When a pillar of our quasi-evangelical church came out in 1989, I had just started rethinking the whole issue of gender, sexuality, and the Bible. So I was not prepared for how torturous the resulting church discussion would be.
Partly because of this event, LGBT people and issues have been dear to my heart ever since. Â Perhaps this was Godâ€™s way of preparing me to become an Episcopalianâ€”a Christian denomination riven by hostility over LGBT issues. Perhaps it was Godâ€™s sense of humor that placed me in my specific corner of The Episcopal Church: a liberal (i.e., welcoming-to-LGBT-people) church in a conservative diocese in a liberal national church in a conservative worldwide church.
But wait, thereâ€™s more. Once a year, I serve as a representative from our church to the dioceseâ€™s conventionâ€”which makes me a quasi-liberal surrounded by ardent conservatives.
This is a tense and painful place to live. To be sure, I am one of many comrades in this place: a sort of no-manâ€™s-land in the culture wars. But we are outnumberedâ€”and surely outshoutedâ€”by those on either side.
So why would anyone in his right mind continue to live there?
Hereâ€™s why I do: Because I will not abandon my LGBT sisters and brothers to a theology I find deeply flawed. Because I believe that my conservative sisters and brothers have great gifts to contribute to the world at large. Because I believe that dialogue has power. Because God calls me to peace and compassion, not to anger and the severing of relationships.
This is why I am deeply honored to have been invited to a most exceptional dialogue. Evangelicals for Social Action has asked a dozen pastors, therapists, scholars, students, writers, and â€œother struggling saintsâ€â€”gay, straight, liberal, conservative, what have youâ€”to a two-day conversation about LGBT issues. We will convene in November to get to know one another, share our stories, explore our perspectives, and generally live side by side for a short while.
The dialogue will not be easy. But the very fact of it thrills me. And if the emails weâ€™ve exchanged so far are any indication, this could be something special. No one has brought up the â€œclobber passagesâ€ in the Bible. No one has debated genetics or biblical literalism. Instead, weâ€™ve explored deeper issues of sexuality and gender and personal stories. Some of the participants, at least, are well versed in bridging divides. They bring rich and eye-opening experiences to the table.
If you are the sort to pray, please pray for this gathering. If not, please think of us in November. We may not change the world. But perhaps God will make us a tipping point for reconciliationâ€”or at least one tiny example of living in peace and compassion despite our differences.