House for All Sinners and Saints

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this one is really a tough call. i want my dad who is on the board to stand up and throw his toys and i want the sojos community to carry on being outspoken on broad and global issues of justice. why is the journey soooooo long? my heart breaks for people who feel left out in the cold again. good measured pragmatic honest response, nadia . keep on engaging those who disagree in challenging dialogue. keep on listening too.

Nadia,

I think you hit the nail on the head here, it being a difficult place to be. We all wish that things were the way they want them to be and, yes, along the path there will be disappointments. That's part of our "messy human existence".

I'll admit I'm a little disappointed, but I do understand that, in the larger picture, there will be defeats and there will be victories. Our view, then, should be to not crow too loudly about our victories and not allow our defeats to stop us. As cavalier as this may sound, and I'm not simply dismissing the views of our GLBTQ brothers and sisters, maybe the best is to stand back up, brush the dust off, and take another step forward.

No great social change in this country has come without a great deal of pain. Long before the victory is won, those who fight for justice often face defeats and roadblocks.

Overcoming those, and not allowing ourselves to become bitter and jaded, makes future defeats a little less painful.

Nadia ... I am continually amazed and humbled by your insight, wisdom, and discernment.

My heart aches that choices and decisions like these are having to be made by people of faith.

It is not given to us to know whether we are wrong or right. As a human being, we can only live, both humbly and boldly (thank you, Jesus)in the ambiguity of it all. Grace covers all, which gives us freedom to choose and act, even when we do not know what is better/best.

The other thing is, by continuing to be part of Sojourner's, you are able to have conversations about the GLBTQ community and why they, too, must share in the feast. When we walk away in anger - the mutual hurts make it harder to re-engage in the conversation. Thank you for your faith and willingness to continue the conversation.

"The ambiguity is this: Sojourners has, in my assessment, done more than any other organization to call Evangelical Christians to the reality that a central part of following Jesus is a concern for the poor, a truth largely absent from much of American Evangelicalism. They have a platform to speak about social justice to those who otherwise may not have ears to hear and this is critical."

This is the key. This post made me get teary-eyed, and my heart hurt for how you must have felt when you dad said, "Of course, I didn't tell them who wrote it." Oh....

Beautifully exprssed I admire you so much.

Your frind from the free-chuch side of the aisle...

Nice piece.

I appreciate your struggle to come to this uneasy accomodation. Especially since "free-church Evangelicals" are helping to contribute to an explosion in LGBT teen suicides. I hope more and more people walk away from them - in fact, I hope they run like blazes.

http://thepriceofhate.blogspot.com/

...and the deal is, it isn't about rights - it's about the blessing that LGBTQ folks can bring to the church, especially the conservative church. My own queerness is not only for me and my husband and my community - it is God's gift through me to the church. Keeping us out is keeping the church bound up in darkness.

Thank you for this post. That tension we experience as Lutherans is all too present in the world around us ... constantly pushing us into the gray areas and putting us in conflict with people who see it as black or white. I appreciate your honesty and humility in posting this ...

As always, the gospel pulls us into the struggle of figuring out what love looks like, pushing us far beyond taking sides. Thanks for calling us to something bigger than the ease of living in black and white. Preach it, Rev. :)

Thanks Nadia for those discerning words. As Vice-Chair of the Sojourners Board, I can attest to how deeply the tensions you described are felt. Sojourners' charism is its ability to gather widely diverse Christian voices and focus on the scandal of poverty and economic injustice. Maintaining the clarity of that vocation is costly--sometimes terribly costly. But grace will work in its hidden, unpredictable, redemptive ways, and is already doing so. Wes Granberg-Michaelson

What if SoJo had done the same to an African American group? Or, a woman's group? Would you feel so conflicted?

So very sad. And so very thankful that Jesus didn't "pick his battles"

Keep up the great work. I love your thoughts and how you confront me with your insights. I am a hammer headed old Norwegian -
American Lutheran and a bit of a theological junkie. Your whole website is a joy to read!!!

If the tension never leads us to action, what is its purpose? After this post, I am visiting Believe Out Loud to see how I can support them. While Sojourners may seem like the enemy in this fight, I know they are not. Injustice, fear and prejudice are some of our enemy's names.

I agree. Sojourners has done groundbreaking work with evangelicals that the "more progressive" element has never had an audience for. Their LGBT stance is nothing new, perhaps only just newly noticed (and whose error is that? Read Wallis' _God's Politics_, friends, for the good, the bad, and the ugly). In any case, Sojourners is not the enemy. Perhaps the beachhead. More power to them for going where others cannot.

