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Monday, October 06, 2008

Black and White

The longer I progress in my faith journey the more questions I have and less answers or less easy answers.

On November 11th I begin "church" upstairs in a gay bar. As part of the initial chat with the owner I told her that my name was on a statement called "100 Revs". If you look at the list you'll see me at no. 73

The basic details of the statement are:
"As ministers of various churches and denominations we recognize that the churches we belong to, and the church in general, have not been places of welcome for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people."

"We are deeply sorry and ask for the forgiveness of the GLBT community. We long that the church would be a place of welcome for all people and commit ourselves to pursuing this goal."

One of most important points in terms of communicating this statement to the wider Christian community is this - "We ARE NOT making a statement on the biblical position on gay and lesbian relationships."

The fact that I am starting church in a gay pub is a complete act of God's purposes. I prayed for a venue and happened to pick the owner of "The Gateway" up in my taxi. I honestly explained who I was and what I wanted to do and she responded very graciously and generously.

One of oldest friends (we have known each other for over 20 years) is in a long-term loving lesbian relationship and now my brother-in-law has recently come out as gay. In fact, last night I popped in for coffee with himself and his partner.

Yesterday at a family lunch the church plans came up in discussion and there were some statements to the effect that of course homosexuality is wrong because the Bible says so and what happens when this arises as part of the church conversation. I think it was a surprise to my in-laws and other relatives to hear that my position is not so clear cut.

I will blog more on this over the coming days and weeks as I continue this journey but the point I made was that, firstly, I am concerned about people and not ideas as such. I appreciate scripture and I honour the Bible as the word of God but I am concerned at how selectively Christians pick and choose which Scriptures to take seriously and which to contextualize and which to simply ignore.

My ministry was nearly destroyed by lies and gossip and yet neither the people who wrote letters spreading the lies nor the people who received those letters and cut my family off have ever been disciplined or spoken to in any way and yet the Church is content to stand on the sidelines and condemn gay people. Yes, this is an emotive issue and, no, I haven't got clear answers but I do know that God has called me to love my neighbor.


wayno said...

Good job - like - we narrow cast. I understand your ministry. Keep up the good work.


Tauratinzwe said...

I guess you're just following the Leader. Jesus had a bad habit,in the eyes of the religious, of hanging out with the outcasts and sinners. So, I guess you must be onto something.

By the way, try looking at who it was JESUS warned of the punishment of "hell." It was pretty consistently the religious leaders, not the acknowledged sinners. How we've strayed from His message.

Les said...

Thanks guys for the support and encouragement. It means a lot to me.

Anthony Venn-Brown said...

Good on you.

I've never really understood the preaching or beliefs that certain places are out of bounds for Christians. If we are to be true followers of Jesus than every nook and cranny is a part of our mission field. I guess that is why his final words were “go into ALL the world and preach the gospel”….there were no instructions that certain places were out of bounds.

I think too many in the church are waiting for the world to come to them.

Its interesting to note that it was the Pharisees who were constantly saying you can't go there, you can't speak to that person, you can't heal on the can't, you cant, you can't. They were separatists. That policy was so opposed to the genuine message of Jesus. Thats why He broke the rules.

There have been many times I've been in a gay bar with my friends....just talking about stuff....and then I've thought to myself....if only Pastor ??????? would come to meet my friends I'm sure it would break down the stereotypes and misconceptions.....then of course I think....that would never happen......he would have to say to me....”I can't come.....what would people think if I was recognised in a gay bar”.......and then I sad that we have come to this place that when a church leader acts like Jesus his reputation is on the line.

Looks like the old evangelist in me will never die…..hehe.

One of Freedom said...

This is a very important discussion that (as often is the case) evangelicals are late coming to. I've spent a bit of time on this issue and the more I study, pray and think it through, the less black and white it becomes. I've described my church as gay-friendly, but the reality is our gay friends have never really ventured in far enough to test that out. I also know that while there is much intellectual assent to being gay-friendly, once real live gay folks start to mix into the ecclesial life real feelings on the issue will be exposed. I both long and dread for that day.

I was really encouraged at your choice of location - it seems to be exactly where Jesus would be.

Anthony Venn-Brown said...

one of freedom....I think it is a journey for both the church and gay Christians. Many of them have been hurt....even traumatized by their experience in the church. I know I was. its a journey we must walk together though.

You may be suprised just how far along the path we've come though in some circles. This article will give you some idea.

Tim said...

Les, may God reward your vision and obedience beyond all you can ask or think! I just fired off an email to you about how my parents started a church in the back room of tavern. That was over 30 years ago, and it's thriving to this day.

Taurantinzwe hit the nail on the head. If Jesus were with us today, He might make an occasional stop at the local megachurch or cathedral, but we'd find Him most often in places most believers think we shouldn't go, among people they think we shouldn't be seen with.

Follow Him. "If the LORD delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm." (Psalm 37.23)

I'm praying for you.