Thursday, June 05, 2014

New Heart for a Third Way


Recently I tweeted the link to a letter from a Southern Baptist pastor, Danny Cortez,  who gradually came to a new way of understanding homosexuality. As a conservative Baptist leader he adhered to the denominational doctrine that homosexuality is a sin, but through the years many gays and lesbians in his congregation came out to him in pastoral moments.

Then he was driving with his fifteen-year-old son and they listened to a song, Same Love, by the artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis which supports same-gender marriage.  The son was surprised that his dad liked the song, given its message, but the pastor shared his changed outlook. Then the son told him "Dad, I'm gay." When they stopped father and son embraced and dad pledged his love to his son.

The result was that Pastor Cortez told his New Heart church elders, then the congregation about his change of heart. The congregation decided to retain him as pastor and to choose to be a "third way" community, agreeing to disagree in some cases, and to emphasize grace. While some members have left, the rest are attempting to journey together as the people of Christ. The congregation which is continuing will be called New Harmony.

The Southern Baptist Convention response was swift and unequivocal. There is no "third way" their president, Albert Mohler, insisted. I suppose this is the "my way or the highway" approach.

I think that there is a third way, and we have been living it in the United Church for the past 25 years or more. There is not uniformity in our denomination on the acceptance of LGBT members and leaders. Over the years some have left, at times in anger, and at times saddened. In retrospect I wish we had been more pastoral as a denomination, and that the United Church had done a better job of equipping its clergy to respond to the "white water" our changing stances created. Many have stayed despite differences of outlook and theology, in the desire to keep Christ at the centre despite those differences.

God bless Pastor Cortez, his son & family, the New Heart congregation. God give us all Christ's grace to see and hear one another in the spirit of love. I hope we can all find a third way.

What are your thoughts about this?


Terry Head said...

Thanks for your posting David. As a member of the United Church, and in a position of leadership, it makes me proud to be part of a denomination that doesn't back down from important issues that affect so many. There are so many other denominations that turn off many LGBT people from seeking a relationship with Christ because of doctrine that isn't loving and full of grace. God bless the United Church of Canada. There is still a long way to go, but at least it's a church willing to tackle the big questions.

Frank said...

Aside from the rather obvious issue of fundamental justice:
Any form of exclusion will deny vital leadership capacities from contributing talent and gifts at critical points in our declining church communities.
We can cut off our noses to spite our faces, and simply peter out if we fail to allow a place for grace.

Judy Mcknight said...

Amen to both Terry and Frank! There is no other legitimate way in any church, but to accept all, as Christ accepts us!