Yesterday, I happened upon the blog of an ELCA pastor who blogs at My Lutheran Roots. His post indicated that he was disappointed by and disagreed with the ELCA church wide assembly LGBT decisions, but leaving the ELCA is not an option for him, even though he attended the Lutheran Core Convocation in September.
The subject of his post was a chance meeting with a lesbian couple in a social context.
Imagine my surprise when I realized they were looking for a congregation that would accept them as they are, two attractive young ladies in a loving relationship with one another. They were not shy about telling me about this as well.
I cannot deny that their feelings for one another at this time are real. Herein lies the rub.
Although the pastor assumed this relationship was sinful because that was how he interpreted the Bible, something clearly gnawed at him. He was wrestling. He concluded, “This, my friends, is a work in progress.”
Coincidentally, Pastor Erma Wolf, one of the activists behind Lutheran CORE, who is part of the team of CORE bloggers, offered a similar blog post that indicated that she was also wrestling with the evidence of committed relationships in conflict with the assumptions of her “confessional” Lutheranism.
I’m not sure that either pastor is nearing a conversion regarding their LGBT attitudes, yet I find their acknowledged wrestling to be interesting, if not healthy. In any case, I left a lengthy comment on each blog post. My comment was published on My Lutheran Roots, but Pastor Wolf chose not to publish the comment on her blog, Satis Est.
I reprint my comment below in slightly modified form.
What is at issue is a paradigm and what is required is a paradigm shift in thinking. When one starts with an assumption and that assumption is an unquestioned baseline, even in the face of facts to the contrary, then cognitive dissonance results.
Homosexual behavior is wrong. That is the unquestioned assumption. After all, that’s what Paul said, didn’t he? So, despite the mutually supportive, loving relationship between two women that [the pastor behind My Lutheran Roots] encountered, the assumption prevails in spite of the facts. The lives of these two women, and millions of other gay men and women, are fuller, richer, and more meaningful because they have found someone to share their life and love with. Should that not be a Christian ideal despite Paul’s culturally conditioned words? Do not Pauline epistles also support slavery? Submissive women? If we can accept a paradigm shift in thinking about slavery and sexism despite 1st century Pauline writings, why not same-gender relationships?
The issue is deeper than simply suggesting we all sin, which is true, of course, but which sours the discussion because it again postulates the assumption that this loving relationship is sinful. Why should that be so when all the evidence suggests that, on balance, this relationship produces more good than bad?
No, the issue is much deeper. Christian ethics are much deeper–and harder than many would acknowledge. The question is, what is sin in the first place? How do we probe such questions? Agreed, we start with the Bible, but are Paul’s words the end of the discussion? Are there not deeper streams to Holy Scripture found in a gospel message of inclusion? Do not the words of Christ and the two commands offer a balancing test for determining Christian ethics, rather than understanding the Bible to be a mere cookbook of moral recipes? Don’t think, don’t ponder, don’t wonder, don’t wrestle–just look it up. We do the Bible a disservice by making it less than it is, and then we compound the error by accusing others who dare to probe deeper of being unbiblical. More nuanced, yes. Willing to wrestle with the text, yes. Willing to question and apply God’s gift of reason, yes. Unbiblical-–thank you, no.
It’s hard mental gymnastics, but try putting the assumption aside for the moment. Consider the issue of the sinfulness, or lack therof, of the relationship of these two women without allowing a preconceived assumption to control. Don’t use the assumption to prove the assumption.
There is a paradigm shift underway in the ELCA and much of Christendom. Instead of dismissing this seismic sea-change as unthinking, uncritical, unbiblical, and unchristian, consider the possibility that this is a situation analogous to the Copernician revolution, which the church long resisted. Based on the unquestioned assumption that God’s earth must be the center of the universe, despite evidence to the contrary, the church of their day ostracized Copernicus and Galileo. Hopefully, it will not take the church of our day as long to come to the realization that the human condition that is capable of loving another deeply and intimately–mutual support, mutual encouragement, mutual uplifting–is as much a gift from God to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as it is to me and my wife of nearly 40 years.
Are we not being selfish by claiming such a heavenly gift to be for straight folks alone?
Thanks for listening, and I encourage all to listen to the voice of change. Perhaps it is not merely the clamor of popular culture, as some would claim, but the restless and roiling ruah, pneuma, and Espiritu Sanctu of Pentecost.
Let all who have ears to hear, hear.