Keeping Up Appearances

Every Sunday night on OKC’s PBS affiliate OETA, a British block on the tele airs that includes: Keeping Up Appearances. It follows the antics of middle-class socialite Hyacinth Bucket (It’s pronounced Bouquet!). Nothing embarrasses Hyacinth more than her chav-esque brother-in-law Onslow. She can hear that he isn’t wearing a shirt even on her “white slim-line telephone with auto re-dialer.” She wants to be more like her wealthier sister Violet, who has “a Mercedes, sauna, and room for a pony.” Hyacinth’s biggest fear is that her neighbours will find out that her life isn’t as perfect as she projects it be. Hyacinth insists on formality and proper form as she tries to climb up the social ladder. Her rigid adherence to etiquette sends her falling embarrassingly back to the ground.

The Church shares some personality traits with Hyacinth Bucket; correcting people on trivial facts; insistence on tradition at the cost of relationships; the whitewashing of one’s past or current well being. The result is a Church that caters to the rich board member rather than the homeless non-church goer. The Church’s track record on women in ministry, science, LGBT issues, all have been swept under the public relations’ rug and ignored.

For example, the policy for women in ministry for the Church of the Nazarene has been inclusive since the church was founded, but the practice has been far from it. From 1920 to 1988 there were only two District Superintendents elected. 2005 was the first and only time a women has held the highest office as General Superintendent. Three of the General Superintendents currently elected only had a total of 3 women pastors on staff at two of the top ten largest Nazarene Churches in USA/Canada. When we retell the myth of inclusion for women, and still don’t have the numbers to back it up, that is keeping up appearances.

One doesn’t need to look any further then the story of Galileo. He was convicted of heresy for telling people the sun doesn’t revolve around the earth. The Church pointed to scripture to ‘prove’ Galileo wrong, that the sun in fact did rotate around the earth.  It would be another 500 years before Galileo would be exonerated by the Church that formerly banished him.

The Church’s power and influence is much like Hyancith’s. Those who wish to turn down Hyacinth simply because she won’t accept no for an answer. Similarly, those who wish to stand up to the well polished PR machine of the Church find themselves in an uphill climb. Wouldn’t the conversation about LGBT issues in the Church be different if the Church acknowledged that LGBT people go to Church and included them in the conversation?

Hyacinth has a desire to be around people of the best breeding in higher socio-economic classes like her sister Violet, and doesn’t her best to hide any connection she has with the lower ranks like that her two other sisters. Sadly the Church will cater to those who fit a certain mold instead of focusing on the people the Church is instructed to cater to, the outliers. The PR machine glosses over the homeless and those in poverty when putting pictures up on the Church website.

The Church’s effort to become a “glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle” has hurt many people. Because of it people have legitimate reasons never to step foot into a Church again, or associate themselves in any way with Christianity. The Church has got it backwards. We don’t become spotless and then show up on Sunday, we come as we are full of our sins, dirt, soils and stains. It is only when we acknowledge our faults to one another that the doors are open for the awesome power of redemption, forgiveness, and reconciliation to come through. We play this game of keeping up appearances so to look perfect. That game backfires and hurts the people the Church is supposed to protect.

It is embarrassing to admit mistakes. It is awkward. It is hard for the Church to admit it has gone about things in the wrong way because the Church is made up of people who hate to admit they are wrong. But God is stubborn just as much as we are. God will wait, and God won’t budge on loving us or loving on God’s Church. We don’t have to keep up the appearance of perfection when we are in the presence of God. Why should we when we are around God’s people? Let us all acknowledge our dirt together, for when we finally do, the sooner we shall be clean.

Much to Hyacinth’s chagrins her neighbours and friends know about her brother-in-law Onslow, and her sister Rose whose skirts are too tight and too short for public viewing, and they don’t care. They know, and they don’t care. Everyone seems to know that sinners go to Church except for the denominational Facebook page. How much more will God pour out God’s love on a Church that recognizes its faults and seeks forgiveness from the people it’s wronged?

Statement of Support for United Methodist Rev. Frank Schaefer

Norman, Okla. – Earlier this week, our sister Wesleyan denomination, The United Methodist Church (UMC), held a church trial to decide the future of Rev. Frank Schaefer for officiating at his gay son’s wedding. He was suspended for 30 days after which he will be defrocked if he does not fully intend to obey all of the Book of Discipline for the UMC.

During these times of growing polarization between believers, we need to acknowledge that the Church, is hurting, broken and in need of the redeeming work of Christ. We find healing and reconciliation when we share the broken body and shed blood of Jesus. Christ has set the table and invited all to partake. How do should we respond when a person or group of people feel as if they are lesser at the same table? We should respond in love. Love for his son caused Rev. Schaefer to act and love calls us, the Body of Christ, to act by erasing the superficial lines that divide us (e.g. social economic status, cultural bias, gender or sexual orientation). Love does not discriminate. Love does not play favorites. Love will not only win, it will prevail.

Nazarene Ally applauds the efforts of allies, such as Rev. Schaefer, who not only preaches love, but also puts it into practice. His words and deeds are the embodiment of Christ bringing about the Kingdom. We thanks those in our sister organization, Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), for their efforts to expose this trial and verdict for what it is, but also provide a model for how a denomination can move forward as more RMN communities are being added daily. Nazarene Ally again calls upon the Church of the Nazarene to look into ways that bring about reconciliation between LGBTQ Nazarenes, and the Nazarene Church.

Our prayers are with Rev. Schaefer, and his family during this period of reflection that they will not lose hope during this difficult time. We also pray for our counterparts in the RMN and the UMC, that through the broken body and shed blood, we can all come to the Table and find reconciliation.

The Church of the Nazarene’s Growing Minority Population: LGBT Allies

FELDER

Ben Felder – Special contributor to Nazarene Ally – 

(Oklahoma City, Okla.) It just so happened that one of the biggest moments in LGBT equality coincided with one of the biggest events for the Church of the Nazarene. Earlier this summer, while the United States Supreme Court rendered two decisions that were a victory for the gay rights community in Washington, D.C., the Nazarene Church was holding its General Assembly in Indianapolis, Ind.

Officially the Nazarene Church’s position on same-sex marriage is that it is a sin and that God’s will is for marriage to only be opened to couples of the opposite sex. There are many in the church that hold tightly onto that belief, and while the majority of Americans celebrated the Supreme Courts’ rulings on June 26th, it should come as no surprise that many in the Nazarene Church wanted to make it clear that the denomination is not a part of that celebration.

