20pluscommunitydigestion

There is a great difference in excellency, usefulness, and comfort between people of clear, digested knowledge, and confused, undigested apprehensions. -Richard Baxter

and now for something completely different

ist2_189792_union_symbols_vector.jpgso we’re sitting in Panera’s recently–me and the fam, and some friends–and we’re having a nice lunch, and I can’t help overhearing a foursome (three guys and a woman–all in their 20s) talking about, I think, their time over at Cathedral of Hope, which is the de facto mothership of the Metropolitan Church, the largest homosexual church in America.

They spoke of their parents reaction to their orientation, the confusion among friends about who was dating whom, and what improvements they might make to the interior of the Cathedral.  (Since I only heard little phrases here and there, my assumptions about their topics of conversation might be skewed.)

And I couldn’t help wondering on the way home, how would I even begin to engage these 20-somethings of a homosexual stripe with a conversation about a view of the Gospel alternative to their own?  How could I earn a right to be heard?  That they had sought out an ostensibly spiritual community that morning meant they had some sort of spiritual interest.  But still I tried to fathom how a conversation of any kind might emerge that might eventually lead to a consideration of their assumptions about Jesus, the Gospel, the Church.

Al Mohler provided some important guidance a while back in talking with anyone about their sexual orientation: don’t talk about their sexual orientation first; instead get back to first principles: who is God and for what were we created?  Only in the context of an understanding of our primary reasons for being can there be any foundation for talking about sexual matters.

Still, how you’d even get there in a conversation escapes me.  So, here’s why I write this morning: if any of you would be willing to just go eat down near Cedar Springs sometime and just be there–not to stare, not to furtively take notes like some sort of investigative reporter–but just be there and see what God might want to tell us about how to love this sub-culture, then email me.  (If you’re a young woman, for the honor of my marriage and the sake of all propriety, find another guy with a similar interest and let’s the three of us sit, chat, eat, and be there). For that matter, I don’t have to tag along at all.  Do this yourselves, if you please.  Lunch with each other in that district of Oak Lawn and lemme know what you discern.

yes, this may seem odd, and, yes, this doesn’t sound like much of a plan for outreach, but at this point, I don’t know what else to do but go be among those whom we might one day be able to speak with (and hear from).  By one author’s claim this is the Celtic way of Evangelism: moving toward and being among in order to earning a right to be heard. Let’s go and see.

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6 Comments»

  David Plunkett wrote @

Hi Patrick. Thank you for mentioning my church home, the Cathedral of Hope. If I may, I would like to offer a correction. While we were once a part of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, we now are a congregation of the United Church of Christ.

Since, at the end of the blog, you mention a willingness to hear from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, may I also offer a suggestion? Instead of wondering how to engage LGBT young people in “a view of the Gospel alternative to their own,” why not consider engaging in their view? There is a good chance that they are already familiar with an alternative—perhaps all too familiar—which is why they seek to meet God at Cathedral of Hope. Many of the members of this community of faith come here after being shunned by, or even kicked out of, other churches for something not of their own choosing, namely their sexuality. They come here to meet the God that they know in their heart of hearts, the one that wants them to live healthy, happy, holy lives as the people God created them to be.

If you have not had an opportunity, I invite you to explore our website, in particular, the page entitled “Homosexuality and Christianity,” written by Rev. Michael Piazza, the current Dean of the Cathedral. It can be found through the “About Us” tab on the left side of the screen, as well as through a graphic at the bottom of the homepage.

Ultimately, we may disagree on Biblical translation and interpretation, but I appreciate the opportunity to share a little of the God that we know at Cathedral of Hope.

Blessings,
David Plunkett

  pclafferty wrote @

David, thank you both for the clarification on Cathedral of Hope’s denominational affiliation and for your pointing me to Rev Piazza’s essay.

I did meet Rev. Piazza several years ago while I was in seminary when I visited CoH just to see what church at the Cathedral was like. I remember his sermon on Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and I remember the food-drive taking place outside in anticipation of Thanksgiving.

I will take some time with Rev. Piazza’s essay. I would consider it a privilege to meet, too, and hear things from your perspective. just email us at 20+community at pcpc dot org

again, thanks, David

Because His Glory is worth the discussion

Patrick

  Paul B. wrote @

As David has noted above, we may all finally disagree about how to hear the Scriptures. But for what it’s worth:

I heard Fr Thomas Hopko, the former dean of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, tell a story about a man who had been visiting his parish. Eventually the man went to Fr Thomas to express his interest in the church. Fr Thomas said something like, “Here’s a copy of the Gospels. Read them, and we’ll get together to talk about Jesus next week.” (Don’t take any of my quotations here literally; I’m just going by memory, which may be faulty.)

“I think you should know something,” the man said. “I’m gay.”

“All right,” Fr Thomas said. “Read the Gospels and let’s get together.”

“I don’t think you heard me,” the man said. “I said I’m gay.”