As one who is among those to whom Sojourners thinks justice is not due, I disagree.

The church disappoints yet again. What hurts is that it's the part of the church that I hoped would be in our corner.

Nadia, I appreciate your thoughts, but I can't agree with your conclusions.

"I confess the ways in which I have favored the rights of one group over another."

Can you be honest enough to say, "I confess the ways in which I intend to continue favoring the rights of one group over another."

"I confess the fact that by staying in relationship with Sojourners I may be hurting my GLBTQ brothers and sisters."

Not "may be." Can you be honest enough to say "I confess the fact that by staying in relationship with Sojourners I AM hurting my GLBTQ brothers and sisters"?

You appear to have made your decision, and I won't try to change it, but I urge you confront exactly what that decision really is.

Would you turn to an African-American friend and say, "Would you mind waiting around the corner? I'm not a racist, but my friends are, and I wouldn't want to offend them."

If that's what you've decided to do to LGBTs, the very least you can do is own up to it.

No, it's not that Evangelical churches are "not there yet" on inclusiveness...it's that they are actively promoting and spreading hatred against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer children of God. All in the name of Jesus. How many in your church have been victims of that hatred?

And I'm not sure the trajectory towards full inclusion is as clear as you think it is in the Mainline. There's an awful lot of great gay and lesbian pastors who aren't called to churches in the UCC, ELCA, Episcopal, and now PCUSA because churches don't want them. Being inclusive in policy is a lot different than being inclusive in the pew.

It's no secret that you serve a queer-inclusive church. Did you ever consider that maybe Sojo wants to move further towards inclusiveness and needs contributors like you to help call them to that and support them in that move? Instead of bowing to their position of being complicit with the status-quo (which is hatred towards some of God's children and many of your congregants)?

This response comes from a very personal place for me. I am an ftm trans-guy who grew up in the Church of Christ (which like many of the congregations my fellow parishioners grew up in was rather fundamentalist—it also happens to be the denomination Nadia grew up in). This meant that as a female child (presumably—after you clad me in the usual church get-up of frilly dress complete with panty hose and hair berets) I was taught to submit to my male counterparts particularly when it came to interpretation of Scripture. When I was baptized, part of the prayer said for me was on my finding a suitable future husband. When I came out as gay in college as an active member of a college ministry run out of a PCUSA church, I was told that my decision would not be supported by the ministry and that I could not speak as a part of a “testimony” piece I had already been chosen to give.

I have been a parishioner at House For All Sinners and Saints for just over a year now. I am currently considering beginning the candidacy process for ordination in the ELCA. Before coming to HFASS, I hadn’t regularly attended any church for over 2 years. I spent most of yesterday thinking about this post and the subsequent comments folks have posted here. I felt frustrated, disappointed, angry, and sad. For the billionth time in the past several years. I was reminded of the sermon Nadia gave at HFASS and posted here several months ago on the Habakkuk and the boldness of faith he demonstrated by lamenting to God about the plight of his people. This was the sermon given right after the suicide of Tyler Clementi and the ensuing news coverage which was finally recognizing the contributions of bullying to queer youth suicides. Each of the names of the youths who had recently died were read at the end of the sermon to lament and acknowledge these youth who the church, our society, and their peers had failed.

As a person who struggled for about a decade in which there were 3 particularly intense years with debilitating depression, suicide, and persistent issues with self-harm, I confess that it there is truly nothing but a lot of luck; the class and race privilege I was born with to have parents whose health insurance and financial support kept me off the streets; and of running into some beautiful people that preserved my life during that time. Part of what sustained me during that time and since has been finding progressive increasingly redemptive ways to understand my faith without burning the bridges which connect me to my family, the tradition I was raised in, and forgiving those who contributed (and continue contributing) to a theology which created a hellish existence for me (and beautiful friends of mine in my community).

So here’s the confessional part:

If I am entirely honest with myself, I would not be here today (at all—much less a confessing member of this wounded body of Christ we call Christianity) if it were not for the following Christian writers, programs, and leaders who helped me take my first steps to a more progressive and helpful understanding of Christ: Shane Claiborne; Rob Bell; Brian McLaren; Brennan Manning; Jim Wallis; the radio station KLOVE (yeah, I know, embarrassing right?); Young Life; The Next Level Church in Denver; Scum of the Earth Church in Denver; my conservative republican brother Clark; my father who’s career as an oil man working for Texaco (he still doesn’t believe in global climate change) paid for my medical expenses and my undergraduate degree in Sociology and my year and half in grad school at Iliff School of Theology where I studied queer theology and through which was given my first opportunities to study, explore, and affirm my own gender/sexuality; my 9 mostly Evangelical roommates from an intentional Christian community I lived with for 2 years (a number of whom I know do not support my “lifestyle” decisions and one of whom is currently attending seminary for an MDiv. and working at an “Anglican” church in Denver because of its stance on human sexuality and Scriptural inerrancy).

