Not Ordained Anymore: Postscript

Thank you all for your comments regarding my “not ordained anymore” post. I especially appreciate you saying I was brave, although the irony is embarrassing. One of the things I’d shared with John was that I felt terrible for not having approached him when I was gainfully employed by the church. So I feel like I was chicken through most of this, but I am so grateful for your words nonetheless. It’s wonderful to me how they’ve come from both those who agree with my views and those who don’t.

Below I’d like to offer some additional notes since a number of questions have come my way that I should answer. I’ve also discovered a few small points of clarification I should make.

1. ME vs WC — Please know that I still have a good relationship with the Wesleyan Church. I very much disagree with their position and behaviour with regards to people who are gay, and they with me. Both of us are concerned about each others beliefs. Yet I had no desire to cut ties or make them out to be a villain and me the hero. I did want to share with friends and family what happened and give them the entire story. Better from me than the ol’ grapevine, despite how tasty and juicy that grapevine can be.

Yes, I have had frustrations and still do, but so does everyone. It’s normal. I mean it when I say that the relationship bridge has not been burned. The ministers I met with are friends of mine. Becoming enemies and acting as if we’re on separate teams is ridiculous. It doesn’t have to be that way. I want nothing to do with instigating any animosity. If we want to grow, we have to listen to each other and respect one another.  When groups are at odds with one another, it is common for a person who is approached about their behaviour to say something like, “What about them??” I hate hearing that. I’m still trying to teach my kids to not say this. Why on earth do grown adults do it?  Obviously it’s difficult for both of us at times to deal with emotions seeing as we feel so strongly about what we believe, but we’re all mature adults here and our relationships mean a lot to us.

2. CHILDREN AND FAMILY — This is an important one… KIDS: I had shared that I was affected greatly by the question of what I’d have to say to a child of mine if they comes out of the closet and asked me to marry them. However, please don’t misunderstand this as a way of claiming to be a better dad than those who disagree with me. I would love to convince any minister to not deny their child who requests this, but my intention is not to puff myself up while putting others down. FAMILY: Similarly, if you have gay family members, and your relationship is good despite your belief that they’re wrong, I applaud you. Even more I applaud those family members for their understanding. That’s tough! But again, my aim is not to imply that you don’t love them. These are my convictions and I share them. That’s all.

3. LIFESTYLE vs LIFE — I’m sure you hear many refer to the phrase “gay lifestyle.” It’s important to understand that this is like referring to my life as a heterosexual lifestyle. It’s not a hobby or leisure pursuit. It’s life. Being gay is more than just sexuality.

4. THOSE BIBLE VERSES. I was intentionally vague about the “other biblical perspective” hoping that readers would seek it out themselves like I did. However, I’ve been asked quite a bit about this, so here it is in a coconut shell (it’s a little too long to fit in a nutshell):

As I’m sure we all understand, the Bible needs to be read and understood as a whole. We can’t read just the stories of the patriarchs or just the levitical laws (thank God for that) or just the Gospels. Nor can we take selected verses and not understand them in the context of the whole. For example, anyone who reads verses that seem to say that God is vengeful, angry and scary desperately need to keep reading. Finish the book and get the full story. So, as with most Christians, when I read the Bible (especially the Good News of the New Testament) I find it liberates us; not to sin and do evil, but to grow in grace. This happens continually throughout history. We grow as human beings and as Christians. We discover that interracial marriage isn’t wrong and we come to understand that the isolated verses don’t cancel that out. The Word as a whole leads us through every era. So when scientists discovered the world is round, we didn’t have to feel that our faith is attacked (though many back then did). The Spirit of the Word moved in Christians around the world to make a difference in the Abolitionist movement. The arguments for slavery, using the Bible, did not deter them because they understood the larger story of Scripture.

(One additional aside: Yes, slavery in Jesus day was very different from our recent experience with it. But it was still slavery and still had it’s horrific abuses and standards. You can find it all through the OT stories.)