Nazarene Communication Network News reported on June 27th that a church delegate requested that the Board of General Superintendents reaffirm the Church’s stance on same-sex marriage during the last day of the assembly.

The Superintendents obliged the request and even held a moment of silent prayer.

The COTN’s stance is what it is and there isn’t much that can change that in the near future. But, while the Nazarene Church took a public stance to discredit the idea that same-sex couples can be legitimate families, let me reaffirm the fact that not everyone who calls themselves a Nazarene thinks that way.

Those of us who support the cause of Nazarene Ally are in the minority within the church, but that won’t always be the case. The Nazarene Church is made up of diverse individuals, even more so than a weeklong event in Indianapolis might imply. There are many of us who love our church, and we also love you, no matter what your sexual orientation is. Further more, there are many of us who refuse to reduce you to your sexual orientation and are seeking to create a culture in our congregations that is more accepting.

We are the minority, for now, in the Nazarene Church, but that is changing. Over 700 individuals have “liked” the Nazarene Ally’s Facebook page (hey, that’s a mega church anywhere outside of Kansas City). The impact of Nazarene Ally might not have changed anything at General Assembly but enough people were Googling “Nazarene Ally” that it appeared ahead of NCNNews.com the week of Assembly. Those aren’t scientific measures, but further proof of our Church’s growing culture of acceptance is the comments you see left on the Nazarene Ally Facebook page each week, encouraging those in our pews who feel isolated because of their sexual orientation to know that they are not alone nor are they unloved.

Same-sex families don’t owe the Nazarene Church – or most other protestant denominations – more time to figure this issue out. But I still ask for you patience and to at least know the culture of fear and intolerance that sadly does exist in our church isn’t the only culture to exist.

During General Assembly when the church took time to reaffirm its stance on same-sex marriage, the Superintendents asked that the delegates stand for a moment of silent prayer. Maybe they requested silence because they understand a vocal petition to God might reveal that not everyone is on the same page concerning this issue.

The 28th General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene

UPDATE 7/19/2013: 

Message from our founder, Ty McCarthy, concerning the General Assembly passage of Christian Action Resolutions 701, 702, 703 & 705:

“With the 28th General Assembly now behind us, we will continue the daily work of building a safe Nazarene Church for all. I am not at all surprised these resolutions easily passed. Although I am a bit disappointed, it just makes our work that much more difficult.

We, the Nazarenes, have gone away from our roots. Our tradition used to be purposefully including those that society marginalized. A hundred years later, it is the Church that is doing the marginalizing of LGBT people, as society is moving toward inclusion and equality. Nazarene Ally will continue to promote necessary conversations that foster civil discussion. Sharing our experiences and stories is path we started on; this is the path we will continue down. It is always the slower path, but it is the only path that allows for reconciliation to take place. The hope is that people will see the gap the Church has created between its policy and practice. Sharing our stories will expose the illogical nature of these resolutions.

I remain hopeful that the Assembly’s referral of 703, to study human sexuality over the next quadrennial will bring us to a better place as a Church. A study of this magnitude cannot be one sided. To not use the knowledge and expertise of Nazarene Ally would be a huge missed opportunity for the Church. We extend an open and willing attitude towards participating in this study over the next four years. Even though, at the end of the day, we [LGBT Nazarenes] are still viewed under the current language of being a “perversion” that are, “subject to the wrath of God” (Manual P. 37), I am still optimistic for future of the Church of the Nazarene and the next General Assembly in 2017.

We can build a better Church by working together and by approaching complex issues of faith and human sexuality by still being salt and light. I am absolutely positive that this can be done. Our slogan is truer today, than it ever has been: We can do better.”

General Assembly News:

All votes on 701, 702, 703 & 705. All are up for voting on the floor. Only 703 is amended and referred to the Board of General Superintendents. The General Assembly votes to approve measures 701, 702, & 705 and referred 703 to the board of General Superintentents.

701 – Two kinds of sexual immorality (Human and homosexual)
702 – Entertainment – Nazarenes only can watch TV/Movies that support “traditional Biblical marriage”
703 – A stronger statement against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.
705 – Marriage is only between one man and one woman.

United States Supreme Court News:

SCOTUS throws out Prop 8 on issue of standing, and DOMA is ruled unconstitutional! Marriage resumes in California, and 1,138 federal laws now apply equally to gay and straight couples.

General Assembly 2013

Use ScriptureUse TraditionUse ReasonUse Experience

Framing the Conversation

Get it, cuz there are a bunch of frames in the picture?

282206_10151839974120533_1852600409_nKevin Nye grew up in Tempe, Arizona. He is graduate of Southern Nazarene University with a Bachelor’s in Theology and Ministry. Currently he is pursuing his Master’s of Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary and is on the track to ordination in the Church of the Nazarene. His theological passions incline him to engaging in dialogue between theology and culture, and looking for God in unlikely places. He is an avid coffee enthusiast. His blog is called [UN]orthodoxy.

Homosexuality: An Occasion for Unity
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We are in a time of seismic movement in the Church. Many denominations are just now beginning to grapple seriously with a variety of questions surrounding homosexuality.

These are questions I have wrestled with over the last few years. And as of this point, I’m unable and unwilling to answer them definitively. I’ve done a lot of reading and writing on the topic, but I’m a bit stuck. I think, on the conservative side, there are very important issues at stake and hesitation is warranted. On the progressive side, I think there are some very interesting biblical and experiential arguments to be made on the topic that may shape the way we see things.

But this post is not about what I think about homosexuality. This is a post about how we should begin the discussion in a denominational/church setting.

For those reading this on my blog, there are a few things you may not know about that are instigating this post. The primary force behind this is a blog called Nazarene Ally. The author is a Nazarene pastor who is gay and is seeking to begin the journey of working toward the full acceptance of LGBT people in the Church of the Nazarene. I have been in dialogue with the author of this blog via social media. I find his voice intriguing and genuine, and have taken interest in his cause.

————

There are conversations about this blog taking place on Nazarene forums. I am not known to frequent such forums, but I was directed to this one by the author of Nazarene Ally. One pervasive theme throughout this forum was a particular idea that I want to fundamentally reject:

“If he wants to be gay, he should go to a denomination that accepts him instead of trying to change the Manual.”

My goal in this post is to argue against such an idea on the basis of Scripture. My thesis is that scripture gives us a very clear and applicable way of handling conversations exactly like this and come out united and together, even if we disagree.

Ultimately, I fear that as Christians and churches, we value being right more than being together. And I think that this is, at its very core, an unChristian value.

