DADT & COTN

After 17 years, the policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) has been repealed. DADT was set up by the United States in 1993 under the assumption that openly gay troops would cause internal conflict and thus productivity on the battlefield would be compromised. So homosexuals could be in the armed forces, just not open about their sexuality. Any homosexual act would be grounds for dismissal.

There are many Christians that are trying to fight this. Now why would something the US military does effect those of us in the Church? Are we not an international peace-supporting body? I have found two ways to look at this. The first way deals with the deeper issue of the Church marrying herself to the State… instead of to Christ. (Of which I will only begin to scratch the surface on the cause and effects of this relationship). The second way deals with how DADT was the secular equivalent of discriminatory policies evangelical-protestant churches, including the Church of the Nazarene and Nazarene Institutions of Higher Education, have regarding homosexuals in ministry. With DADT gone there will be increased scrutiny from outside the church for those policies to be repealed.

An Unholy Matrimony

Ever wonder why there is a United States flag in the sanctuary? Ever wonder why the “Star-Spangled Banner” is in Sing to the Lord? It is as if scripture reads “Verily I say unto you, ‘Therefore what Constantine brings together let no one separate’”. These two have been in an on-again/off-again relationship for 1600 years! The ‘God & Country’ movement needs to end[1].

‘God and Country’ churches have an interesting view of America. One the one hand, they whole-heartedly love America. They have no problem with saying the Pledge of Allegiance before a sermon and their church calendar includes Mother’s Day and the Forth of July as official Church Holidays. And justify going to war with loaded words of freedom, justice, and patriotism. And you if you want to keep your job, Pastor, you better keep the flag in the sanctuary. But on the other hand, they feel as if at any moment the rights of the Church will be taken away by the State, and they will be persecuted. This fear can only be squelched by ‘America turning back to God.’ America lost her way after prayer was removed from schools [2] They are similar to fundamentalist in theology, and view that our best days for America, and the Church were in the past.

Clearly there is a flaw connecting both hands. The “on the other hand” mentality sees the repeal of DADT as just another example of how America is slipping away and needs to be brought back. Since America’s increased acceptance of homosexuality has put a big strain on the relationship. The Church is wrapped up in the affairs of the State, when it needs to be wrapped up in the affairs of Christ.

Yet again we see the ‘God & Country’ movement using fear to control its members. Screaming from the rooftops that the end of DADT will be an instant victory for our enemies, the sun will stop shining, and the British will invade once more, burn the White House, and put us all under the evil tyrannical reign of Queen Elizabeth; for those not used to satire, that was satire. In other words, the unfounded prediction that life as we know it will cease to exist if 10% of the population get rights has been used over and over again. And here we are, DADT was repeal, I saw the sunrise, I went to church freely, I paid for my Christmas gifts using USA legal tender, and Queen Elizabeth is celebrating Boxing Day in England.

Secular American society has been here before too. People regardless of background use fear as a means of control, and all around contempt for any sort of change. People don’t like change. Even with all these changes in society over the past 200 years, America still endured. Didn’t America freak out when African-Americans were integrated into the army? And once again when women were integrated? Does it not stand to reason that if the armed forces survived those two integrations it will survive this third? Do gays and straights not both affirm that they will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and such? The Church wants so desperately to be married to the State again. But there is a reason why they broke up. The Church’s systems are not those of the State. The Church is bending her systems to be more like the State instead of being more like Christ. The State often goes in a different direction than the Church, so that is nothing new[3].

The Trickle Down Effect

The Manual is a wonderful resource for us as Nazarenes to use that helps us navigate life by helping us define what we believe. It is a changing document. Nazarene Polity allows for it to change. It sets up the framework for how each church goes about being ‘the Church’. But Nazarenes are humans. And humans, myself included, have a natural tendency to not like change. Do you remember the argument used when dancing, mixed bathing, and movie watching were shifted to ‘use discretion?’ It is the same argument used to convince people homosexuals should not be in our churches. For if they do ever become our pastors, it will signal the end of life as we Nazarenes know it. I’m no genius, but if the repeal of DADT didn’t cause the end of America, as we know it, then the repeal of Manual statements 37, 437.8, and Nazarene University Student Life policies that prohibit homosexuality, won’t cause the end of the Church of the Nazarene.