Now I consider many of the theological and ideological suppositions of these organizations, people, and programs to be problematic (to say the least). But here’s the thing: If I deny the good that ultimately came from them, I dis-member myself from my own past. I disdainfully amputate members that are inextricably bound up in my own salvation. I deny Christ the chance to redeem these influences all through which, in one way or another, I was able to experience Christ in new ways that I wouldn’t have been able to access had I been left only with the more politically correct Liberal Mainline Protestants.

And by the way: while the theology of Evangelical free churches certainly is harmful for queer youth, I’m not sure that the answer to this problem is to simply disengage in conversation with the Evangelical or to make them look stupid and give queer youth a black or white solution—Either deny your truest self and remain true to your sub-culture/faith tradition OR embrace your sexuality and cut all ties with your family and the community you are ALREADY bound up in. I have seen both in my own life and in those of my close friends with similar backgrounds that both of these can lead to incredibly destructive behavior and despair especially when this stark choice is thrown into the faces of youth.

So thank you Nadia for your boldness here. I know this was not easy for you to write. Although I do not agree with Sojourner’s decision (and you’ve made clear that you do not either), I respect your conclusion and pray that a couple of the folks who read your stuff from Sojo check out your blog where it is quite clear where you land theologically on issues of gender/sexuality. The last time I checked “accommodation” to the haters of queers does NOT look like my father attending our church on the Sunday at HFASS when our community blessed me through the (re)naming rite you conducted for my gender transition. For those reading this who were not there—my father who was present at my baptism as a terrified 13 year old girl at my Church of Christ, who was there in the hospital where I woke up from an overdose on sleeping pills, was also there at HFASS that night for my naming rite. He wept through the entire service. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything as beautiful. This is the messy excruciating redemption and reconciliation Christ offers. It’s nothing if not queer—the Gospel does not include clear cut lines when it comes to encountering the ever-present tension between justice and grace/mercy/forgiveness.

Thank you for this. I concur that this issue is not black and white. It is easy to shout defiance and to push the power of one's group upon others. If you won't do what I want, then I'll leave. As an Elder in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., I applaud the passage of Amendment 10-A but others are threatening to leave the church over it. Others have left the church in the past because they felt that LGBTpersons were not welcome as full members and clergy.
Such decisions are difficult because human emotions play such a large role in them.

I am hearing you Nadia, but I am still concerned. If you are an organisation explicitly known for being centred on justice issues - I do get concerned if you can pick and choose which justice issues you choose. Surely social justice can't be just economic and ecological - it does need to be about gender and sexuality. My concern is why this decision - often it is because the organisation is worried about the views of its supporters base. In a world of increasing intolerance, we play hard and fast with these things at our peril.

I take the Great Commandment as a starting place - Love God, Love yourself and Love others, and love your neighbour as yourself - even if they are gay - how is this not a justice issue. I was sorry to read Jim Wallis statement. It felt like a kick in the teeth.

Why is this conversation assuming that LGBTQ issues and issues of poverty aren't inextricably linked? The error here is assuming you can separate the two. If you aren't fighting homophobia and transphobia, you aren't fighting poverty.

A response to "Dorthy" who is "thankful Jesus did not pick his battles." Actually, if you follow the time-line of the synoptic gospels (all but John) Jesus did pick his battles. In Luke 4:14-ff., Jesus is totally out in front about how the kingdom is going to be received more easily by outsiders than by the good, religious people who are listening to his sermon: the kingdom will attract Gentiles, not Jews!
Nobody missed his point. "and they were filled with rage" and they tried to kill him. After that clear message, Jesus spoke in parables and never again stated his agenda as plainly in any synoptic account. From then on Jesus tailored his message to what his audience would find challenging but would not immediately reject.
If we exercise authority or influence anywhere in this broken but redeemable creation, we pick our battles. And from the comment above by no less a person in the Sojourner's community than co-founder, Wes Granberg-Michaelson, the stand Nadia has taken and the anguish it has caused her and many others has been doing a work of grace inside Sojourner's community.
We must learn the lesson of the sermon Nadia's father read to his benighted group. We must learn, even when it is painful, to bless through our tears and to not judge those with whom we share the present and the future. Which, if Rob Bell has it right, will finally be everyone we know and love and everyone we presently despise! If heaven on earth will be hell for a racist, how will it be for those of us who hate the ones who hate us?
Somehow, we have to learn the power of blessing and the power of prayer. We cannot fight the kingdom's battles in the enemies' ways.

