All Good Things…

A little over 15 months ago, the Supreme Court of the United States issued their ruling in the historic Obergefell v. Hodges case. The 5-4 ruling made same-sex marriages legal across America. A truly remarkable win for LGBTQ rights, but certainly more work is needed to become a society that is fully inclusive, let alone a Church that is inclusive too. When people can still be fired because of their sexual orientation, or when transgender people are still being murdered, or when LGBTQ teens are bullied, kicked out of homes and even committing suicide, we know there is much more work to be done. As we celebrate this one victory, we must not forget that the job isn’t over, the goals have just shifted. We must remember marriage equality is the benchmark, not the finish line.

What does it say about the priorities of the Church of the Nazarene when within a couple of hours a press release was issued condemning the Supreme Court’s ruling, but took the Church almost 4 months to (barely) even mention Ferguson, Missouri? Solving “racial tensions” in an isolated press releases does little to effect change. Real life is a series of interconnected events and story lines that ebb and flow and weave in and out of one another. The way we talk about one, effects how we talk about another. When we remain silent on one issue, it effects our actions and perceptions of the others. You can learn a lot about the priorities of the Nazarene Church by what they choose to focus their press releases on. If the Church of the Nazarene focuses on the political du jour, more people are needed to answer the call to help fight injustice in our world.

You can find the full Church of the Nazarene statement here. There is nothing surprising in it. If you are a Nazarene you can walk away feeling very good that the Generals are protecting the “traditional values” of the Church and will continue to stay true to its core. It is not what they said that is upsetting, but rather, it is what they didn’t say, or rather waited too long to say anything about. The silence, and inaction on so many human rights grievances across the globe, and the continual focus on one United States issue prove one thing: The Church has made an idol of this issue.

There is more to one could say to critique the actions and inactions of the Church of the Nazarene this last year. Between scandals at NNU, MNU, SNU and NPH, headquarters has had its hands full. However, it is unsustainable for one blog to do so. (That should be reserved for the “Nazarene Ombudsman,” if such a position were to exist.) Over the last 5 years, Nazarene Ally has had different levels of engagement to foster conversations about human sexuality and gender identity. And how those topics engage with our Christian faith. Nazarene Ally is committed to providing online resources about what it means to be LGBT and Christian, and provide information on other social justice causes, because they are all interconnected to one another.

As the focus of the greater LGBTQ movement shifts, so must the focus of Nazarene Ally. Whereas there is still a need for LGBTQ people to share their stories, and find resources to help them reclaim a broken faith. It is, however, unsustainable for one blog to critique the missteps of an entire denomination.

We hope that we have helped at least one person find closure and healing from scars they have received.

We hope that the online resources will guide people to a welcoming, and affirming church, and we hope they get their as soon as possible.

We hope that we did some good.

June 26, 2015

A statement replying to the Church of the Nazarene’s statement.

“You can be gay and Christian. You can be married, gay, and Christian. Human sexuality is not a choice. Any statement you make otherwise is dehumanizing and promotes division. Remaining silent when your churches and your people make similar statements is just as bad.

Church, when you take several months to mention the names of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and the countless others slain by police brutality, yet have a statement ready to go within hours about marriage equality, you have made an idol of this issue.

Your statements are wolves in sheep’s clothing. You say “love wins” yet you will not let us lead worship, usher, teach Sunday School, or even greet. How can that be love if you still view us as the lesser?

Gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people are children of God, just like straight people are. Church, your stubbornness and unwillingness to admit faults has created a wedge between you and your LGBT+ and Ally members. Even still, we are called to forgive you for the transgressions you have done to us. Just as we ask you to forgive us for the faults you see in us during these discussions.

We look forward to the day that we will all be reconciled unto one another and to Christ. For we all come to the same Table, which is not ours but Christ’s. Gay or Straight, Trans or Cis, we are all partaking in the same communion.

Peace be with you.”

M15 Conference to Have Workshop on ‘Homosexuality’

M15 Conference returns to Kansas City after 8 years. The quadrennial conference focuses on missional efforts across the globe with special emphasis for the United States and Canada world areas.

According to a press release by NCN News, the upcoming conference is slated to have a workshop on ‘homosexuality’.

It could be a time of taking baby-steps towards a more open dialogue with Church Officials, laity, and the church’s LGBT members. More than likely it will just re-enforcing the Church’s rhetoric against LGBT people.

In 2013, the Church of Nazarene passed four amendments to the Church of the Nazarene Manual, defining who can be married, and encouraged Nazarenes not to support TV or movies with homosexual characters.

Read more about the conference at website below:

http://www.m15conference.org/

Are You Being Served?

Every Sunday night the local PBS affiliate in Oklahoma City plays a set of British sit-com classics. The second one is called “Are You Being Served?” Taking place almost entirely on the men’s and women’s floor of the Grace Brothers department store it follows the employees through their day of helping customers and staying out of trouble with the owner.

It is late in the Lenten season. We are at a point in the journey where we begin to wonder if Easter will ever arrive. Like our cast watching the clock until their shift is over, we wonder if we will make it through. 20 days left… then I can have pop again. 15 days left… then I can get on Facebook again. 10 days left… then I can eat chocolate again. Fasting a part of us to overcome temptation. Lent will end, but it isn’t over yet. Before it does we need to answer the question, “Are you being served?”

