April 30, 2008

being true to your beliefs...

This morning I was approached by a congregation member who wanted to invite me to join him for a gathering of the Methodist Laity Reform Movement. This is a group within our conference that wants to promote a more conservative reading of the social principles but also is looking for more grassroots reform of the whole conference system. There are some things in their agenda and principles I can agree with, but not everything - particularly the views on homosexuality. While I hate to say that is the only issue that would keep me away from it, the fact that half of their "issues" on the website were regarding whether gays and lesbians can be ordained or members or on Supreme Court rulings regarding homosexuality, I have to take a step back.

I have not yet stood up and shared my opinions/beliefs on the subject. I do have a Human Rights Coalition equality sticker in my office and a number of books in my marriage and relationship counseling section - if anyone is interested in looking that would announce where I stand on the issue.

I guess the question I have for other pastors is how do you start to broach the subject? Do you wait until asked specifically, or in the case of this group, should I have said up front that was the reason I wasn't interested? I did say that there are many reform movements and caucuses in our annual conference and that it wasn't one I was interested in participating in, but I left it at that.

I want to be true to myself, but I also want to be pastoral and help the congregation wrestle together with this issue. It relates to one of my last posts regarding truth and perception. I have a position on the issues that I can't impose as fact upon others. I need to listen to them, as much as they need to listen to me. And we all need to open up space for the Holy Spirit to guide us.

And it all has to do with understandings of scripture. Ironically, my mom called me just yesterday. She said that a co-worker knew that I was a pastor and so he came up to her and asked if I had read 1 Timothy 2. She didn't really know what he was referring to (and didn't stop to check), but passed along the information to me. One of the reasons that we (or many of us) don't take verses 11-15 seriously today is because 1) we have been revealed other truths by the Holy Spirit... ie: we have witnessed women's ability to lead and teach men and 2)we are able to contextualize that passage, look at where and why it was said and we also judge it against other scriptural passages.

So, i guess I'm just waiting to have this conversation and wondering if i should be the one to initiate it.


  1. ohhhhhh, this is a hard one. I don't know what type of rural community that you are in but the one that I grew up in, and that my dad is still in as a pastor, is viscous. Putting your opinion out there could mean organizing the shooting squad yourself.

    Pastorally, I would decline and say it isn't something you can personally stand behind fully and also you don't think you can be part of such a thing without knowing where your congregation stands.

    In my experience, there are more people, in rural communities, who support same sex love than one would initially expect. However, these people are also silenced by fear of backlash, ostracization (is that a word? It is now),etc.

    Do you think your congregation is ready for this type of discussion? Even if they aren't "ready" what is your read of the congregation? Would this open up healthy dialogue?

    Stand up for your beliefs, though. In my opinion, being a Christian means being uncomfortable.

    Keep us updated. I think this issue, in its practical application, is something that all of us who work in or involved in congregations, needs help on.

  2. gotta say welcome to revgalblogpals.. Decline them. Write a question to the ATMs. I would say you have enough on your plate Pastoring a Church, people and in the community. That you have not been called by God yet to join in on such political matters. If he wants to great. I have had to remind members of our vast political differences in this conference and in the Methodist church also.
    I try to steer clear of political arguments. Small towns are hard enough to pastor in.