So there’s this synchroblog thing happening on the request of Justin Lee, who’s a really neat guy I think you should all go check out. Today his book Torn hit the shelves and he invited folks to write a blog post calling for a more civil debate. (For more details or to read more entries go here: http://gcnjustin.tumblr.com/sanity)
I thought it was a great idea. I still think it’s a great idea. I didn’t plan on participating. But when I was reminded of it today, I wanted to share a story with you.
When I was a junior in college, I began to seriously consider a call to ministry. The summer before I worked as a college intern of sorts at home church in Alabama. It was a good learning experience that suggested to me church work could be a possibility. Through luck (or the Holy Spirit) I decided to apply for a ministerial internship program that my college offered. And lo and behold, I was selected.
First step was finding a church to have me. The program had a longstanding relationship with a Presbyterian church in Washington, DC that interviewed all the interns. I liked the idea of working in an urban setting, so I asked that church to recommend a Methodist church in DC. They directed me to Foundry UMC. So I called Foundry and talked with the senior pastor. We had a really good conversation. He kept coming back around to the point that Foundry is a Reconciling congregation in the United Methodist Church, which means they have openly gay and lesbian members as part of their worshiping congregation. Looking back, I imagine he was trying to gauge the reaction of this 21 year-old Southern boy to that reality. I assured him I understood and before long the semester was over and I set out for Washington, DC.
My first weekend at Foundry overlapped with the DC Pride parade. A group from the church walked every year but as I was still wrestling with how someone could be an openly gay Christian, I decided walking was not for me. However, Foundry was located on the parade route so the church ran a water & lemonade station for those who were walking. That I could do. After all, service is service. So there I stood that Friday evening, dressed in red like all the other volunteers from the church as we passed out drinks to thankful citizens (this was June in DC after all). I laughed at the requests for vodka to go with the lemonade. And all the while realizing that I had no clue of the sexuality of either the volunteers I was serving with or the walkers I was serving.
Fast forward several weeks into my time at Foundry. I’m sitting in the church office chatting with folks and all of a sudden I realize that a couple of the men who work in the office are gay, including one of the men I have worked closely with. And it hits me, how did I not know? I knew Foundry was a Reconciling congregation; it would make sense that openly gay people would work there. But the possibility had never occurred to me before then. And then I realize, it doesn’t matter to me. There is nothing about this information that changes my working relationship with either of them. I quickly re-visited conversations in my head, hoping I had not said anything that sounded offensive or just plain dumb in light of this new information. I shuffled my mental image of their home life a bit. But that’s about it. This revelation was surprisingly anti-climatic. No deep angst, no major worldview upheaval Just the realization that there were people I respected who held sincere Christian faith while at the same time living a committed life with someone of the same gender. And we could work and worship together.
I can’t say enough good things about the folks at Foundry and their willingness to let me come and learn with and from them. Their hospitality nurtured my call in ways that I’m still discovering. But perhaps even more importantly, they showed me a bigger church than I had ever dreamed of. Because Foundry is full of vibrant ministries and those ministries happen because of the faithful people there, gay and straight. They wouldn’t be the church they are and wouldn’t be able to do that kingdom work without all of those people.
So this is my call for civil conversation, my synchroblog for sanity. I don’t claim to have all the answers. I don’t claim to have this all worked out. I don’t. No one does.
But we need each other. The kingdom is so much bigger than any of us can imagine. And it’s no use fighting over who’s in or out when God keeps inviting all sorts of people. Let’s listen to one another better in hopes that one day we might be able to talk to one another better.
I’m asking for my friends who live on all sides of this debate. I’m asking for all those who have lived this debate in their own lives. And since it’s my blog and I can be just a little bit selfish here, I’m asking for me.