*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
Unity within diversity
As I’ve engaged in this korero one thing that has become explicitly clear to me is that we will not move forward as a church if we start by examining and arguing about the key texts in the New Testament that surround this argument. When I first began writing this series, I thought I would start by exploring some of the arguments on each side of the scale, the intention being to demonstrate how the interpretations of these texts aren’t as clear, or as certain as maybe we’ve been taught. We may still go there, but to be honest, I have read so many books doing just that, written by people who are vastly smarter and more knowledgeable than I. But, as I’ve read these books, heard these arguments, and engaged in conversation, I’ve realized something. We ain’t going to move forward by throwing scriptures at each other.
Because you see the reality is, there are different ways of reading, and interpreting scripture, and unless we have a shared understanding around how to do so, then all we end up doing is talking past one another. Now, before you accuse me of devaluing and decentering Scripture, please pause with me for a second and hear this. What I’ve just said is not an unorthodox statement, throughout the history of the Church, there have grown different interpretative methods, different understandings of scripture, different ways of engaging with the text. And even where various tradition’s hold to similar methods, or understandings around how to engage the text, it is not unheard of for theologians and scholars to still come to vastly different interpretations of those same texts.
So, instead of diving straight into 1 Corinthians, or slamming you with some Romans 1, I want us to pause in this space, and ask ourselves a question. Is it possible for me, and for you, to be whanau despite our differences in belief? Can we still be the church, in the midst of disagreement? Can we bear with one another in love? Can we embrace the messiness of community? Is it possible, for me, a follower of Jesus who sincerely and passionately believes that our Rainbow Whanau have been welcomed and accepted by the Divine, to stand next to you, a sincere and committed servant of the Lord, who holds to a Traditional belief? Is it possible for you, to kneel in worship beside your gay brother, or queer sister, is it possible, for you, and I, and they, for us, to Love one another, to develop communities of care, to stand with and for one another, and recognize that we haven’t worked this all out, yet to be committed, committed to Love, to unity, to serving the needs of each other, over our own needs.
The reality is, we will not find a way forward quickly which will see the church unified theologically on this korero, so recognizing that, is there a way for us to move forward in unity, while keeping space open for diversity? Is it possible, to have unity, within diversity?
There is, but Love must be the Way
I believe there is, however, it will not be easy, the road will be hard, and filled with challenges. Everyone will need to give up something, and at the centre, we will need to hold to the Way of Love. We will need to learn to Love one another, and that means we must see one another, hear one another, create space for one another, and above all, we must find a way to have important korero in a manner which holds space for those who have historically been harmed and marginalized through this korero. This process will not be clean, it will be messy and flawed, and we will all make mistakes. But, if we are committed to bearing with one another in Love, if we are committed to having grace for one another, and are willing to forgive ourselves and others as we go down this path, than I hope and pray we will find a way through.
Unity – what are you asking for?
If we are serious about this, a key question we must identify is, what do we mean by unity? When we say we want unity, do we mean we want to create a way for straight people to hold differing perspectives without anyone feeling that they need to leave? Or perhaps, do we mean we want to figure out how to assert the Traditionalist’s perspective, while alienating as few people as possible?
Or, when we speak of unity, are we saying that we are committed to building a community where our Rainbow Whanau feel safe, loved, accepted and included? Where we hold space for each other, and allow differing theological perspectives to exist, where Love for one another overrides our need to be right, and where the sacred unity of the Church is held in higher regard than our desire for “our side” to win.
Another question we will have to consider, is while we’re talking about unity, what does it mean to seek unity, while some people are still suffering, excluded and unsafe? What does it mean to ask for unity from people who are being harmed and abused? And if the cost of unity is the suffering, and marginalization of certain members of our community, is that really unity at all?
Get Beneath the Theology – Seek the commonality
If our goal is to work to a place of unity, where we can hold space for differing theological views, while also creating a community where our rainbow whanau feel safe, loved, and included, than we have to look at how we develop a theological framework that allows for such unity to exist in the midst of diversity.
So far through this series we have been moving towards that end. We’ve discussed concepts such as hell, sin, repentance and the gospel, we’ve talked about how it is possible to hold a traditional view on sexuality, and yet still love and accept queer Christians without fearing for their eternal salvation.
In the next few blogs we will be exploring how we might support a traditionally conservative community to move towards this goal. I don’t by any means consider myself any sort of expert on this matter, what I will be outlining has been gleaned from my own experience as I have walked this journey myself, and joined others along the way.