During this season of Lent we step into the wilderness just as Jesus did before he entered Jerusalem. We are wandering the streets of an urban maze. The journey leads us into places we don’t want to go. Streets we’ve never been on, but somehow they look familiar. Darkness creeps over the sky, as shadows grow deeper.

In the twilight we look out at the world; faceless figures moving on the horizon. We need to keep going. But we stay just a bit longer on the street corner as our eyes adjust to the dimming atmosphere. Gazing down the street ahead, streetlights begin to flicker on helping us to begin to make out what we see.

Keenly aware of our surroundings our eyes tear up. We see the world, this city, and these people as broken. Surrounded by brokenness and overwhelmed on how to stop it. Down the road we see a church, and find brokenness even there. It outrages us, but we cannot do anything about it. The windows of the store behind us reflect our broken selves. We stare back into the reflection. The pretense of perfection is removed our true self is exposed. We stagger back, embarrassed and hoping no one else saw our reflection. How can we fix the brokenness around us if we are broken too?

Sometimes it all seems hopeless. And our question still remains unanswered.

We can’t find the answer internally. It is a questioned posed to the group. Each customer that walks into Grace Brother’s Department Store is asked, “Are you being served?” While we laugh at their wild antics and mishaps of how they help the customer in a sit-com, it is rather painful when we hear answers from real life.

It is a scary thing to ask the Children of God if they are being served, because we assume everyone is. We are scared of hearing “No…I’m not. I’m being overlooked.” Too often we ask the question and are too quick to wait for a reply. Too often we are confronted with people not being served by the Church that we don’t even need to ask. Too often our response is to do nothing.

Instead we need to adjust our course as a Church. Lent offers us the time and space to do that. Lent was used as a time to welcome back those who had strayed from the Church. They would be welcomed back with a new baptism on Easter. Therefore, as a Church, we can use this time to find out who among us is not being served, and serve them in time for Easter.

If one of us is not being served, the whole Church suffers because of it. If there is just one person that is being hurt by the Church, we all hurt.

To fix the brokenness we see all around us, the broken world, the broken church, the broken people, the broken self, we serve those around us. Even though Lent exposes our personal brokenness, it doesn’t cripple us from participating in God’s redemptive works that initiate things being fixed and set right. We ask to be forgiven by those we’ve over looked and prepare to set out on a new path by Easter. In this process we find reconciliation. Those who weren’t served are being served now.

But we don’t stop there. We ask the question again, “Are you being served?” to everyone we meet.

Even after the Church of the Nazarene decides to include people like me, there will be another group out there waiting for the Church to be of service to them. Once all the gay and lesbian feet are washed, there will be another group with unclean feet.

Who still needs their feet to be wash?

Who is it at our church that is being overlooked?

Who is not here?

Who is not being served?

2013 – A Look Back

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 26,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

In addition to being viewed by over 40,000 times this year, Nazarene Ally was able to complete a few of our 2013 goals. These included doubling the number of Facebook “likes” (which we did by May) and just about doubled the Twitter followers too!

Thank you for making 2013 so memorable! We look forward to an even better 2014!

Click here to see the complete report.

Crisis on Two Earths

Have you ever had too much on your plate? Ever had a day where you just need 34 hours in a day to get everything done on time? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a second you? An exact clone to do all the things you can’t do. Then you wouldn’t have to make the difficult choices of going to your son’s baseball game, or the important business meeting (Hook anyone?); between saving the cat in the tree or the baby in the apartment fire (Spiderman anyone?); being the rich playboy and the vigilante hero (Batman Begins anyone?) If we were to be in two places at once then a lot of life problems would be solved; it would make life less complicated. There’s just one problem with it, God only designed us to be in one place at one time. There is a reason there is just one of you. Two is not always greater than one.

I live in two worlds. Up until now, they have co-existed without overlapping, each world not knowing anything of the other one. You see the rules that govern each world, make it hard to keep switching back and forth, and if the rules were broken, I would be permanently expelled from ever entering that world again. I press my luck and continue to jump from one world to the next, hoping I remember the rules and worlds just changed. For all my life I’ve lived two lives going on simultaneous of each other. Every events and moment has two-story lines weaving in and out of dominance on my mind. While I am going about my daily routine in one world each time I jump, I bring a little bit more of dust of the one I just left with me, and it doesn’t go away. It piles up in the corner somewhere and I ignore it, hoping everyone else does too.

I am a citizen of the Christian World, and a citizen of the Gay World.

The Christian World

I was the Clark Kent the Christian World; the perfect attendee, the theology major, mild-mannered, seemly unimportant in every way. I wanted to stay below the radar, worrying that if I stepped too far into the spotlight, my dark secrets would be revealed. So I stayed average. Much like a Superhero conceals his true identity. (Think of Dash’s Track meet in ‘The Incredibles’) I purposely denied parts of my life, all to fit the stereotype of a straight, Midwestern, male. For example, I would live in constant fear that if I were too creative in singing, writing, acting or painting, someone would suspect me of being a homosexual. Irrational fear? Maybe.

