Friday, December 3, 2010

Ordaining LGBTQ people makes it harder to work with churches in the rest of the world

To what degree are we willing to compromise our conscience and our polity for the sake of ‘getting along’?(1) Many churches in other countries do not ordain women either - it is a fact that our ordination of women makes it more difficult to work with ultra-conservative denominations and some international churches. Shall we cease to ordain women then?(2)  There are places in Africa that are currently debating whether to jail and execute LGBTQ persons. Must we deny our reason and conscience to support jailing and executing sexual minorities as well?(3)  We are better off as a witness of justice, equality and conscience for the whole world to see. This is what the church has always been at its best, choosing the love of God for all persons over the injustices of the world, loving the unclean as Jesus did.(4)

1. The ecumenical movement has so many hurdles to overcome we find it incomprehensible that this argument gets brought up selectively with respect to inclusive ordination. Is communion for anyone? Or only the baptised? Or only the confirmed, and confessed and approved by the appropriate ecclesiastical authority? Is baptism for infants or adults? What is the role of bishops, and how shall we treat the authority of the Pope? Which books belong in the canon? Can ministers/priests marry? So many theological issues are far more fundamental than this that the idea a gay minister would be the one gap we cannot bridge is disappointing. It reveals that the priorities of some are so far out of whack with those of God that they cannot even see what is a central theological issue, and what is adiaphora. The gospel of heterosexism rules the day.

2. Break-away denominations recently formed by people leaving the PC(USA) are reverting back to refusing to ordain women, or at best, making it into a 'local option'.  So it is up to each Presbytery to decide whether women are equal to men, or less.  This is true in the EPC and the OPC.

3. The most publicized example of laws aiming to jail and even execute homosexuals is the one now coming into action in Uganda. The law not only opens the option of capital punishment for something called "aggravated homosexuality" and those who test HIV-positive, it makes it illegal not to report anyone you suspect of being homosexual. The situation in Uganda did not arise in a vacuum. Here is a list of countries where homosexuality is criminalized in some degree, including in our own country where they are still denied open military service and marital rights in most states. Furthermore, the connection between evangelicals in the United States and the oppressive laws in Uganda and elsewhere is well established and shameful. We should not assume the law will trend toward greater justice as shown by the recent UN vote to remove sexual orientation from a resolution that protects people from arbitrary executions.

4. Again and again we have to be reminded that Jesus' table-fellowship practices, his healing miracles, his working on the Sabbath, and other behaviors were not mere symbolic actions of compassion. Rather, he was saying that the unclean, the socially-undesirable, the dispossessed, the hated, the outcasts, and sinners are precisely those who make up the kingdom of God. To stand with sexual minorities in a climate of hate is to stand with Jesus. We take an exclusive stance at great peril to our salvation.


Riley said...

Great stuff. Wasn't is Spong who said, "I don't want to be a part of a church united in homophobia"? I believe he was reacting to a Lambeth resolution. Anyway, keep writing. As a PC(USA) elder, I'm grateful for voices like yours.

Doug Hagler said...

This has been a LOT of writing, and researching and thinking, but I am looking forward to changing gears and presenting our positive arguments in favor of inclusion and justice.

It's kind of like vegetables before dessert. Now that that's out of the way...

Alan said...

I just love listening to a bunch of rich white Americans talking about what the rest of the world is going to think.

Unless they mean by "working with the rest of the world" is that it will be hard to work with folks from Uganda who want pass laws making homosexuality punishable by death. Are those the folks they're talking about? Because they seem to share their values.

Alan said...

I've re-thought that last comment, and I don't apologize if it seems harsh.

We can play polity games in the PCUSA, but I think it is irresponsible to loose sight of what's going on in "the rest of the world." This truly is a matter of life and death, and there are factions in the world working for the forces of death who are being funded and supported by evangelicals in the US.

This argument also completely and arrogantly ignores those many countries in the world who have legalized gay marriage.

Given how awful the arguments are on the other side, it is hard to award a Most Awesomely Stupid Argument medal, but this one would probably take it.