So, humankind has grown in this area too. Sexuality has been explored since the beginning of time, but nothing like we have in the past 200 years. We understand more about our own psychology, how people tick, how relationships work, etc etc. We understand more today about sexuality than Paul ever did. To him, “homosexual acts” were immoral. And to the people of 2000 BC it was immoral. Some of the Roman culture allowed for it, but they were seen as people who allow for just about everything. There were a ton of things they found immoral back then that we can all be thankful are no longer considered so taboo. If you’re reading this and are female, chances are good that you’re allowed to go to church without a hat on. And if the circumstances were right for you, I’ll bet that you could chair the church board or preach a sermon without anyone getting worked up over it.

Again, we are talking about “being gay” and having the right to be so and to get married. The verses we’re talking about are focusing on condemning licentious sexuality outside of committed marriage relationships. Yes, when Christ spoke of marriage he only talked about heterosexual. It wouldn’t have made any more sense for him to bring up gay marriage than it would for him to bring up that the sun doesn’t revolve around us or for him to give instructions on labour rights. Simply put, we grow in our faith and God leads in new directions. It’s been that way since the beginning and we have always had difficulty with the changes.

No, I do not have any verses that say, “Being gay is ok.” For me the answer is in the theme and metanarrative of grace and mercy over law and judgment. It’s all through the Bible, Old and New. I realize that many see this as watering down the Bible, but I must say I can relate: to me, reading these verses and using them to condemn people for being gay is watering down the gospel.

Mercy triumphs over judgment.

One last thing. I also enjoy talking over an ice cold pop. Either way, I’d rather McDonald’s than Tim’s. Just some clarification there.


10 thoughts on “Not Ordained Anymore: Postscript

  1. Hi Troy. Thanks for sharing with everyone here. I hope it’s OK to continue the conversation. And I welcome response.

    You write about the theme of the metanarrative or theme (singular) of Scripture, but write that God leads in new directions. These notions are antithetical. A belief in the metanarrative of Scripture means that there is one story with a consistent theme. To use your other examples of slavery or misogyny, these are easily seen as being in tension with the beginning of the narrative. The story unfolds in a consistent direction with these issues much more easily than sexuality where there is no unfolding in the direction you’re arguing for. I think you can argue for a new direction, but not with the metanarrative theme because homosexuality is not explicitly found in the text in the same way that slavery or misogyny are addressed.

    Second, I am curious how you see grace and mercy triumphing over law and judgment in this issue. Mercy is only necessary when someone has done wrong. As such, mercy presupposes judgment. In the case of acting on same sex attraction, you are arguing that it is not wrong. Why would mercy be necessary? Connected to this: How do you see others who disagree with you on this issue disagreeing with the notion of grace being extended? I do not argue that grace is not present in any person’s life or that a person should not be treated graciously. Can you flesh out how grace and mercy shape the discussion for you?

    Third, you write that Jesus’ opinion on the point seems inconsequential as it was outside his worldview, noting his cosmology and economy as being ancient. Ethics, of course, are a different category than cosmology: How the universe works is not a matter of right or wrong, but observation. What Jesus thought about biology (or other natural sciences) is in a different category than what he thinks about ethics. Regarding labour laws, I would hope that Christians draw implications from what he said to help form how we think we should work together. So, what he said does influence our labour laws. Sexuality, likewise, is a moral issue. Why would we not pay attention to it just because he lived a long, long time ago? If Jesus is the centre of the gospel and the clearest expression of the will of God, then we do not set aside what he said about moral issues, but draw implications from them.

    Sorry for the long post, but we’re not getting a Coke or coffee anytime soon, so I thought this might substitute. 🙂

    • Thanks so much Aaron. Reading your comment I just may have misused the word metanarrative. What I was describing was the consistent story of God’s grace. Though it changes shape and shows up in different ways, it’s always the same grace that’s been around for eons. There is no way that our application of Scripture with regards to divorce would translate to Christians in 500, 1200, or 1800 AD. I didn’t mean that his grace changes its mind. Its that we grow and learn as humans and that experience teaches us new things. Again, even though I mourn the commonness of divorce, I thank God that the last 100 years has been vastly different that the previous 1900 centuries. His grace is consistent, yes. But his grace he displayed as a human on earth got him nearly killed by the people who claimed to love God and know the Bible (Torah) better than anyone. Could there be anything at all today that would be like that for us? Could it be that we may be wrong in our religious and theological ways? Could it be that Christ would shock us, anger us, and even preach sharp words towards us?