In the Christian World, everyone else ‘fit-in’, so I wanted to fit in too. I saw what happened to those who were different. I didn’t want to give up the friends, and the little bit of status I earned, just so I could lose it all, and be made fun of like people did to those who were different. I heard the smirks, the crude jokes, and the sermons that all reinforced to me that homosexuality are something to be ashamed of. I grew up in the Church so my only view of a homosexual lifestyle was through the lenses of the Church. I didn’t want to be in a God-less world full of drugs, pedophilia, STDs, and one night stands. Was I destined to grow up and turn into that?

The Gay World

In the Gay World, I was able to be myself, but still not fully. I let my hair down a bit as I met more and more guys that seemed just like me: normal. They weren’t like the stereotypes I saw on TV or in the movies or heard about in Church. They were just regular dudes that liked other dudes. I could talk about my celebrity crush of the week, and ask them questions about how to improve my ‘gaydar’ and what to do for a date. But not everything… There was one topic that they didn’t care for much and that was my Christianity. They knew I was Christian, they just didn’t understand why I subscribed to a belief system that suppressed, bullied and segregated them. I would listen to their stories about how these once faithful people came out to only find rejection from the Church, the Church that I loved whole-heartedly. So I shut it off, didn’t bother taking them down the Roman Road, they wouldn’t want to go anyway.

I was so worried that if the Christian World found out I was gay, they would instantly think I was like the image they had of a homosexual, and vice versa, I was also worried that the Gay World would lump me together with all the anti-gay fundamentalist crazies from my home state. I didn’t want to deny the other world’s existence, but I didn’t want them to commingle either because I was scared of the consequences. The two worlds were never supposed to get mixed up. The majority of my life they stayed separate. I liked it that way. The complete compartmentalization of my life sounded good; it was easy at first. But like in the movie, Mrs. Doubtfire, two worlds can start collapsing in on each other without warning.

It All Falls Down

I can tell you exactly when it happened. When my worlds began to fall apart. When I started loosing my grip on the false idea that “at worst I was bisexual.” In 2009, that summer as I attended more and more of my friend’s wedding and thinking, “I just need to find the right girl, and my attraction for her will solve all this…” that picture of my future began to slowly fade away. Some day, if you ask, I’ll tell you the whole story of how we met. It’s rather adorable, but suffice to say, as summer faded into autumn I fell for a guy. At first it was separate. But as hanging out turned into dating, and we were seeing each other more often, and the lines got blurry. Like the time we went out to eat and saw some former youth group students, and he gets introduced as my “friend from work.” Or when he brought me a Mountain Dew Big gulp at work and told my co-workers he was my brother. Little lies here and there just to keep up the façade. Each fib, each white lie, cracked the protective shells that surrounded each world. You grow up being warned that if you tell enough lies they will come back and bite you, but while you’re in the middle of the game you don’t realize how they can get out of control.

I am not an advocate for lying. I tell you this because I know there are others out there that have done, or are playing the same game I played. Good Nazarene kids lost in the middle of two worlds unsure of what to do next, but are living in fear that one world will reveal itself to the other and their system will come crashing down. It is an ever-present feeling that gets worse with time.

The Shema

This is not in the design God planned for our lives. Throughout the Bible we are reminded of the fact that God is calling us to be one (1), because our God is one (1). Just like the people of Israel wanted Moses to take them back to Egypt before they crossed at the Sea of Reeds, or when the same people wanted Joshua to be in Egypt again when they were at the gates of the Promised Land. They were stuck between two worlds, in the middle. Wanting to take part in the Covenant and wanting to retreat. They had to be one place or the other; they could not be in both. They could not be in Egypt and enjoy the blessing of the promise land. They had to be in one place, at one time. Being in the middle works for some time, but it is not a permanent solution. This blog is helping me resolve my conflicted middle-ness.

This wanting to be in two places at once can also be seen as a loophole too. Being in the in between lets us switch when the moment is right and say, “I am not there… I’m here” as we quietly move fully back behind the boundary. I experience this in my own life too. So it was with Israel, so it is with us (me). Like children who think they can pull a fast one on Mom & Dad, God see our loophole game and seals it. God tells us that God is God even in the in-between places.

 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 TNIV)

They are called to put the commands on the door-frames, because when standing in the door frame you are neither a friend, or a stranger. But God is still God there. God is still call us saying, “I am One, I am your God even when you don’t know where to belong. I am your God there too.”

And so since God is calling out to us, calling us to be one, the Church needs to be calling out to those people like me saying, “You can be one here, come can eat from the Master’s Table. You are whole now.” The Church has a unique opportunity to bring healing and hope and redemption to a broken, lost, and confused part of our society. And heal my wounds of living 2 lives. And that is what the Church of the Nazarene was founded on over 100 years ago. Restoring brokenness in society. My homosexuality doesn’t make me broken. I am broken because I am a sinner. But I am saved by God’s grace. And through a life-long process we call entire sanctification, I am becoming more whole, each and everyday.