And I suspect that the reason we have churches that are ultra-conservative and churches that are ultra-liberal is because both groups have been selfish; one refusing to listen to voices of progress and the other refusing to listen to well-reasoned cries of restraint.

But more on that later.

————

First, let’s reject the idea that the Nazarene Manual itself is impervious to change. An underlying premise of the statement “they should just find a denomination that accepts them” is the idea that Nazarenes have always, and will always, believe the same things.

But this has never ever ever been true of the Church of the Nazarene! One of the greatest things about our tradition is a commitment to growth, evolution, correction and education. Why do you think the Church of the Nazarene has so many universities throughout the world?

Meeting every four years at General Assembly is itself a commitment to this practice. We don’t re-release the Manual every four years because we changes the logo! It’s because we constantly change the Manual!

Whether or not you believe that the Church of the Nazarene should change on this issue, we all need to move forward with the premise that it can, and that it is actually deeply a part of our wonderful tradition to dialogue and learn and grow.

————

So if change and growth is a given, the question becomes, “How do we go about such a thing Christianly?” The text for this is Romans 14.

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarrelling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honour of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honour of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honour of the Lord and give thanks to God.

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Why do you pass judgement on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,

‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,and every tongue shall give praise to God.’So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. If your brother or sister is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died. So do not let your good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual edification. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for you to make others fall by what you eat; it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble. The faith that you have, have as your own conviction before God. Blessed are those who have no reason to condemn themselves because of what they approve. But those who have doubts are condemned if they eat, because they do not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

What we have in this text is Paul’s beckoning call to unity within a major Church quarrel, one not unlike what we are seeing with homosexuality.

I want to be careful here: I’m not saying that I believe homosexuality to be akin to the eating of meat in this passage. I’m not saying those who reject homosexuality as sin are “weak”, or that God has made all forms of sexuality “clean”. In literary terms, I’m not using this scripture as an allegory.

I am using it as an archetype for how we are called to talk about divisive issues. However, each side of this argument, in their own perception, does fit into these roles. Those who advocate for the acceptance of homosexuality would say that those who don’t are weak in their faith and need to progress to a better understanding. And, people who stand against the acceptance of homosexuality believe this to be accepting of something that is “unclean” by God.

I’m not saying either one is right. Both sides think they’re right; and this scripture tells each side how to behave and come together IF they are right. The point is that this text teaches us how to handle the conversation, whoever is right, and to come out unified, and to experience progress in the midst of it.

The radical call of Paul, and of the Gospel, is that progress is made through mutual sacrifice and humility, not from separation. 

Because even though Paul puts unity before progress, in the long run they accomplish both. Can you name a single Christian Church that still abstains from foods based on Jewish dietary laws? There are none!

This passage is about an early church debate. The Jewish people, prior to Christ, believed that there were certain “marks” or “badges” of their identity as children of Yahweh; certain practices or behaviors that set them apart, made them who they are, and that to violate these was to put oneself outside of the community of faith. Among these issues were circumcision and dietary laws. While Paul was often addressing one or both of these issues, our text is about the latter.

Now, this is not the passage where Paul presents his argument for why it is okay to eat these foods because of Christ. To find those texts, simply peruse Paul’s letters. This text assumes that an extensive, meaningful dialogue has been had.

This is not a step we have yet gotten to, and should be careful not to skip.

One observation to make is what Paul does not do. Paul does not say, “Let’s go start a Church over here called ‘Uncircumcised Meat-Eaters First Church of Christ’ and let them do their thing and we can do ours.” He also doesn’t say, let’s change the doctrine of the Church whether they like it or not and let them catch up.

Regardless of where I, or you, or anyone stands on the issue of homosexuality, we all must get together and talk about it. We all need to sit down together and have a conversation and dialogue, one where we aren’t merely there to scream out our opinions, but one where we are open to change and, most importantly, to being wrong.

As Christians we ought to cultivate a willingness to believe and to formulate beliefs, and to simultaneously allow them to be molded, shaped, and changed for the better. If today you believe the same exact things you did five years ago, then I wonder what God you are worshiping! God is too big, too dynamic, and too wild and amazing to ever be fully understood; and if you are truly pursuing and longing after this God, you will find yourself being constantly changed and shaped and grown, even from things you once held dear.

Not to get too Nazareney on us, but isn’t this exactly what we mean when we talk about “Sanctification”? Sanctification is the idea that even after we accept Christ and enter into Salvation, God doesn’t stop doing creative work within us to conform us to God’s image! It’s the openness to realizing that God might actually be bigger than your current perception.

But, as I’ve already said, this is not the specific occasion of our text. In Romans 14, the conversation has been had and had again. Romans 14 is about where the conversation, at the present time, has run its course, and a consensus is still unreached.

This is an occasion we will undoubtedly find ourselves in before long. And this is what Romans 14 speaks to.

To those who think they are correct on the progressive side, the call is to be radically self-sacrificial, loving, forgiving and patient. At this point in the story, Paul has been unable to convince the majority of the Church that it is okay to eat meats. But even though he believes he is right, he would rather keep the integrity of a unified Church.

If you are right, this change will not happen overnight.

And let’s not underscore this “if”. You are also called to enter this conversation open to being wrong. But the call is stronger on you for patience. Paul asks those on the conservative end to be willing to let go of embedded ways of thinking. And for you, that means patience and sacrifice. But it should also be noted that the occasion of Romans 14 is not the end of the conversation, as we can infer from the fact that no Christian churches practice Jewish dietary laws or require circumcision. The conversation goes on, because all the voices stay together.

This is actually the biggest reason I appreciate Nazarene Ally. It would’ve been easy to leave the Church of the Nazarene. But it is a great and biblical ecclesiology to believe that it is better for us to stick together and work for dialogue than to leave. I think this would make Paul and Christ very proud, wherever they stood on the topic.

Because the path to progress is unity; not the other way around.

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What happens if we don’t? I think today we are experiencing the fallout of two millennia of church separations. Today we have churches that are fueled by fear and hate more than love. On the other hand, we have churches that believe that all roads lead to God, and Christ is no better than anything else.

I believe these extremes exist because at various points throughout history, people refused to enter into dialogue, and split over issues rather than sticking together. They forgot that we need every voice for discernment, conservative, liberal, and everything in between.

