I grew up with a lot of certainty. I knew exactly what was wrong and what was right. I knew exactly who was in and who was out. I knew who I was supposed to associate with and who I was supposed to avoid. After all, this is the legacy that my church, The Church of the Nazarene, had given me. But as I grew older some doubts started to creep in. And I wouldn’t label these as destructive, but rather deconstructive. You see, many of these constructs had little to do with faith, or even the theological and philosophical framework that my church was shaped by, but rather by those who sought to control and exclude those who were different than them. As I grew in my faith and understanding I learned to find hope and faith in thinking much like that of Anne Lamont when she said, “The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.” But then yesterday this same church published an article in it’s seminal publication, Holiness Today, entitled “Why I cannot identify as a Gay Christian”, and I find myself frustrated once again by the certainty of so many.
Now before you go lobbing Bible verses are me, let me assure you I know them. I have read the Levitical code and I have read Paul’s take on cultic sexual worship practices. And we all understand that there is a big difference between how the Bible reads and what the Bible says. And I’ve also been pastor to many LGBTQ+ and I have listened to their testimonies. And at first, the two didn’t line up. Much the same way that many things of my growing up in the church didn’t line up. I felt like a 1st century Jew listening to a gentiles testimony…after all, they were unclean and could never be holy. Something in their words, their experience of God, the life that they lived before the church…well I couldn’t make sense of it. I felt like Peter on the roof of Simon the Tanner, “They’re unclean…this testimony doesn’t make sense. There are verses in scripture that make them unclean and make this impossible.” But then, “The voice spoke a second time, “Never consider unclean what God has made pure.” – Acts of the Apostles 10:15 All of a sudden I was called upon to listen in a different way. I needed to listen to the testimony of my LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters and reevaluate the certainty I had known for my whole life.
The frustration I experience today lies in the fact that my church is struggling with giving a false bill of sale. We have concluded that sexuality is not a choice, that we are all wired one way or another and that the expression of said sexuality is a choice. That one can be a gay or bisexual Christian and remain celibate to serve in the Church of the Nazarene for we believe that God can make anyone holy regardless of how they are wired. And yet, this article that was published, which by default becomes the voice of the church, says that this is no longer part of our identity. In fact, your identity must fall into a certain category if you are to be considered Christian. So I guess the question I am left with is, Who are we to call unclean that which God has made clean? Who are we to call into question someone’s testimony when the fruit of the Spirit is so evident in their life? Who do we think we are when certainty has led us to exclude those whom faith would call us to include? When did we, a denomination called together by the Spirit if God, become so afraid to listen to where the Spirit of God may be moving in a new way? May we find the grace to listen, the sensitivity to what is being said and the heart that is willing to grow.