The Christian Calling — Resistance and Love

For most of last week and through the weekend, I was in Minneapolis, Minnesota, attending “Creating Change,” the 23rd annual conference held by the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce. Within the conference was an entire track of workshops and gatherings for people of faith called ‘Practice Spirit, Do Justice.’

I will be processing for a long while my amazing first experience of Creating Change. A few of the many highlights included listening to Frank Mugishu, a close colleague of David Kato in the fearless work of SMUG and leading a workshop on tools for people of faith who want to get going online. Amongst the panelists were Justin Lee, director of the Gay Christian Network, and former moderator of the Presbyterian Church, Bruce Reyes-Chow. I encourage you to read Bruce’s top 10 takeaways here.

It was at the opening plenary for ‘Practice Spirit, Doing Justice’ where I first heard a phrase that kept coming back to me through the rest of the week. The leaders spoke together several times a lovely litany that set the tone and priorities for our time together:

Together: Practicing Spirit, Doing Justice.
Lisa: Living amidst complex histories:
Sung: Heirlooms of love, legacies of oppression and violence.
Rebecca: Fearless in the face of death, disciplined in our dancing, our singing, our joy.
Sung: Tireless in our daring to build communities of resistance and love.
Lisa: Reveling in our created bodies, complex and liberated.

What caught my ear specifically was this phrase they repeated, “resistance and love.” I feel that these two ideas together exactly capture the paradoxical place LGBT Christians have occupied for years within the church.

In More Light Presbyterians, and within similar groups in other denominations, Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Christians have been holding together resistance and love since the 1970’s. Resistance to the insistence by some in the church that LGBT believers are “less than,” and love for the church home where Jesus promised eternal embrace.

This tension-filled situation has been a long and weary road and too much for many. At Creating Change, over and over, I met LGBT faithful who had been Presbyterian — whose faith had been planted and nurtured in the PCUSA — and who have gone elsewhere because the life of resistance and love was just too hard. When we look at the decline in members in our church, we need to remember this huge, grievous loss of energy, intelligence, imagination and love.

Right now, we are in the heart of the discernment season in the PCUSA over opening ordination to LGBT candidates, while many concerns like same-gender marriage, are still in discussion. For those whose lives are deeply impacted by these deliberations, the need to resist and love will continue, whatever happens in this current season.

And, in actuality, “resistance and love” may be the best description of life in the PCUSA for all of us, past, present and future.. There will always be some disagreement in the PCUSA that compels some to resist.

Of course, this is what Jesus did. He resisted the distortions of faith and society in His time and He did this with amazing love. I think of His resistance to the power of Rome even as He called Matthew, the tax collector, to follow Him and healed the centurion’s boy. And His loving friendship with Nicodemus or calling of Paul to ministry, even as He resisted the corruption of the religious leaders, comes to mind.

The crucial commitment to resistance and love is to follow Jesus. And we need to do this in a way that will keep everyone together in the church so that none feels so burdened by resistance that they need to break the bonds of love. These are my present thoughts about resistance and love. I am eager to hear yours.


Reverend Janet

2 Responses
  • Janet L. Bohren on February 11, 2011

    Your thoughts above make so much sense of the last 30+ years of struggle for justice and equality for LGBT persons in the PCUSA and they make sense for the struggles for women’s ordination and the full acceptance of African Americans and others of color in our church. Thank you for posting this reflection on the conference. Wish I could have been there. Your description reminds me of the two “Witness our Welcome” conferences I attended a few years back.

  • Janet Edwards on February 11, 2011

    Dear Janet,

    You are very right, Janet. I attended the WOW, Witness our Welcome, in Philadelphia and there were a lot of similarities. There were two additional aspects to Practice Spirit, Do Justice that were striking to me.

    First, it was embedded within the larger conference of 2,000 LGBT activists, some faithful some not. Second, there was a very clear interfaith commitment in PSDJ. I met Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish and Wiccan participants. I was gracefully reminded that I and Christianity live in a very diverse human community.

    Your review of church history in our life time reminds me that Christian faith is always lived in “communities of resistance and love.” When our loving resistance shepherds the church into LGBT equality, there will be another group that requires “resistance and love” on our part. It is our Christian calling to resist and love so I hope I am part of that when it comes.

    Thanks very much for your kind and thoughtful presence here. Peace, Janet

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