Up or Down, In or Out
Last weekend was a good one for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Christians. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted to allow GLBT pastors to serve with the same requirement as all other pastors: celibacy or a committed monogamous relationship. And on Saturday, in my Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), another pastor was acquitted of disciplinary charges related to presiding at the Christian wedding of two women — this time in Massachusetts, where the marriage was, of course, a legal civil marriage.
But my joy that the church is gradually opening its doors to GLBT Christians is tempered with sadness at the unfortunate dynamic I saw at work this weekend, both at the trial in Boston and in news reports about the Lutheran decision.
I am saddened because, as we seek God’s will together, we always seem to require a winner and a loser. I see it in the local coverage of Pittsburgh Lutherans’ response to their National Assembly’s vote. And in my church, if Jean Southard, a wonderfully loving and compassionate pastor, is acquitted by the PCUSA disciplinary court, then the conservatives lose. If GLBT people are fully accepted in the church, then those who oppose that acceptance lose. We insist on an either/or, a dynamic in which if one is up, then the other is down. If one is in, the other is out.
This is just not so. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. Wheat and tares are sown together (Matthew 13) and we don’t know which is which among us in this world. Most important, regardless of our differences, God’s love is infinite and there is fully enough to go around.
Even if our opinions on GLBT relationships differ, our shared faith in Christ as Lord and Savior binds us together in the Body of Christ which is the Church Universal. And as Lutheran Bishop Mark Hanson said after the vote in his church: “It would be tragic if we walked away from one another.” So forgive me: I should have begun by saying, “Last weekend was a good one for us all.” There is no more “you’re in or out,” up or down. There is only being God’s faithful people in Christ. Together.