"Are the poor more important than glbtq folks?" Seems an erroneous question to me and prompts more questions: Shouldn't we wonder that "the poor" and "hungry" might cover the same social spectrum as "the not poor and hungry"? Aren't there lgbtq persons living below the poverty line or among the working poor? Don't straight poor folks have beloved sons, sisters, aunts or friends who are queer and hungry? Doesn't an lgbtq person of privilege feel the burden of a person in poverty? Might an lgbtq Christian have a call to invest their wealth or their mite in feeding the hungry, stopping slavery, ending a war? Wouldn't a ministry of justice that's worth it's salt want to engage a spectrum of people with differing gifts and resources? And if that is the mindset of Sojourners (which I think it is), wouldn't it be right and good for them to encourage The Closet, as it exists in The Church, to open up some more? And isn't that part of what BOL is encouraging? Do we, the hard-of-hearing people of God want to perpetuate ambiguity caused when church people self group into conservative, free or progressive, mainline camps and stop talking to each other? Doesn't this behavior cause static over the line of God's revelation to mankind?
In the explanations of and sympathies for Sojourner's stance, I sense fear which, while very understandable, quite unambiguously points to a need for God's Overcoming Spirit to move that Perfect Love may flow yet more....and down on my knees I go.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I too realize that things aren't always black and white.

If he were my father--and he obviously is not--I would not be giving him any more of my sermons to read. Imagine, if you will, how powerful and truly transformative it might have been if he had revealed your authorship after cribbing your work. I don;t know how much consulting, if any, you have done, but I have done it on LBGT issues and congregational development. Saying the hard thing is prophetic, changes hearts and minds, and opens everyone in the conversation to the difficult task of living in the unresolved tensions. THAT is where the real gray is. What you and all those who so easily condone Sojourners failure of heart are doing is condoning cowardice. Jesus wasn't a wimp; if we are to believe any of the scriptures, he faced all injustice head-on, knowing that many would reject and acorn him, even unto death. The risk for Wallis et al in this is pretty low; only the possibility of pissing off people who make lousy allies anyway. The gain? The lives of gay youth (many who are on the street and are poor), families (some who are poor), and the confidence of those of us who think justice is worth the risk.

Beautifully written piece. I disagree with you (for the reasons other commenters have noted), but that doesn't change the fact that I love and honor you both as a sister in Christ and a great mentor to me and to the whole church.

I have always valued your integrity and honesty and will continue to do so.

Thank you for your openness.

It is liberating, exhilirating even, to make the grand gestures of denouncement. Seeing the world in black & white, seeing it through the eyes of ideology, and acting accordingly can make one as high and bold as Charlie Sheen. But it does not serve truth/Christ as much as many would like to think. So, much harder is it to live a life of intellectual integrity, to live in the tension as Kierkegaard describes. I see you living the tension, Nadia. Thank you for your words. And thank you to so many of the brilliant folks who have posted.

The best response I've read so far, from Jim Naughton, at The Guardian (UK):

"In the flurry of commentary that followed Sojourners' rejection of the anodyne advertisement, Wallis's allies and defenders have argued that accepting the ad would have jeopardised the coalition that Wallis has built. It is not clear that this is true…

At this potentially historic moment, the religious left cannot afford to speak through a man whose position on the issue in question places him to the right of Dick Cheney. It is obvious that Wallis in not the right leader for this particular parade; what is less evident is whether he plans to step aside or block the road."


http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/may/20/lgbt-rights-row-editor-jim-wallis

A great post and great comments.
As a suggestion of another way forward - don't be a loner weighing up the benifits and costs of your decision. Talk with those who are benifited by and pay the cost of your decision. Talk with those for whom those benifits and costs overlap.
I'm not saying that abdicates your responsibility to make a decision but it may deepen your understanding of the issues.
You may even find the people you imagine you are serving would rather you didn't serve them in that way.


Tony, I discussed this post by both a gay and a transgendered member of my church and did not post it before gaining their blessing. Perhaps you assumed I did not. I am never a loner in my ministry and indeed actually have a deeply consultative form of leadership.

I discussed it WITH, not by...sorry. typo

I really like your blog and i respect your job. I'm going to keep coming back here.

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