I truly believe that the reason we have churches characterized by hate is because they were abandoned by enlightened people who wanted to “start their own church” rather than seek out God’s vision for unity. Or perhaps it went the other way, and the hateful people separated themselves from people of love for the same reason. And the reason we have churches that are losing sight of the centrality of Christ is because groups of liberal Christians got frustrated with slower, more conservative Christians over other issues, and have forever lost the voice of Orthodoxy and tradition in their communities.

I will say it again: it is more important for us to stay together than to be right.

When we forget this, we actually negate the value of the Holy Spirit, who is always pushing us to a deeper understanding. The Holy Spirit presses us into dialogue over tough issues and is always pushing toward progress and a deeper understanding of God. To separate is to stifle that voice, because the Holy Spirit operates in community.

We should see it as relief and a reminder that it is not our job to push the church to progress. The Holy Spirit ensures that progress will be made toward a righter understanding of God, scripture, and Christian practice. Our job is to maintain unity within diversity by engaging in holy Christian disagreement, characterized by respectful dialogue and mutual submission. That means both having the patience to allow people who are “wrong” to be molded and shaped at their own pace by the Holy Spirit, and also being aware of the possibility that it might be ME that is wrong and needs to be changed.

Only then will we see reconciliation, and only then will the Church maintain its integrity. If we separate, we effectively turn our backs on brothers and sisters who now may never taste the fullness of God, and we close ourselves from discerning voices who may have something to teach us.

We are likely on the brink of dissension and divisiveness if this issue goes before the General Assembly in 2013.

Therefore, I urge us to all lay down our agendas and enter into dialogue about homosexuality. Most importantly, I urge us all to stay together and not divide over this issue, because we need each other more than we will ever know; and God has promised to be with us when we are together.

May we be people who, in Christ, find unity amidst our diversity. May we be people who sacrifice and lay down our need to be right or to “win”.

And may we be a Church marked by Truth, courageously sought after and faithfully explored by a unified Church, whose witness to the world is not a set of “correct doctrines” but a posture of love and oneness.

Originally published by: Kevin Nye November 6th, 2012
Original post can be found here: [Un]orthodoxy
Copied to Nazarene Ally with permission.

The Call

I am called to shine light on injustice. I am called to tell my story.

The purpose of this blog was simple, idealistic, and naïve, because I am simple, idealistic, and naïve. It is changing, because I am changing. I never realized how therapeutic writing is until now. I’m not called to change the views of six men in Lenexa. I’m called to invite people into the great circle dance with our Creator, because the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are dancing, I am able to dance with them. Since they are in relationship, I can be in relationship with them and others. It boils down to that. It really is that simple. My philosophy of ministry hangs on that fact, so I ask you, how does that make me unfit to serve?

I’m called to speak out against injustice by being relational. Whether or not I come out online will be up to me. It won’t be for the shock value, or like “Who shot J.R.?!”. It’ll be for me. The Church of the Nazarene will continue without me. I will be letting my friends and family know about my blog. They know me best. They know if I am capable of being in relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit or not.

Compatible or incompatible

I’ve been challenging myself to see this issue from the other side. To step into the minds of the opposition to understand why loving people can be so down right cruel on just this issue. I’ve discovered a halfway-developed answer. It’s all about view points. Gays don’t fit into the opposition’s paradigm. The idea of a civilized, Christian gay or lesbian that is monogamous isn’t compatible with the Modernist view of Christianity. The opposition presents gays and lesbians as un-human creatures, with the emotional range of lust, only seeking to get their next lay. Well when you put it like that, of course they think gays can’t be Christians. They define me as someone who has “listened to the world” for too long and “struggled” to figure out which way to go and is selfishly choosing the world instead of the church; someone who is incapable of relationships is absolutely a sinner: You see that same definition/terminology pop up everywhere, from Pastoral Perspectives (I & II), to the Manual (P 37 & 437.7), Church of the Nazarene, Southern Baptist, NOM, and Prop 8; they all define it like that. When someone who is so pre-defined, it is hard to change your definition, even when presented with actual-factual Christian who happen to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The powers that be have pre-determined that because all gays, lesbians and bisexual people are the same, they all must be incapable of having relationships, and therefore not able to have relationship with Christ.

But here’s the deal, even if there definition was true 100% across the board, all humans are capable of relationship with God and others because God is relational. It is when we break the relationship with the Father that sin occurs. After all that is what caused the Fall. Sin is broken relationships. That’s all very logical.

The good news is no one, even the worst sinner in the world is incapable of being in relationship, we all have that ability built-in to us, because we were all made by the Creator! And because the Creator, whose very nature is relational, made us we are thus capable of being in relationship with God, and with one another. So no one gets left out of the circle dance. The only way not to dance, is to purposely choose not to participate. We all get to dance because we were made to dance by someone who is dancing. So it begs the questions, if LGBT people are so incompatible with the Church, why are we trying so hard to belong to it?

There is a lot of pain and suffering in the world. I’m called to ease that. My heart breaks for those in the darkness. My heart breaks when I hear people tell me why they left the Church, or why they hate the Church, or why they hate Christians. I’m idealistic. I know the Church is far from perfect because we are far from perfect, but let us never stop making ourselves better, and reaching for that goal.

Holiness Today

The following is an email I sent into Holiness Today in reply to an article printed in the September/October 2011 issue. You can read the full text of the article here:

http://www.ncnnews.com/nphweb/html/ht/article.jsp?id=10010813

11/1/11

Dear Mr. David J. Felter, Editor-in-Chief:

I’m a long time subscriber and reader of Holiness Today.

I disagree with many of the points you made in your reply to the question. I would hope that your presence at the wedding would show your support to your friend, just like it would for your heterosexual friends. The very fact that we ask this question shows us, the Church of the Nazarene, how very little we know, and understand about homosexuals. The church, by policy and its members, treat homosexuals as second class members [of society]. Chances are the last wedding you went to both the bride and the groom ‘sinned’ at one point in their lives. But there were no hang ups in the crowd. The very asking of the question reveals there is bigotry in the Church. What better place, then that moment-at the same-sex wedding, would be a better opportunity to show them grace, dignity and holy love, all while reducing bigotry.

Also to the matter of heresy. Who are the heretics to you refer? All homosexuals? The homosexual-Christians in the Church? Or the Church that recognizes that homosexuals? I am not offended at being called a heretic. I am however offended that it was dropped so casually and lightly. This word has a very loaded history, with life and death consequences. A heresy in the early Church meant schism. I do not want to split off from the Church of the Nazarene at all; therefore, I am not a heretic. Please don’t burn me at the stake.

