An Ideological Barrier

This blog represents the thoughts of the author. While they may reflect the theological position of The Renewal Fellowship, they should not be seen as an official statement.

For the record, I welcome everyone into my congregation, no matter what you’ve done or who you’ve done it with. You are welcome to join with other less-than-perfect people as we confess, pray and worship together.

Yes, everyone.

I welcome everyone because all people are created in the image of God. All people are sinners and require redemption. All sin is equal. With the exception of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, all sin can be forgiven.

I adhere to orthodoxy. Though I once believed differently, I now accept the clear teaching of Scripture that God designed sexuality to be shared only between two people of the opposite gender.

I and a few others of like mind were warmly welcomed at Knox Waterloo a few years ago by people who knew exactly what we believed. Knox Waterloo affirms a different stance on marriage and promotes a different LGBTQi agenda. While I did not agree with what was preached and did not join in with the responsive liturgy or sing the songs of inclusion, we sat respectfully near the back during worship. I took it in and learned something.

Understanding others is essential if we are to love them. Even if we do not agree and never will.

Recently, PCC denominational staff announced a workshop entitled “Rainbow Pathways: exploring LGBTQi2 welcome and inclusion.” It will be led by two individuals: a pastor and social worker who identify as a “Queer Trans Masculine person of faith” and a “femme lesbian.” Here’s an opportunity to hear first-hand how others think, I thought.

Then I read the fine print. It’s aimed at those who not only want to make their congregations “welcoming” but also “inclusive.” In other words, you need to believe same-sex marital unions are in God’s will. And because it’s a small participatory group capped at 20, there’s no way I could simply blend in and observe.

So I wrote to the organizer.

“I considered asking whether I could sit in on Rainbow Pathways, but upon reflection I don’t think that would be appropriate because I’m not sure to what extent I could participate. In good conscience, I have to stay true to how God is speaking to me. Of course, if you are willing to have me sit in as a mostly silent observer, I can do that.”

Anticipating the response, I added this:

“As an alternative, what if you were to offer a workshop for those who adhere to traditional views of sexuality who want to understand the LGBTQ orientation and lifestyle? There are many of us in orthodoxy who do welcome everyone, no matter what, and want to be accepting without agreeing or supporting. The more we hear stories first-hand, the better we can love.”

The response from a Life and Mission Agency staffer came a few days later. Observer status wasn’t going to work.

“I hear your concern about not being sure how much you could participate in good conscience and not every resource is useful in every context in a denomination like the PCC. The nature of this course does rely on active participation in class discussions so it would not be beneficial for anyone registering as a mostly-silent observer,” the organizer wrote.

Fair enough. But it was tacit acknowledgement that those who don’t adhere to revisionist theology were not welcome.

I felt excluded.

The Rainbow workshop is offered in the spirit of healing, flowing from the moderator’s 2018 letter of repentance of homophobia, says the LMA. However, our essential doctrine on sexuality has not officially changed. Rainbow Pathways is offered in a way that suggests otherwise because it carries an ideological barrier.

I would understand if it were developed by a special-interest group. But the organizers are paid by the denomination’s congregations through their Presbyterians Sharing dollars. They are expected to serve everyone. Point 2 in the LMA’s Guiding Statements proclaims that “The Life and Mission Agency will continue to strive to be of service to all congregations.”

To be fair, the organizer did appear to be open to my suggestion for workshop that wasn’t exclusive.

“This course is only one resource and I’m working on compiling others that will be available on the PCC’s website, including an assortment that I think will be in line with your suggestion of highlighting stories from LGBTQI+ people and their experiences,” the organizer added.

In that light, I hope and pray that the “other resources” being developed are not only open to all but are of the same interactive nature. A static resource – such as a booklet or web page or even something spoken and recorded – would not be same thing.

I will extend some grace and wait and see.

3 thoughts on “An Ideological Barrier

  1. Andy, I fully endorse your request and I will repeat it to all and sundry. “As an alternative, what if you were to offer a workshop for those who adhere to traditional views of sexuality who want to understand the LGBTQ orientation and lifestyle? There are many of us in orthodoxy who do welcome everyone, no matter what, and want to be accepting without agreeing or supporting. The more we hear stories first-hand, the better we can love.”

    I share your prayer. We learn to love one another by listening to one another. When Jesus changed tactics with the woman at the well, she listened and understood. She finally realised who he was ! She told everyone.

    I believe that the interactive workshop you proposed to Carragh Erhardt, the program coordinator, will permit the orthodox to respond as Jesus did to the woman at the well. Jesus did not succeed in connecting with her right away. He eventually found the right words and she realised he was not there to condemn her. She then challenged him. Was he there to condemn HER (unorthodox ?) people ? Thanks to his gracious yet orthodox responses as a Jew, she heard the good news !*

    We need to find the right words so that the LGBT in our Church and in the community hear the good news too. They too will tell everyone ! (I don’t know what those words are. I’m looking for them as you are.)

    James, doctrine has not been changed. “The Assembly Council allocated funds in July to support a staff position to help the church fulfill the decisions and statements it has made about sexuality, orientation and gender.

    The Life and Mission Agency is pleased to announce that Carragh Erhardt has been hired on a fixed term contract to assist with this work as the Program Coordinator, Sexuality and Inclusion. In this position, Carragh will be responsible for coordinating and ensuring the overall effectiveness of a program that helps the PCC welcome one another as Christ has welcomed each of us. Carragh will work with sessions, presbyteries, committees and agencies of the PCC to help live into the decisions, letters, and statements related to sexuality, orientation, gender identity and faith that the church has made and will yet make…”

    The July 20 announcement on the PCC page of an appointment leaves open the possibility that the Church will continue its work and there are “decisions, letters, and statements related to sexuality, orientation, gender identity and faith that the church…will yet make.”[1]

    1. I wasn’t sure of the sense of the words “will yet make.” I checked in an electronic translater which reminded me of this passage “Ecclesiasticus 24:32 KJV: I will yet make doctrine to shine as the morning, and will send forth her light afar off.”
    The wording of the press release appears to be fully compatible with scriptural doctrine and with the practice of our Church.
    * Andy, John 4 has been a passage I have read many, many times. But I had not suspected that the parallel between the woman at the well and her people, the Samaritans, was a question of right thinking (orthodoxy) and how to present it to others. I pray that the analogy is appropriate.

  2. Thanks for your clarification of the information re Rainbow Pathways. It would be very difficult for anyone to attend who holds to a traditional view of marriage. The stance of LMA has not yet been established by General Assembly as you say. Jesus Christ is still powerful and may His purpose for our denomination be Sovereign!

  3. I have major problem with the PCC AND LMA or any part of thereof moving forward with any idea the doctrine has been changed which it has not. Legally the folks involved are in contempt by assuming doctrine has been changed and such actions disregard our polity and due process.. without due process we have chaos!

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