Can the Church Accept Gay Marriage? P11: We’ve formed relationships, what next?

*note, this piece is part of an ongoing series. The conversation in this blog builds directly upon the conversation prior. If you’re just joining this korero, I would encourage you to start with part one, which you can find here

After, a period of listening, learning, and loving, the natural question which will arise is, what next? What does this mean for our faith, for how we understand the scriptures? How do we make sense of what we have been taught, in light of the lived experience we have had of Queer believers?

During this phase, we will begin exploring and building a theological framework that can allow us to live in unity, while holding space for diversity.

The same posture of Love, and care for our neighbour, must hold sway during this process.

The temptation will be to run straight into teaching, and exploring the texts that we believe discuss sexuality, however, if we do that straight off the bat, we will find ourselves back where we started fairly quickly.

Before, we go anywhere near the six major texts, we need to develop a theological framework that allows for diversity.

One of the issues we struggle with in New Zealand (and specifically I believe in the protestant movement) is that we haven’t done a great job at teaching our people about theology and the history of our Faith Tradition. Because of this, there is a lack of understanding about the diversity of theological belief that has always existed within our Tradition.

It’s important that we name this, and then proceed to teach and instruct our community in the history of the church. As we’re doing this, we should survey issues around biblical interpretation and hermeneutics, we should explore the different perspectives that exist within our tradition and give our people an appreciation of the diversity that already exists. Other issues that could be explored are around the concept of Hell, salvation, and sin, all area’s which hold some level of diversity within our tradition.

And as we go down this path, we should point to the bigger story, teaching about the Gospel, the Kingdom of God, and the dominant themes within the scriptures.

Recognizing the Power Dynamic

We also need to recognize that it is the Straight community, and the Traditionalist perspective that is dominate and holds the power in this space. When a power dynamic is identified, it is up to those who hold the power to be aware of it and take the initiative to bring the power down. We cannot have a conversation with one another, when one side holds the power to exclude, reject and condemn the other if they don’t like where the conversation is going. Until that power dynamic is brought down, it will be impossible for honest, fruitful, and meaningful dialogue to proceed. Understandably, from the Traditionalist side this will take no small measure of humility and courage. When you hold the power, and have done so for a fair amount of time, equality will feel a lot like oppression (you’ve heard that before). As you lay down your right to hold the dominant space, it will be scary and unnerving, you will lose people, but if you are committed to moving forward in love and unity, it is necessary.

It is also the Way of Love we disciples of Jesus are invited to walk. Jesus modelled to us the vital importance of leading on our knees, of being more willing to serve, than to be served, of shunning power, in pursuit of service. Leadership that is faithful to the Way of Love should not be about Power and Dominance, but should instead be marked by sacrificial service. A question we should ask ourselves is, how do the systems and structures within our community serve our queer whanau?

During this process it will be important that there is a mechanism to keep the messages coming from the front unified, and accountable to the mission and vision set. One way this could be done is to create a group that represents the diversity of belief. The role of this group would be to provide accountability, to provide feedback when things get off track, to be a place where the community could direct their concerns and questions as the journey progressed. This group could also become a living demonstration, modelling the ideal of unity within diversity. This group would need to be formed of people who aren’t afraid to speak up, to be challenged, and to challenge, and yet are fiercely committed to love for one another, and to the protection of unity within the community. 

We will lose people – a quick note

A quick note on that point. If we journey down this path, we will lose people. People we love, people who we’ve been close to, people who have done the journey with us for who knows how long. I get how scary that prospect is. But, here’s the reality, we’re already losing people. Already many of our rainbow whanau are leaving their faith communities, whanau of queer folk are walking out the door after experiencing exclusion through the experience of their loved ones, young people aren’t even coming near us, having borne witness to the way our faith has harmed and hurt their friends and family. We are losing people, what we have to decide is who. Will we hold back from creating safe, and inclusive spaces for fear of losing people who will just walk out of our faith community and into another tomorrow? Or will we risk losing them, in order to create space for those who have historically been harmed and marginalized by the status quo? It is my belief that as followers of Jesus, our priority should always be to stand with those who are forced to the margins, but that is a choice we will have to make together.  

As we’re wrapping up

In our next blog we’re going to take a quick look at a phrase that is often used in this conversation, yet one which I believe is extremally unhelpful. Love the sinner, hate the sin. In our next blog we’ll be discussing how this phrase is unhelpful in this discussion, and actually fails to convey the meaning it intends.

A.J. Hendry

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