So what do those policies say? The current Manual has several statements on sexuality. The first of which comes to us, not in the Articles of Faith, but in the Covenant of Christian Conduct (Part D. Human Sexuality 37). This outlines that homosexuality is a sin, and subject to the wrath of God. Interesting to note, it is the only place in the Manual where a sin equals the wrath of God. As if to say if I murder, steal, commit adultery, lie, or all out willfully step away from the known Will of God I will only receive the ‘Disappointment of God’. In addition it says that the COTN ‘deplores’ anything that would ‘imply compatibility between Christian morality and the practice of homosexuality.’

Church of the Nazarene please define for us what it is to practice homosexuality.

The next time homosexuality is discussed in the Manual is under grounds for removal section. (J. The Restoration of Members of the Clergy to Church Membership and Good Standing 437.8). This designates homosexuality as one of three types of sin that are never eligible for restoration. And designates people who fall into these three categories as unfit for service on any level of ministry. I’ve asked Headquarters, and they’ve said “no”, I can’t even be an openly gay usher.

An undated (2005-2009) article about homosexuality called “Pastoral Perspectives: on Homosexuality” refines the stance on sexuality and sin. It mildly adjusts the last paragraph of Article 37: Human Sexuality. And calls for the distinction between being a practicing homosexual, and a non-practicing homosexual. It is by no means a victory for the Homosexual-Nazarene, but it a step in the right direction. It does suggest that there is some compatibility between the two after all. Again, Church of the Nazarene please define for us what “practicing homosexuality” looks like, and compare that to “practicing heterosexuality”.

The Manual’s stance gives support to Nazarene Universities which set out their own policies on punishments for not conforming to the Student Life codes of conduct. The 9 Colleges and Universities in the USA/CAN Region all have differing phrasing, some more polite than others, but the point is clear. You can’t be a homosexual and be apart of our community. Some of the more polite ones are eerily similar to DADT.

In addition to our fine Nazarene Institutions of Higher Education, the local church has support to make claims that homosexuals are an abomination, DADT should be enforced, and same-sex marriage is wrong. At the local level the stigma is perpetuated, and labels are thrown on to any would be Allies. Thus causing them to be quiet. So The Manual’s statements trickle down to creating a culture of fear, hate, discrimination and paranoia of homosexuals at university.

I know there are Allies at every single church in our denomination. I know there are people who will love gays regardless of what the Manual says. To which I say: THANK YOU, we cannot do this alone! So my quarrel is not with the every members of the Church of the Nazarene, but just with those troublesome policies. After all, it is people who are the church, so am I not to be included just because of a policy?

In a later blog post, I will discuss how homosexuality doesn’t even fit into our Nazarene view of sin to begin with, and will pick apart the pieces of The Manual.

The Call

In America, soldiers volunteer. In the Church, pastors are called. Like it or not, I am called by God to preach the Gospel. And I will continue to preach long after the COTN has ‘deplored’ me. What makes a homosexual pastor different from a heterosexual pastor when preaching the same Gospel? Does the Bible not say that Gospel will never return void[4]? There has got to be more to the story than just homosexuals are sinners and therefore unfit for the collar. For if sin is the lowest common denominator that makes one unfit, who is fit to be a pastor? Answer: No one. Because our call comes from God, and not the Church, how can we, the COTN, deny someone the right to preach the Gospel? Answer: We can’t.

What happens next?

Here is my prediction: Once DADT is fully repealed; sadly it will take a death before anything happens. A death of a gay or lesbian soldier, active or inactive, with a partner will cause the change of hospital policies, rights of spouses, funeral and marriage issues. One lawsuit could make its way to the Supreme Court and finally make a ban on same-sex marriage to be ruled unconstitutional. Sadly we in the Church of the Nazarene could also be one death away from facing this problem head on. Will it take the suicide of a bullied homosexual teen that attends the Church of the Nazarene for the church wake up? I pray that will not be the case. The very reason I am doing this is because I want to prevent that from ever happening again.

The Church of the Nazarene must remove all language or statements that discriminate against homosexuals.

  1. I bet I just got blacklisted from ever-stepping foot into Branson, Missouri for that, but its true. If rights for homosexuals weren’t my cause, I’d be campaigning for the separation of Nazarenes from the state. 
  2. I haven’t seen it at all in the Church of the Nazarene, but in many churches that subscribe to the ‘God & Country’ movement, once America falls, that will usher in the End Times. But that goes into pre/post tribulation stuff, which is a topic for a completely different blog.
  3. Again, just barely scratching the surface of this complicated issue.
  4. Even if you still believe that homosexuality is a sin, the Church long ago decided that pastors, who were practicing sinners, still were able to preach the Gospel, and serve the Eucharist. See Donatus and Arius for more details.
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