Further along in history we find it switches to mean “against orthodoxy”. You may have caught me there, I am anything but Orthodox. I’m a Nazarene after all, and we were begot by a long line of parent denominations. All thinking their kids were heretics. Everyone but the Roman Catholics are heretics. And even the Eastern Orthodox think both the Protestants and Roman Catholics are heretics. And to belabor the point more, the Jews think Christians are just a Jewish heresy anyway.

The established Church has also called women pastors heretics, and yet the Church of the Nazarene has always supported female pastors. So “He who is without Hersey…”

Let’s be very clear on this: homosexuality is not a heresy.

The Church of the Nazarene has NEVER issued a Manual Statement or a “Pastoral Perspective” saying homosexuality is heretical. And furthermore, we do not believe that other Christian Churches are heretics when their beliefs differ from ours. For example, we do not believe that those who speak in tongues are heretic just because we do not speak in tongues.

Homosexuality is a word that has shifted meaning over time too. So please, I ask you to update your dictionary, homosexuals are no more a threat to Christians, civilization, marriage, or the Church of the Nazarene than a gain of sand is to a tire on the road.

I may not have changed your mind, but I hope that I have shed some light on a subject that is dangerously under discussed.

Respectfully submitted,

-A Gay Nazarene

The Invisible Line

You aren’t really sure where that line is until you’ve crossed it. I hope I haven’t here with this letter. I am admittedly short-tempered. (It will be my downfall.) I know I should be “like a duck” and let it roll off me, as I was taught in Youth Group but it is hard for me to be silent when I read such an obvious examples of bigotry, and discrimination.

Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything. Maybe I misunderstood him. Maybe this wasn’t a battle worth picking. Maybe I should let more things go than I do. Maybe I sweated a small thing. I guess in the end it boils down to how I ‘pick my battles’ so to speak. If I was [too] rude, I apologize. But we [The Church of the Nazarene] have got to be very careful about the advice we give and think of the implications.

But this is the very thing that we are trying to eliminate. Is there going to be a question “Should I let my kids play with kids of same-sex couples at the park?” or “Should I tip my openly gay waiter at Applebee’s?” Very extreme, but you get the idea. At what point does it end? Who is supposed to speak out when the Church crosses the line?

Maybe my temper flared just a little higher than the Chick-Fil-A Spicy Chicken sandwich, because the question and Mr. Felter’s answer hit a little too close to home. I want to get married someday. I want all my family and friends to be there, and I want all my husband’s family and friends to be there too. Do the relationships I have with my Nazarene-friends and family members not supersede the rhetoric coming out from behind Nazarene pulpits? Again another example of when people put a face to the hate it makes it much harder for them. A fact I am preparing to deal with in the near future.

Maybe I did cross the line. My prayer is that my family and friends and, chiefly, the Holy Spirit will call me out when I do. Speaking the truth in love is a fine line to walk down, and I don’t want to fall off it. Maybe someday I’ll learn better what battles to pick. But maybe someday, and I hope soon, this whole issue will be over with because we as a Church have made the right call. (I’m starting to sound like Little Orphan Annie with all these ‘maybes.’) Below is the reply I got from Holiness Today.

11/7/11

Dear Neal:

Thank you for your letter to the editor and insights into the “Q & A” column in September/October.

We appreciate your feedback.

Sincerely,

The Holiness Today Editorial Staff

An Open Letter to the Church of the Nazarene

October 11th may just be another day in October for you, but for many people around the country it is the day they “come out of the closet” and tell their family and friends they are gay. This is a day that starts the process of being fully honest with themselves, and with the people they care about. It is marked by great personal anxiety because being gay is still subject to ridicule, bullying, and discrimination even in 2011.

In 2010, we saw tragic reports of teens being bullied because of their sexuality and then committing suicide. It was October 11, 2010, that I started a blog because I could no longer stand in the shadows as a closeted Nazarene pastor; I needed to act. I needed to know that our Church was doing something it. If family, friends and school reject them, then they could find refuge in the Church. It is a platform for reform. It is a wake up call to the Church that we are leaving people out.

Let me begin by saying that I love this Church! Nazarenes are awesome! I hear stories all the time from my local church and from around the world that makes me, dare I say, proud to be a Nazarene. But I don’t need to tell you how awesome this Church is and can be. This letter isn’t an ultimatum or threat. It was written with love with the intent to make this Church as great as God wants it to be and aware of the growing problem of homophobia that is entering many evangelical churches.

It is because I love the Church of the Nazarene, it pains me greatly to see how the Church is handling the issue of homosexuality. I would like to someday preach from the pulpit without hiding anything from my congregation. I don’t think we, Nazarenes, are ready for that just yet. But we can take baby steps to get there; we need to begin with welcoming those who have nowhere else to go.

Homosexuality is not a sin. The notion that one cannot be homosexual and Christian needs to end. Sexuality is not the root of sin, it is neither Original nor Personal as our Manual describes. Homosexuals, and heterosexuals alike, are only sinners because we are human. That notion creates policy that picks and chooses who gets to know Christ. It is dangerously close to legalism. Statements that single homosexuality out (e.g. only thing in the manual that is subject to the “wrath of God”) highlight that there is still some homophobic tendencies in the Church of the Nazarene. Fixing this problem is greater than just a policy fix at General Assembly (although removing the final paragraph of 37 and places in Nazarene Colleges and University’s student handbook where there is discrimination would be nice.)

We all need to work together to eliminate homophobia in our denomination. We all need to work to be a ‘salt and light’ Church that seeks out those who are struggling with their personal sexuality and point them towards Jesus. Our policies set the tone for local leaders. Instead of exclusion, we need to practice inclusion. Let us move forward, together, so that our children don’t have to worry about how we will react when they come out, for they will already know that they are loved. If they are bullied because of their sexuality, or for any reason for that matter, they will know that they are safe inside the doors and inside the arms of the people who make up the Church of the Nazarene. Let’s do this together so that no more have to feel hopeless. Every Nazarene worldwide should be an Ally!

Let’s start with actions and work our way up to a policy of inclusion, actions which fall 100% in line with John Wesley’s social holiness. After all we are holiness church. Holiness is greater than keeping Christians in, and sinners out. Jesus flipped the notion of ‘insiders and outsiders’ on its head when he proclaimed the ‘favorable year of the Lord.’

“But what about scripture?” I will not make any pretense that I am the greatest expert on this subject, but I do know a few things.

1) Scripture is complex. Paul makes statements that aren’t really ‘politically correct’ about slaves, women and homosexuals, but we make caveats for slaves and women, so why not homosexuals too? Does it make sense to focus on the seven times it is referred to and pay less attention to the other more frequently referenced prohibitions? Jesus is silent on the subject.