      I suppose I should not use the word mercy, because you’re right. I’m saying it’s not wrong to live as a gay person. I say grace over judgment because that is such an important part of being a Christian. I do think it needs to go further than just being careful with our words when addressing sin, like we would with a drug use, slander, etc. The reason? It has to do with who they are. We’ve been focused on the sexual when there’s so much more. I wouldn’t tell a druggie that drugs are just “who she is.” But having a desire to share a life of committed love with another person for the rest of your life—I just can’t bring myself to insist that this is a sex act that can’t take place.

      Yes, slavery and science are different issues, but it helps communicate where I’m coming from is all. There’s hardly any issue you can completely compare it to. It helps me explain my position because like homosexuality it is something that is understood completely different now. I use science not as an example of morality. It’s just that it helps me understand the human brain trying to process these changes in humanity.

      And I agree Christ wasn’t ignorant, it’s just that he was communicating to people who walked the earth 2000 years ago in a very different culture. Many of his illustrations were lost on me as a child but with study came eureka moments. For me the millstone story was like that. It’s not that his words are ancient and therefore not useful. It’s the setting and audience that’s ancient. How we apply his words to labour laws is what we do with gay marriage as well. His words must be taken seriously, studied, and applied as time goes on and as life changes. It’s this same study and heart examination that I just have to use when I want to address the subject of women as ministers. This is not to say you’re not studying or examining your heart. I know you do. But this is where I’m coming from. Paul did condemn it, but think of where he was and when he was. Again… treatment of women in church. We take the time period and audience seriously and study for what his words are saying to us today. Using these verses against gay people is unfair. I’d say the same to “women-aren’t-allowed-to-speak-in-church” Christians.

      Not anytime soon, no, but we WILL do the Coke/coffee thing. It’s just gotta happen.

  2. Troy I had no idea when I messaged you on FB that all this was about to take place but I’m glad to see that someone has taken a stand. I am honestly kind of lost in most of what Aaron is saying in his post, kind of went over my head. I think though what most people still aren’t understanding is it is not believing that being gay is a sin or not that has people so angry. It is the churches right to believe this, however antiquated this belief is or not. The most frustrating part about the whole thing is this. The simple fact of judgement of someone who is gay by the “Christian” church. Everyone that walks through the doors of a church is a sinner.. I don’t think I need to reference that verse for anyone that is reading this as they probably know it already. If being gay is actually a sin.. and a choice that they are making to sin, what makes that sin somehow bigger than all the other sins and gives the church the right to attack and put down and close the church doors to people who are gay? No one has that right to judge people that way. James 4:11-12. Someone that is gay does not feel the same comfort in walking into a church as the guy that is secretly looking at porn and cheating on his wife does because his sin is hidden. Someone that is gay does not try and hide the fact that they are gay because it is who they are. Cheating on your wife is a choice.. being gay is not. I know that is a whole other argument, but seriously.. why would someone choose a life of people hating them because they are different?

  3. Hi Troy.

    Thanks for the dialogue.

    Can you help me understand the role grace plays in your conclusion? Grace is unnecessary in this discussion unless one is speaking about how we should treat one another. On that line, I expect we’re in alignment that we value people as being made in God’s image—and all that entails. Grace, in itself and as a premise, doesn’t necessarily form the conclusion you’ve come to. Or if it does, I don’t understand how. (By the way, it wasn’t Jesus’ grace that led to his crucifixion; it was his judgment of the temple—specifically a new vision for being the people of God and his claim to being centre to this people–even King. People didn’t put Jesus to death for being too nice or loving or gracious but for presenting a vision that was incompatible with their own. I do question if I am right theologically and in these times find it necessary to return to Jesus himself–the centre of God’s will and life and King.)

