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?
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?
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.
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).
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.)
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.)
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.
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.