But first, let me start with an apology. If any of you are uncomfortable about hearing about homosexuality and words like ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ in discussion of the church, then I am sorry. I am sorry, that we ministers have done such a poor job of addressing the topic. We have been afraid to talk about the pink elephant in the room. Instead of talking about the way we Christians have committed sometimes subtle (and sometimes blatant) hate crimes against gays and lesbians, we talk in vague code about inclusiveness, open door policies and the Christian call to love the sinner. We have done a grave and unjust service to the life of the church and to our homosexual brothers and sisters.
We have let our fear control our faith, rather than letting our faith control our fear. We have let our fear override our God, rather than letting our God override our fear – the very God whose messengers tell us over and over again in the Bible, “Do not be afraid.”
An article by John Fisher, the author of The Purpose Driven Life, entitled, “The Separation of Church and Hate” talks about how the larger population has started to associate hate with the church. In part it is also about how we have put more trust in ourselves than in God. There is no better example of hatred in the church than in the way some churches have handled the issue of homosexuality.
The article reminds us, The Church, what Jesus had to say about hate: “Hate has no place being connected in any way to a follower of Christ. Jesus went as far as to equate hatred in the heart with murdering someone. And of course, John wrote that God is love, and it is impossible to claim to love God while hating anyone.”
When I was presented before the Presbytery as a Candidate for ordination, a group of people who are considering forming their own Presbytery because of their condemnation of homosexuality, stood up and asked me, and the others being presented that day, questions about, among other things, our sex lives. My girlfriend at the time (now my wife), my parents, many of the members of the church I would soon be serving as a Minister of Word and Sacrament were there that day. In front of everyone, including the other ministers who would soon be my colleagues, I was reduced to answering a question about my sex life. I have nothing to hide, but somehow it felt degrading and belittling. Their fear reduced a calling that I had been working toward for years down to a question about sex rather than questions about faith.
It happened at another Presbytery meeting. One minister, in order to save his wife the embarrassment of being asked about her sex life from a male stranger, stood up first and asked his own wife in front of hundreds of people if she had practiced fidelity in their 15 years of marriage – if he hadn’t asked they would have. Now you might think that would have driven the point home of how their fear (and possibly hatred) had pushed them to the point of absurdity, but it didn’t. A few minutes later a man stepped forward to ask the first Mexican woman ever presented for ordination in the Presbyterian Church in the US or in Mexico, with her children in the room, about - her sex life.
Some of these very people want to leave the church. The church leadership is trying to foster dialogue (using vague language that doesn’t actually address the core issue of homosexuality) in hope of convincing them to stay…I say…let them leave. I believe it might actually be the most loving thing we can do. In part, that is because I am for the separation of church…and hate.
Maybe this is a watershed moment in the life of the church. Maybe God is transplanting God’s church to the riverside. After years of barren discussions in the wilderness of disagreements over homosexuality, after years of the church digging its roots in deep to search out a common ground but coming up dry, after years of seeking relief from the internal struggle…maybe, just maybe, God is now doing a little gardening.
Transplanting each group in a place where it can be nourished. Transplanting each group in a place where it can get to doing God’s real work – feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, nursing the sick, visiting the imprisoned – instead of focusing so much on something that biblically matters so little.