Sunday, June 03, 2012

Pushing Back – and Coming Out

I pastor a small community in the heart of the Bible-Belt. The following email conversation occurred a few weeks ago between a friend and me.  Given the conversation and the much deserved push-back from my friend, I decided to read the following to the community I pastor a few Sundays ago…

I got this e-mail from a friend that I work with today. I know the friend that she is talking about. Read this and let me know what you think. I'd like to give her your e-mail address if you say it is okay. Peace!

“…do any of you guys know of a gay-friendly church in the central Arkansas area? A friend of mine wants to be baptized and she stepped out on faith, to ask my extremely Pentecostal father-in-law if he would do it, but he’s not comfortable with that. So, I’m trying to find somewhere she might feel valued and included. Would you let me know if you know of someplace that might be a good fit?”

sure... have her contact me.
our "church position" is somewhat nuanced - will explain when i have a little more time but, bottom line, everyone is welcome.

I've thought about this. I can't do "church position" is somewhat nuanced." I have done that. Love ya'll. Always will. Can't do hidden agendas anymore. Why doesn't God love us all with no "nuance"? 

what i mean is that all of our community are not in lockstep on this issue (or any other) one of our values is that we do not have to agree on theologies or doctrines in order to love one another. so, by nuanced, i simply mean that i can't promise that everyone in our community has the same opinion or view on homosexuality - we are too small and organic to have an official "church position" on anything.

that said... MY position is that we are affirming of anyone seeking god; gay, straight, black, white, liberal, conservative, democrat, republican. Also, i have emphatically stated that inclusion is one of our core values and have explained that position like this:

when you hear the word inclusion, when I say "everyone", if you are asking yourself "do you think he means ______..." whatever you put in the blank - the answer is yes! That is exactly who i mean.

so... as a tiny little community with very little official structure, we have no written policy on the issue of homosexuality but the PASTOR's position is that he will baptize, serve communion to, and happily follow jesus with anyone who shows up at r street.

so, again... i would love to meet her and talk with her... and would love to have her be a part of our community if it felt (to her) like a fit. regardless of theology, i can promise you that she will be loved and treasured by all in our community because that is how we roll... family is family and we do not exclude or segregate anyone from our family.

so... my initial response was inadequate but the best i could do with limited time. i hope this clarifies a bit. thanks for pushing back and making me think through my response. it helps me and i hope it helps you as well. families are messy and we have embraced the mess. "church positions" are tidy and we don't do tidy very well. what we DO do well is love god, love each other, and love our neighbor. everything else is secondary.  peace...

 “there are some who see it as their job to stalwartly guard the boundaries of the tent to keep it from crashing, and some who think it our job to be bravely inclusive and stretch the tent.
Either way, it’s misguided because …it’s not our tent.  It’s God’s tent. The wideness of the tent be it the church or society, should only concern me insofar as it points to the great mercy and love of a God who welcomes us all as friends. And of Jesus who welcomes all to his table.
You think I like that?  You think I want to sit at the heavenly banquet next to Ann Coulter?  Not so much.
But that’s what I’m stuck with because I’m in the Jesus business.  And in the Jesus business there is not male or female, jew or greek, slave or free, gay or straight, there is only one category of people: children of God. Which means nobody gets to be special and everybody gets to be loved.”  ~nadia bolz-weber

Most in our community received this well… some did not… but we are all continuing to love one another and trust one another to let love lead and overcome our doctrine. It is a journey well begun.

his kingdom come...


pearl brick said...

I love this and you, Mark Currey! And your church. Last night, as I drove home from a confusing and excruciating day in Eureka, I began to sing the songs I learned last Sunday in your church. And my heart longed to drive straight to the Rock and sit outside R street til you showed up.

Mark Currey said...

wish you had...

Anonymous said...

A little gentle push-back against the push-back--

At the time of this exchange it appears that all you knew was that someone who is gay wants to be baptized. The rest of the discussion is about homosexuality, as if the sum total of her identity is that she is gay.

You then go out of your way to emphasize that you're prepared to bring her into the fold as a member of the family, baptize, serve communion, follow Jesus with, etc. As if the sole identity of R Street is inclusion.

But forget homosexuality. Don't you want to know anything else about this person who is about to make a public statement through baptism? What does it mean to her? What should it mean? (Is that a fair question?)

Is she *merely* being baptized into the community that is R Street? Does a baptism at R Street represent more than initiation into hanging out and loving on each other in Hillcrest? If so, don't you want to know what she thinks it means? If not, why not?

Same story for the Eucharist. Why was Jesus's body broken and blood spilled? Are we sinners who need to be restored? Again, forget homosexuality, but does is this individual in need of restoration in any way? Is there anything wrong in her that needs to be made right? Is she white-washing a tomb, or is she being made alive?

Same for "follow Jesus with." Understood that you don't want to get hung up over what might be peripheral doctrines, but unless you have information outside that email exchange, it's not clear that her desire to be baptized is in any way connected to a commitment to follow Jesus. Does she want to do that? How can you tell? Is Jesus a concept or a person to her? Did he die? Is he alive? Does it matter?

In fairness, your initial offer was for her to contact you. Likely you would have probed these issues before baptizing her, but I'm curious. It doesn't mean you would be setting yourself up as a judge. It doesn't mean gender identity is a litmus test. It just means that baptism is baptism into Christianity and that if Christianity doesn't exist external to ourselves, someone can't be baptized into it.

Mark Currey said...


these are all fair and true points. i would only respond that the exchange was an attempt to answer a specific question. my friend, i believe , was simply asking if, for me, homosexuality is a prohibitive factor in baptism. my attempt was simply to communicate that it is not. beyond that... i would have the same conversation with this young woman regarding baptism that i'd have with anyone else on such a request.

so... again... my attempt was simply to address the question asked - would an individual's sexuality prevent me from baptizing them. my answer to THAT question is "No".

btw... we are not actually located in hillcrest but the reference does suggest that you know us (or me)- unfortunately... can't tell for sure whether we know you. :)