“Yes, I heard you,” Fr Thomas said. “And we’ll talk about that. But first let’s talk about Christ and the Gospels.”

I don’t know how that story ends. But I think it begins at a good place: We’ll talk about this, but first let’s talk about Christ.

Which is not to say, of course, that the conversation couldn’t actually begin with listening on Fr Thomas’ part.

Listening, speaking: Both are needed.

  Paul B. wrote @

At the risk of coming off as a too soft and squishy ecumaniac, I’ll add this caveat. People in this discussion (and others) need to be wary of pigeonholing everybody — as “flamers,” as “Bible thumpers,” whatever. It has been invaluable to me here in Philly to get to know a gay Christian, and to listen to him. I continue to hold the orthodox position on all this, but my friend has helped me to think. He already knew where I stood when we met, and he knew that I knew he was gay. After a couple of months, I just said, “I want to understand. Help me.”

  David Plunkett wrote @

Hello again! It is interesting that Patrick mentioned that Fr. Thomas Hopko would encourage someone to start with Jesus by first reading the Gospels, as I think Rev. Piazza also would make the same suggestion. However, I think the two come to different conclusions. While I am not familiar with Fr. Hopko’s writing, it seems, from a cursory web search, that he, unfortunately, adheres to an orthodox view of sexuality, even while reading the Gospels.

As Rev. Piazza points out in his essay, “In the New Testament there is no record of Jesus saying anything about homosexuality. This ought to strike us as very odd in light of the great threat to Christianity, family life and the American way that some would have us believe homosexuality is. Jesus saw injustice and religious hypocrisy as a far greater threat to the Realm of God.” Rev. Piazza continues with more depth.

Thank you for letting me part of the discussion!

  Paul B. wrote @

Greetings, David. I should probably point out, just for the record, that I’m the one who brought up Fr Hopko, not Patrick.

You’re right that Fr Hopko takes an orthodox view of sexuality. (He’s big-O Orthodox, after all!) His recent book on the topic is titled Christian Faith and Same-Sex Attraction: Eastern Orthodox Reflections.

I hesitated to respond, here, to the quotation from Rev. Piazza, simply because I don’t know whether this is the right venue for an extended exchange. I don’t speak for Park Cities, or for Patrick, or for his ministry, but only for myself. My sins, whatever they may be, shouldn’t be held against anyone else.

That said, let me float something out there, with the hope that I can do so without fostering acrimony. I’d like a chance to explain briefly why the approach to the Gospels taken by Rev. Piazza remains unconvincing to the likes of me. Maybe that will help to sharpen all our thinking a little, even when we continue to disagree. I proceed under the assumption that we are all of us made in God’s royal image, made to know God as no other creature can. “The glory of God is a human being fully alive,” St. Irenaeus said. That’s what we’re after.

First something positive. I appreciate how Rev. Piazza says this: “In the New Testament there is no record of Jesus saying anything about homosexuality.” Well put. Sometimes people say, more flatly, that “Jesus never said anything about x,” a claim that seems unprovable. The fault in putting it that way is that Jesus, in three years of public ministry, said more than the words in red in a red-letter Bible. Unless we adopt an odd sort of fundamentalism — “Jesus said the words attributed to him in the Gospels; nothing more” — how could we possibly “know” that Jesus never said anything about x? Rev. Piazza’s claim is more careful and, I think, right.

The problem (for me) comes when he says that Jesus’ apparent silence about homosexuality should be striking, given the bad press it gets today from many who say they follow him. I guess it would indeed be striking — if we had evidence that homosexuality was a live issue causing controversy in first-century Galilee. Without such evidence, what would make the silence striking?

Compare Jesus and St Paul, on a different issue: idolatry. There’s no record, so far as I remember offhand, of Jesus saying anything about idolatry. With Paul it’s different. He tours Athens with his apostolic bowels in an uproar over all the idols on view. Then he thunders against them. Why didn’t Jesus do that? Because he was in Galilee (where idols weren’t an issue), not Athens (where they were). Similarly, Jesus is never on record against the “high places” in Israel that earlier prophets were at pains to condemn. But we wouldn’t expect him to talk about them. They weren’t a live issue at the time or in the place of Jesus’ ministry — unlike, say, the injustice and hypocrisy that Rev. Piazza mentions.

For an experiment, I’ve tried reading “race-based slavery” into Rev. Piazza’s thesis and imagined hearing the words from a pro-slavery Southerner. “In the New Testament there is no record of Jesus saying anything about slavery. This ought to strike us as very odd in light of the great threat to Christianity, family life, and the American way that the abolitionists would have us believe slavery is.” I’m not likening homosexuality to slavery. I’m just suggesting that there are any number of issues on which we have no explicit recorded pronouncement from Jesus but about which we nonetheless care deeply because of the witness of Scripture as a whole. We don’t, or at least I doubt we should, immediately take silence (on things that weren’t live issues) as consent.


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