November 7, 2013

Dear Church Family,

2013 the Twentieth Anniversary of the formation of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists of which Lakeshore is a charter member. This 85 member association of congregations is dedicated to the full inclusion of gays and lesbians into the life of the church. Our membership in AWAB is one way we live out our commitment to welcome all followers of Jesus the Christ and to invite all followers of Jesus to join us in our worship, our witness and our work.

As part of our acknowledgment of our 20 years as part of AWAB we are hosting The Reverend Robin Lund for Coffee and Conversation in the Family Room on Saturday, November 16 at 9:00 a.m.. If you are able to attend please let me know so I can purchase the appropriate number of bagels.

The following reflection by The Reverend Dr. Peter Marty, Pastor of St. Paul. Lutheran Church in Davenport, Iowa represents well the pastoral practice your pastoral staff endeavors to incarnate in dealing with all of God’s children whom we encounter.

Peace,

Jim H.

Talking about homosexuality – Keep recalling your connection to people with real lives

Many people of faith wonder how to talk about the issue of homosexuality. I have two suggestions.

First, we ought to ease up on our use of the word homosexuality. I’m not saying eliminate it from the dictionary. Just shelve it further back in your speech, alongside all those other spices in the cupboard you don’t regularly need for cooking, like cardamom, cubeb and wattleseed.

People are drawn to use the term homosexuality, in part, because it has the word sex tucked inside. We may not admit to this unconscious association, but it’s real. Every utterance of the term “sex” conjures up juicy thoughts, wild imagination and passionate opinion. To use any variation of the word to classify human being easily gives a mistaken impression.

Our identity is not defined by sex. If my dominant assessment of you involved an obsession with your sexuality, I’d be a troubled soul. Imagine all of the rich texture in your life and close relationships that I would miss – your talents, energies, gifts, loves, insights, generosities and hopes.

To inform you that I am heterosexual reveals absolutely nothing about my sex life. In fact you wouldn’t need to know on mustard seed’s worth of information about the presence or absence of sexual activity in my life in order to catch the fullness of my personhood. Actually, I would hope that your mind not go there whenever you think of me or my name.

Notice how seldom we use the term heterosexuality when referencing a person. When I saw my family physician for an appointment recently, never once did he ask me how my heterosexuality was doing, much less my sex life. He cares about me deeply and in very holistic ways. Yet Mark never mentioned my heterosexuality once. Is he avoiding the subject, or missing a potential diagnosis where my heterosexuality might aid in some treatment? I doubt it.

There is no Greek or Hebrew word that corresponds exactly to our word “homosexual.” You may have participated in a Bible study where the term was used. But that is a modern application of the word. The category or classification that we may refer to as homosexuality did not exist in biblical times. The few scriptural references to lusting after or exploitative sexual behaviors between same- or differently gendered people have nothing to do with the abiding personal companionship, enduring love, shared intimacy, and trusting commitment of gay and straight couple who cherish such qualities in our day.

Second, I don’t know how to speak of homosexuality as an “issue.” All I know are people. I intentionally used the term “issue” in the first sentence of this article, only because it is a favorite way for people to reference the subject. But homosexuality is not an issue. Nor is it a matter, or a perspective or a position. I can think only in terms of lives – real lives that have pulsing histories, significant friendships and unstoppable joys. Issues don’t possess these qualities, certainly not with the warmth that your best friends and mine do.

Earlier this year, ESPN reporter Chris Broussard was scolded for negative remarks he made about NBA star Jason Collins, who revealed that he is gay. In his defense, Broussard said, “I don’t agree with homosexuality.” That line makes about as much sense as saying, “I don’t agree with National Parks.” or “I don’t agree with baldness … or weather … or children.”

If you consider yourself heterosexual and you are going to talk about someone whose identity or orientation does not exactly resemble your own, fight the urge to think of that person as an issue. They have blood pressure, personality and breath.

This someone of whom you’re speaking could well be your favorite athlete, musician, sister or mail carrier. To reduce any of these individuals to an issue or a category feels more than a little irreverent. It’s enough to suck the life right out of them – precisely the sort of life you hope nobody will steal from you.

So keep recalling your connection to real people with real lives. If everything that God created is good, and God created each of us, how would a gay (or straight) person be guilty of being anything more than what God created him or her to be?