14 March 2008

A Challenge of Tolerance?

I heard a story yesterday. The story was told about an adult child by their[1] parent. The parent is someone who has been a committed and faithful servant of the Methodist church for many years. The child was described by their parent as 'a deeply committed Christian'.

The gist of the story is that this adult child recently felt that they 'had to leave' their church - a British Methodist church - because they revealed themself to be homosexual.

This is the second such story I've heard. The first one was on the internet and I'm not going to point to the story as I'm aware that people sometimes post on forums thinking that the forums are relatively 'safe' and they aren't expecting wider publiclity on blogs. Readers can accuse me of lying if you want to for not providing a link.

What's my point for saying this? I'm deeply saddened by the knowledge that gay people feel that they have to leave our churches. My understanding was that, as a denomination, we were working toward taking the position that all people were welcome in our church, whatever their views on homosexuality. My understanding was that we were trying to accommodate people of all views as being valued in our churches.

I frequently hear people on the internet who say 'I believe that homosexual acts are sinful but, of course, we would welcome gay people in our church.' Well, here are two stories of the reality of the situation and I'm saddened by it. I have to confess that I do sometimes wonder how on earth gay people are going to feel welcome in our churches unless we make a clear statement that they are welcome and - most importantly - that we can 'deliver' on the hospitality.

[1] I am using the plural pronouns 'they' and 'their' as a gender neutral pronoun to denote 'he or she'.


Doorman-Priest said...

Well, if there are any gay Christians out there in the West Yorkshire region, All Hallows Church in the Hyde Park area of Leeds is a welcoming gay friendly church.

Rev Paul Martin said...

Thanks Pam. It shows we have a long way to gon on that pilgrimage. I feel very sad about it

Peter Kirk said...

In practice, how can a church do this? Whatever the church leadership may say, there will always be some in the church who display a less than perfectly welcoming attitude. If the gay person leaves any church where they encounter this kind of person, they will never be happy anywhere. Or do you expect pastors to conduct witch-hunts against anyone who displays any attitude which could remotely be considered as not entirely welcoming to gays? The problem is that churches are made up of less than perfect people, and so there needs to be tolerance in both directions. This must include a realisation by gays that not everyone is going to entirely accept them (as is in fact true of everyone whatever their lifestyle choices) and a determination to get on with life without worrying about such things. They need to be secure in their own personality, not dependent on the approval of others. In other words, gays need to get away from the victim mentality and learn to stand on their own feet.

PamBG said...

Peter, the person on the internet claims to have told to leave his church by people in the congregation. Assuming that he isn't lying and accepting that I have no way of knowing whether he is or not, this doesn't seem to qualify as someone looking to take offence who won't be happy anywhere.

I happen to also be a person who was asked to leave a congregation - for not accepting that the universe was created in six 24 hour days before anyone starts rumours! It's not really easy to be in a group of people who don't want you.

Your approach is classic scape-goatting: The person who we told to leave is overly-sensitive; if he had any backbone, he'd have stuck around even though we didn't want him. Please.

toujoursdan said...

Sorry Peter, but being gay is not a "lifestyle choice". There are many gay lifestyles, just like heterosexual lifestyle choices.

In all my years as a Christian no one in the church, after finding out I am gay, ever asked me whether I intended to date or embrace celibacy before telling me I am sinning and going to hell if I don't repent (of what, they don't even know, since a whole lot of unfounded assumptions about me were made based on my use of the "g" word, evidently.)

Your denial aside, gay people are made to feel unwelcome because of who we are, not what we do with person we love. Even if I embraced lifetime celibacy, I would and have received the same treatment from most Christians. "Lifestyle choices" have nothing to do with this debate at all and are merely a dodge from Christian self-examination and repentance on the part of the heterosexual majority. Being gay isn't a "lifestyle choice", it is a life.

Finally, telling the victim to drop a victim mentality to get on with things displays a pattern of scapegoating. Walk a mile in someone's shoes before pronouncing judgment.