2) Keep scripture in context. Homosexuality in the Bible was different from it is in 2011. Just like Jesus’ agricultural rooted parables need some extra digging to figure out the context was (especially to those who live in cities, far removed from the ancient Jewish rural lifestyles.) Let’s do the same for the passages on homosexuality to figure out what is really going on, instead of taking TV preacher’s word for it. Much more can be said, but I will leave that up to the theologians like Walter Wink and Tony Campolo.

This letter will by no means solve things over night. And I realize that it will fall on mostly deaf ears. But there are hurting homosexual teens in my youth group that I am not able to share my testimony with at risk of losing my job. This young generation needs good Gay-Christian role models that they can look to as they navigate life, just like the heterosexual students have. We need to make that unpopular move and say, “It is okay to be gay, and Jesus loves you just as you are”. It will be highly unpopular, but it is the right thing to do. So how can you help?

1)    Local churches can get involved in Nazarene Ally. A program based off the Gay-Straight Ally system. (http://community.pflag.org/document.doc?id=139)

2)    Draft a resolution for General Assembly 2013 that puts the Church of the Nazarene on record as a denomination where it’s okay to be Christian and Gay.

3)    Simply talk about it. Have an open and honest discussion about it.

4)    Put your foot down. “If you see something, say something.” Being silent when someone is belittle homosexuals doesn’t help anyone. You maybe a minority in our traditionally conservative church, but speaking out against injustice is always the right thing to do.

5)    Act redemptively. There is a growing gap between the Church and the homosexual community; we need to find ways to bridge that in a loving, redemptive way.

Again, this was written out of love, and a call for a small correction on an otherwise amazing course God has planned for this great Church. Thank you for reading this letter.

I’m a Nazarene and I am gay. I’m not the only one. 

The Gay Nazarene

The Manual

December 1, 2012. That is that date that all Nazarene Manual Resolutions are due to the Global Ministry Center in Lenexa, Kansas. That being said, what would I like to see happen at the General Assembly in Indianapolis, Indiana? In plain English: equality.

So I am formally introducing new resolutions to the floor to be adopted. Do I have a second?

http://nazarene.org/files/docs/gaForms/GA/English/Resolution%20Form%20-%20print%20(GA%20NMI%20NYI).pdf

GA 2013 Resolution 1.0 – (37 Human Sexuality)

Whereas, we move that any and all passages from the Manual that equate homosexuality as a sin be removed.

GA 2013 Resolution 2.0 – (437.8 Grounds for Removal)
Whereas, we no longer find homosexuality to be a sin, it therefore can no longer be considered as grounds for removing a pastor from office.

GA 2013 Resolution 3.0 – (37.1 Affirming statement on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) members)
Whereas, we include a section that specifically welcomes the LGBT community into membership of the Church, and grants ministers licenses and ordination to them. Restores licenses all whom were removed under the old rules.

GA 2013 Resolution 4.0 – (35 Marriage and Divorce)
Whereas, we define marriage is between two consenting adults of legal age. Invites all to not go into marriage lightly, but only after prayer, and Christian marriage counseling. Allows pastors to marry same-sex couples and allows Nazarene Churches to be host to wedding ceremonies.

Whereas, piece of cake right?

Baby-Steps

If you have taken Financial Peace University from Dave Ramsey, one of the first lessons he teaches you is that your debt is too overwhelming to take on at once, but not impossible to overcome. Taking baby-steps financially in the right direction get you to living-debt free. So a month, a quarter, a year down the road you start seeing some improvements in debt reduction. That is how we need to approach this topic, baby-steps forward, together, to reach our goals.

Baby Step 1: Set Some Guidelines

Pastoral Perspectives on Homosexuality does nothing to help us out. (This is a reversal of the original opinion I had on it since the new version came out). We need our leaders in Lenexa to give us consistent information. I’m not sure what happened between Pastoral Perspectives I and Pastoral Perspectives II, but be it Church politics or genuine reversal of heart, PPII sets the conversation back into the dark ages. (Don’t get me started on why Pastoral Perspectives deals with no other issue… This is evidence enough that homosexuality is being treated differently.) PPI comes out and they immediately put some conditions on it in the follow-up letter. Basically the conditions are “this is just our personal opinions, and doesn’t reflect the views of the Church… aka ex cathedra.” Only problem with that is it wasn’t the General Secretary, or the General Treasurer, or NMI, or SDM, or NYI, or the IBOHE who issued it, it came from the General Superintendents, and ex facto they speak for the Church. Whatever the reason they tried to “washed their hands” of the issue by making it non-ex cathedra, and thus making PPI loses all its teeth whatsoever. So people were free to interpret that as a win for both sides.

We need a document that is ex cathedra, pro or against this topic. That allows us to shape the discussion and conversation. This topic is too complex for us to be constantly looking at it from different angles. We need people who have a stake in the matter, LGBT Nazarenes, to be involved in the shaping of that document. We need these guidelines from the Church to frame the way we ask questions. Having these guidelines helps us stay together.

These guidelines need to be adaptive to the conversation. When we get to a good ‘stopping-point’ in the conversation the guidelines are adjusted to reflect the progression of the conversation. That way we are not constantly starting from square one. (This frees me up to stop answering the same questions over and over again.) It is a waste of our time, talent and energy to constantly circle the issue without being guided into some sort of direction.

Baby Step 2: Talk about it
Let me be clear, I am sick of this topic being ignored and overlooked or treated as “too controversial.” What good does it do to not talk about something? It is okay to ask questions. It is okay not to have all the answers. It is okay to change long-held opinions. Discussing, posing interesting questions, and researching are all things that help, not hurt our faith. Just talking about the issue is progress for our Church; we have a lot of catching up to do.

Right now we hope that it won’t be brought up again. And there are people out there in our Church that wish to silence everyone and anyone who speak out for LGBT issues in the Church of the Nazarene. This culture of ignoring and silencing needs to change. Change is not scary it is a part of life. You can’t step in the same river twice. Progress is not a bad word it is how the Church has operated since Day 1 in Act 29:1.

Talking about something removes the fear and stigma so that the Truth can find its way out. People have told me they would love to speak out on this issue, but stay quiet because they risk loosing their jobs in the Church. That is scary! Ask two people to describe the same meal, and you’ll two different answers. We are not all the same, so it is okay to have different answers. But when we disagree, let us go about it Christianly. I am staying in a Church that I don’t agree with 100% on everything. When we become a LGBT affirming Church, I will still be around those who disagree with me.