    I think you are rightly that sexuality has to do with who we are. It’s part of our makeup. Whether or not this means there is genetic determinism for homosexuality is yet to be seen. But even so, for the Christian, sexuality is not at the core of who they are. The challenge of Jesus is that he unseats everything and that all of who we are gets shaped in his image. To this end, sexual desire is inconsequential. I don’t condemn same-sex desire just like I don’t condemn desire for sex outside marriage. The action, or unrestrained desire, is condemned. These restrictions do not inhibit any person from being in lifelong relationship, of course. Christians have insisted on the value of friendship from its inception. Unrestrained sexual desire often does more to damage helpful and genuine friendship than anything else. We each have a vision for better and stronger relationships. It’s not that you want relationships and I don’t or that I want relationships and you don’t. We both desire for more and better relating, but we can’t both be right.

    You are correct that there is not another issue like this in Scripture. This is not like slavery or interracial marriage or women in ministry, in my opinion. In each of these issues, the story of Scripture itself presents the argumentation for a change of opinion (partnership of Adam and Eve–affirmed leadership in the 1st century for women; equality among Jew and Gentile in Christ; equality among slave and free in Christ). You are correctly noting that it is not from within the story of Scripture that this change of sexual ethics comes. It is in interacting with personal experiences and cultural norms. (Important to note that science makes no claims to right and wrong but only to description. What is is not necessarily what is right.) My skepticism applies as deeply to these sources as to my own experiences and the norms I’ve encountered in my own communities, which is why I’ve tried more consistently to go to Jesus himself.

    Hope this helps brings clarity to our differences. Appreciate the opportunity to chat. 🙂

  4. Yes, I love the dialogue as well. Though I’d probably have to say that to clarify further on the use of the word grace, I guess I’d have to say no. Maybe I should use the word love? It makes sense to me, but I’m lost reading that first paragraph.

    I would add the following though:

    Unrestrained sexual desire causes damage to relationships. I don’t believe that’s what at the center of this though. I believe in committed marriage.

    Often in discussions like this when I refer to other issues and compare them, it can turn into how close the comparison really is. For me though it’s just a way to help me, and hopefully others, try to understand something. Anytime I describe mental health to myself or anyone else, I use an analogy of a snake. It’s helpful, but not 100% transferable.

    Also I should say that when I talk about the strained relationship between Christian and gay communities, I don’t mean that because of this I, therefore, hold my view regarding gay sexuality. One is not a cause and one an effect.

  5. It really is a bummer when two people want to have a conversation, but internet only brings us so far. Let me try again, focusing on the intent of the first paragraph.

    I hear you saying that the Scriptural story as a whole is what leads you to think that homosexual practice is a good thing, pointing to Scripture’s themes of mercy, grace, and love. I am trying to see why these themes lead to this new conclusion.

    Let me see if this resonates with you. What I wonder is happening is that it is not the Scriptural story itself that leads to a new conclusion, but that the values of grace and love developed *by* the Scriptural story lead you to practice a kind of grace and love that leads to the affirmation of certain desires that the story itself rejects. You cannot live out the Bible without affirming homosexuality.

    What do you think?

    • That’s definitely clearer. I’m having a little bit of a hard time seeing the difference; but yes, the grace and love that is developed by reading the Bible brings me to many conclusions—as it does for all of us—including not condemning gay people or gay relationships. I’m not convinced that the story rejects being gay or gay marriage though. When you refer to “acts,” which typically suggests sexuality outside of committed marriage, yes that is something that the reading of the Bible leaves you with no doubt as to how wrong it is. When the Bible talks about tattoos (or marking your body… I can’t remember the references but heard them a ton when I was a pre-teen) I don’t feel that we need to be vigilant about no getting them. But those passages speak to deeper issues that we need to ponder on.

  6. The difference is between ethical virtue and ethical content. In Scripture, there are three virtues: faith, hope, and love. These are appropriate virtues for the person, but their content is not void. A person is not right simply by intention, but by action, as well. (We are taught to love with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.) One cannot live out the virtue of Scripture rightly without proper understanding of the content of Scripture. So, where both of us would come to similar conclusions about what *kind* of person we ought to be, we disagree about what beliefs we ought to hold. One of us is right on the subject and one of us is wrong. This is why I keep trying to go back to the words of Jesus himself. I don’t see how we can radically change the content of what he said without missing the virtue he desires to form within us.

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