Friday, March 23, 2007

Conscience and Love Reign Supreme...

Christians often get characterized as being "homophobic" but I think that at least some Christians are really trying to grapple with homosexuality, even those whose theology points them in a direction some of us might not like.

Two good examples stand out from this week. First of all is this dialogue on NPR between Nathaniel Frank, senior researcher at the Michael D. Palm Center at University of California, and Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. My son and I listened to this dialogue about homosexuality and we came away with the feeling that both men were trying hard to understand the other's position and view point. There was no accusations of homophobia, no scare tactics but good honest dialogue.

I am sure Richard Mouw would not agree with my next example, namely the recent pronouncement of the American Episcopal Church concerning the Dar es Salaam Communiqué of February 19, 2007 which attempts to provide "pastoral guidance to the American Church from the Anglican Community. I cannot do any better than to quote a key paragraph from the Episcopal Church pronouncement (My apologies for the length):

"It is incumbent upon us as disciples to do our best to follow Jesus in the
increasing experience of the leading of the Holy Spirit. We fully understand
that others in the Communion believe the same, but we do not believe that Jesus
leads us to break our relationships. We proclaim the Gospel of what God has done
and is doing in Christ, of the dignity of every human being, and of justice,
compassion, and peace. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ there is no Jew or
Greek, no male or female, no slave or free. We proclaim the Gospel that in
Christ all God's children, including women, are full and equal participants in
the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's
children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in
the life of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that stands against any
violence, including violence done to women and children as well as those who are
persecuted because of their differences, often in the name of God. The Dar es
Salaam Communiqué is distressingly silent on this subject. And, contrary to the
way the Anglican Communion Network and the American Anglican Council have
represented us, we proclaim a Gospel that welcomes diversity of thought and
encourages free and open theological debate as a way of seeking God's truth. If
that means that others reject us and communion with us, as some have already
done, we must with great regret and sorrow accept their decision.It is incumbent
upon us as disciples to do our best to follow Jesus in the increasing experience
of the leading of the Holy Spirit. We fully understand that others in the
Communion believe the same, but we do not believe that Jesus leads us to break
our relationships. We proclaim the Gospel of what God has done and is doing in
Christ, of the dignity of every human being, and of justice, compassion, and
peace. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no male
or female, no slave or free. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's
children, including women, are full and equal participants in the life of
Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children,
including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life
of Christ's Church. We proclaim the Gospel that stands against any violence,
including violence done to women and children as well as those who are
persecuted because of their differences, often in the name of God. The Dar es
Salaam Communiqué is distressingly silent on this subject. And, contrary to the
way the Anglican Communion Network and the American Anglican Council have
represented us, we proclaim a Gospel that welcomes diversity of thought and
encourages free and open theological debate as a way of seeking God's truth. If
that means that others reject us and communion with us, as some have already
done, we must with great regret and sorrow accept their decision."


It is hard to predict history, but we may have in the Episcopal document something that 30 years from now will be recognized as a key document in the evolution of Christianity, even as the debate we are having as a civilization about diversity will seem hopelessly quaint.

Other Links:

Episcopal Bishop's Statement

NPR Talk of the NAtion Interview with Mouw and Frank (audio-no transcript)

Richard Mouw's Blog

Nathaniel Frank article in LA Times

Nathaniel Frank on Don't ask Don't tell

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