Let me restate this, becoming a LGBT affirming church does not change the Article of Faith. It lets the Church recognize the salvation and Call to ministry LGBT members have always had.

Baby step 3: Scoot over

Make some room I’m sitting in that pew. Like it or not, I grew up in the Church of the Nazarene. I too get to chisel “Lifelong Nazarene” on my tombstone. Agree with me or not, I’m sticking around calling myself Nazarene. I do not feel at this time called to leave the Church of the Nazarene. Our church isn’t uniformed, it is diverse. Our 100th Anniversary theme was spot on! Out of many One: Out of One, many. We come from many backgrounds and creeds, but we are all sitting together. You don’t have to love me, that’s my mom’s job, just make room for me. This act of tolerance can go along way.

Allow me to worship with you. Allow me to pray with you. Allow me to fellowship with you. You’ll find we’re not so different after all. Chances are you go to church with a person who votes differently or claps during the praise songs and you don’t or wanted the sanctuary carpet to be blue and not beige like you. You allow them to still call themselves Nazarene and more importantly call themselves Christian. I don’t like being told I am not a Christian because I am gay. It boggles my mind how I am not a Christian at a Nazarene Church but if I cross the border into Canada at a United Church of Canada church I am.

We make room for people who’s faith traditions say it is okay to drink alcohol, we make room for people who’s faith traditions speak in tongues, we make room for people who’s faith traditions don’t place large emphasis on the Word. We make room for the formal, and casual, we make room for those who place special attention to baptism or mission.

We can make room for the gay and lesbian Christians.

40 Years Without A Purpose

We are closing in on 40 years of having a Manual statement on homosexuality. If you look at our Facebook Timeline, the text has not changed at all. In those same 40 years we have changed the Manual on everything from performing musicals, mixed bathing, folk dancing, regular dancing, entertainment, and divorce. We have let Districts merge and organizations consolidate. Yet our stance on homosexuality remains the same…

The point is that the Manual was never this concrete document. How we go about doing church is completely up to us [the church]. The stance on homosexuality is over due for a make over. If we place so much value in keeping Homosexuality unchangeable, why not make it Article of Faith XVII? Changing our stance on homosexuality does not devalue the Articles of Faith whatsoever, nor does it compromise anyone’s salvation or faith, nor does it undermine the authority of the scripture or the Church.

In The Mean Time…

Not a fan of those resolutions? I have three alternatives. (For those of you keeping score at home, only one of them is mine). There are pros and cons to all of these, but I’ve already written longer then any other piece on here so I’m just going to present the idea.

Option 1:

Create an ex cathedra Pastoral Perspectives on Homosexuality III. This gives us the guidelines we need in order to frame the discussion for the next four years. (This one was my idea).

Option 2:

Send the issue to the District or local Church level. Let them decide how to best handle this issue. Much like the United Methodist Church has done with some conferences honoring Reconciling Ministries while others don’t. (I stole this one from an Ally.)

Option 3:

Create the “Committee on Marriage, Civil Unions, and Family” made up of the best and brightest minds (both gay and straight) the Nazarenes have to offer to study the issue for a period of 2 years with the authority to make ex cathedra statements upon completion. (I stole this from the Presbyterian Church USA). This allows for the topic to be a learned discussion, researched, with a thought out conclusion. I have already told the Generals I will gladly serve as Chair of said committee. (Okay… I’ll be co-Chair… but my name gets listed above Dr. Boone’s.)

Equality

Here’s the long and short of it. Our current policy states that there is “no compatibility between homosexuality and Christianity”. So we have automatically denied salvation to a people group. That is discrimination. Especially since God’s Word is, and forever will be for everyone to experience and enjoy. I hope you see what I’ve done here. There is an injustice to how we view different types of sin in our church. The policies of the Church of the Nazarene highlight homosexuality in such a way that bullies us by saying “you’re not welcome here”. But it is framed with sentences that contain “love, grace and dignity,” so the bullies can sleep well at night. Only problem is you cannot separate homosexuality from the person. So if you hate that part of me, then you hate me. Where there is fear of discussing this topic openly, or fear for openly supporting homosexuals in the community, there cannot be love. Plain and simple.

Nazarenes, I’m asking you to do some self-reflecting, to thoughtfully, and logically find the root of the anti-homosexual-ness that is in the Church. I know goes against everything you’ve been brought up to believe, but ask yourself, “where did this come from?” or “Why do I believe this” or “How is this belief applied to the homosexuals I know?” or better yet “Who is my neighbor?” If the Church called to look after those who are on the margins instead rejects them, who then is supposed to look after us?

I know it hurts when someone is telling you something that challenges your believes. It gets especially difficult if you have grown up believing on thing, then you’re asked to start believing the exact opposite. I am not asking you to change your faith. I’m asking that you treat me, and all others who proclaim that Jesus is their Lord and Savior, the same, regardless of sexuality. Granting me equality under the Manual does not take away your salvation, or change the Articles of Faith. This issue was created in 1972, and has never been that essential to our identity as Nazarenes.

Conclusion

I’m sure you’ve wondered why I’m a Nazarene, or why I stay Nazarene. Maybe I’m stubborn, but I also don’t feel called to leave just yet. I believe there is still more good to be found in our church and its systems. Maybe I am naïve, idealistic and overly optimistic. But I know I love this church, and for the time being, it pains me too much to think about leaving it. I will always believe that the Church of the Nazarene is up to much good. This is the Church where I came know Jesus. This is the Church that taught me about service and putting others ahead of myself. This is the Church that taught to stand up for those on the margins.

I would like to make some sort of impact; in a positive way to mend the wounds the Church has caused the homosexual community.

I know it is a challenge, but if it were easy, would it really be worth it? And wouldn’t everyone be championing the cause of the Homosexual-Nazarene? The right thing is often unpopular, but that doesn’t make it any less important or the not worth the effort.

I am not trying to tear down the Church of the Nazarene; I am not looking for schism. I want the cycle of hate, misunderstanding, and self-imposed distancing to end between the Church of the Nazarene and the homosexual community. Too many good people have already left the Church, or suffered in silence because of the homophobic policies of the Church, and more will leave if this does not get resolved soon. I want that to end. If I can put an end to the silent suffering of one boy or girl who doesn’t have to grow up in a Nazarene Church that shames them until they leave, then I will have done my job.

