-gay ministries. It's a raw and painful read, punctuated by this statement:
"I wish that somehow...I could have found myself in the arms of the church. I wish the church had communicated to me that it could be trusted with my deepest secret, with my sense of alienation, with my self-loathing. I wish in the church I had found myself loved."
I wrote a post last month about my current perspective on LGBTQ. Much of my effort in that post was to detail my own change of heart and perspective on the issue. This change was partially due to the relationships that I've built with LGBTQ Christians and the stories they've shared with me over the years. So many of my friends' stories mirrored Otto's story. People were pushed out of ministry positions, or in some instances were pushed out of their church families altogether.
These stories affected me. They changed me.
I wonder what may have been different in the lives of some of my friends, were some of their churches to privilege the question "How is God working for the good?", rather than "What is our position on homosexuality?"
I wonder what may change in our churches today if we start asking the question "How is God working for the good?"
Honestly, I wonder if it's even possible for churches today to move away from such a primary focus on policy and position statements about LGBTQ.
My church's leadership has been seeking discernment on this issue for years. Currently I'm affirming of LGBTQ relationships, but the rest of the leadership isn't in the same place. I kind of love that we're okay with being in a different place. I love that the leadership at our church doesn't see this one issue as the single issue that will define our church.
And yet, I wonder how it's going to work. If it's going to work.
So many churches today desire complete consensus on this issue.
I get it. There's so much pressure to have consensus.
So can 21st century churches orient their ministries around the question "How is God working for the good" rather than working toward a quick policy position and calling it a day?
I honestly don't know. I hope so. But I don't know.
What I hope will happen in my church and in others is that people will begin to listen to and learn from one another.
I hope that some Christians who hold a traditional view of sexuality will listen to the faith and experience of LGBTQ Christians.
I hope that LGBTQ and affirming Christians will listen to the faith, belief, and the strong commitment to holiness held by more traditionalist Christians.
I hope all Christians will acknowledge the ways in which the Church has hurt people.
There's so much wisdom and growth that the Church desperately needs right now.
I think these conversations will help us all.
This is not an easy proposition. But I think it's possible. At least, I hope it's possible.
It's a lot more time-consuming to pursue faith and relationship over policy positions. It can be painful to enter into these kinds of conversations.
But these kind of honest, faithful relationships could potentially give Christians like Otto the kind of trust and love that he desired from the Church.
I think it's worth it.