Californication

With the repeal of Proposition 8 in California, and the upcoming vote in New York on marriage equality the question posed to the Church of the Nazarene is… When?

When will a Nazarene pastor preform a marriage on two people of the same sex, in a Nazarene Church? The fact that marriage equality legislation does not force clergy to do so doesn’t rule out the possibility that a pastor can still love  two gay people enough that said pastor would want to marry them just like he or she would for his or her straight friends.

Of course this is a purely hypothetical, but let’s play around with the idea of what would lead it into becoming reality. A possible future where the conditions are just right and the relationship scales get tipped. The question isn’t if this will happen, but when. What would make that happen?

Fun With Numbers

For starters, we can look to math to solve part of the equation. As more and more states pass marriage equality legislation more homosexuals will want to get married. Another factor is our culture is changing. People are becoming more educated about what homosexuality is and isn’t, which leads to greater acceptance in mainstream culture. The portrayal of gays and lesbians in television and film is becoming less comical and more grounded. Moving from support cast to principal role increases the number of positive gay and lesbian role models for the younger generations.

There is more to this complicated equation in order to predict when that perfect storm will hit the Church of the Nazarene. Now let’s take a look at the age-old question. How many gay people are there in the world? Plug that same question into Google and you get a myriad of answers. The 1948 Kinsey study used the number 10%. Appalled by that high of a figure the conservatives countered by saying 2-4%. Is that 2-4% just referring to males who identify as gay? Meaning additional percentages would have to be added for those who are bisexual, lesbian or transgender. Furthermore many transgender people don’t identify as gay or lesbian, but as straight.  The truth is no one knows. The US Census only provides estimates, but those are only based on people’s willingness to identify as gay or lesbian. We do know the total population, so we can estimate and get a range. Don’t take this as scientific fact, but as a best estimate.

How many LGBT people are in the world?
If there are 7 billion people in the world, and we took the low end estimate of 2% are LGBT identifying, that would be around 140 million LGBT people in the work. This shows us that there are more LGBT people in the world then there are Nazarenes.

How many LGBT Christians are in the world?
If there are 7 billion people in the world and 2/3’s of the world’s population identifies as Christian that gives us 4.6 billion. Using the same (lower end) percentage of estimated LGBT people per population group (2%) we can estimate how many gays are in the Christian. This gives us a number of 92 million. (280 million at 4%) (That’s still more LGBT Christians than all the Nazarene’s in the world). The percentage of the world’s population that is Church of the Nazarene 0.042857142857%. Not too shabby, but As much as we’d like to think of ourselves as the starters for Varsity Team Protestant, we Nazarene’s are more like the alternate water boys for the Pee-Wee Team. We just aren’t that big yet.

How many LGBT Christians are Nazarene?
If there are 2.4 million Nazarenes world wide, and using our same (lower end) percentage (2%) we get 48,000 LGBT identifying Nazarenes. (If we use the higher end percentage we get up to 96,000.) So roughly 48,000-96,000 Nazarenes worldwide consider themselves to be LGBT.

How many of those 48,000-96,000 LGBT Nazarenes are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender?
Again, there really is no way to know for sure but we can use our best guess to assume a few things, based of general population statistics.
1) 51% of the 48,000 are going to be males. So 24,480 could be gay, bisexual or transgender males.
2) 49% of the 48,000 are females. So 23,520 could be lesbian, bisexual or transgender females.

Going off of a 2011 study by the Williams Institute which found that 3.8% of a population set is LGBT (91,200 LGBT Nazarenes) broke it down like this: .3% of a population identify as transgender, 1.7% identify as gay or lesbian, 1.8% as bisexual. So out of all Nazarenes there could be up to 7,200 people who identify as transgender, 40,800 gays and lesbian, 43,200 bisexuals. If we used our 2% estimate, we would get numbers slightly lower.

Explain to me how is the Church of 4.6 billion threatened by the granting of rights to 92-280 million again? Likewise why do 2.4 million Nazarenes feel the need to deny rights to up to only 96,000 Nazarenes?

This fun little experiment is meant to point out that I am in a minority group.  The numbers in the above don’t factor in realities that would make the numbers increase or decrease. The point is that we can use these numbers to get a better picture of the people and the lives that are affected by not allowing them to be a part of the church. Let me put it another way. That’s 48,000-96,000 families that aren’t writing checks to Nazarene Universities… Think about that.

The Perfect Storm

But what would it take for a perfect storm of events that would lead a Nazarene pastor to officiate a marriage between gay or lesbian couples in a Nazarene sanctuary.

Imagine with me this case study. David and John are gay. Both grew up in a Nazarene Churches and homes. Became members in 6th grade after being Caravan Breese Award winners. They met in the University group at First Church, when they both came out at different points during their senior year at Nazarene University. They texted then talked, and soon their friendship had turned into a relationship. After a year and 8 months of dating John proposed to David. 3 months later they wanted to get married in the church where they met, by their college pastor who had been their friend, mentor, ally, and now marriage counselor. The state where they live passed marriage equality long ago. Being members of the Church, they get a discounted rate, which really helps their wedding budget. What should their pastor, who has been with them through every step of the way in their relationship, do?

The Forecast

As of November 2014, 35 states have marriage equality; 5 states have had their band struck down in courts, and rulings are stayed; 4 states have had bans upheld; 6 have yet to have band upheld or struck down. Over 80% of Americans live in marriage equality states.

That scenario might be dramatic for 2011, but I’m predicting it won’t be by the end of this decade. Another plausible scenario might be a Nazarene pastor has a LGBT sibling or family member or close friend, and that friend asks him or her to officiate the wedding in a non-Nazarene Church location. What happens then? (Update: Since time of post Holiness Today editor David Felter discouraged members from even “attending same-sex marriages of their friends”. And went on to call LGBT allies “heretics”. His comments are here: http://www.ncnnews.com/nphweb/html/ht/article.jsp?id=10010813 Holiness Today has decline to comment. Nazarene Ally’s reply can be found here: Holiness Today)

Weddings are a time of celebration, not a time of fear of losing your job. Clearly my bias is that it shouldn’t be a big deal, and two consenting adults should be able to marry. Equality is simple. If one side has something the other side doesn’t have that inequality.

One thing I know is that it is a matter of when, not if. This will happen. Let’s make it sooner rather then later. Let’s stay on the right side of history. We can wait; and for now we will wait… But I will do everything I can to hasten that date coming. I pray that the leadership of the future Church of the Nazarene will correct past mistakes that have been made on this issue so that we can become more like the Church God designed us to be.