01 November 2009

Church Controversy and Moving Foward

Cartoon from Bizarro Artist

Two weeks ago my dear friend and pastor of our community, Shawn Anthony, was given an ultimatum by his overseeing Bishop. Our faith community (church - if you like), Inner Metro Green, is part of the Brethren In Christ, a Christian denomination in the Anabaptist tradition that also informs Mennonite and Amish expressions. So what was the offending issue?

Shawn has recounted the experience in two posts entitled HOLD THIS THREAD AS I WALK AWAY Part One Part Two via his marvelous blog, Lo-Fi Tribe.

Long story made short, Shawn was fired for supposedly not focusing on Jesus enough -- which is a laughing stock because He is what we focus on the most -- and for not being an authoritarian leader -- for not telling us what to think and that it is ONLY correct way to think -- on the issue(s) that were important to the conference: homosexuality.

Sure, our community has a stance. It is the same stance that we have on every issue that divides and is complicated. Actually we apply it to all of our life, or at least we are trying. Our stance has been and will be compassion. We have compassion for those caught up in the issue on any side and for those experiencing and living it.

My friend, Keith Slesser, had this to say about it via his blog:

"I can see the reason he was fired. It is very obvious. It is because he refused to make a public statement about HOMOSEXUALITY, whether it is a sin or not. We happen to have a gay couple coming to our church. We accept them in our midst. We do not condemn or condone them. If it is sin, God can tell them. If he can't, then he is a weak God and we should no longer worship him."

I think it is of note that Jesus had nothing to say (or at least recorded) about homosexuality and yet those things that he did speak of we write off as unrealistic or not valid for us. For instance when Jesus' teachings conflict with our allegiances to empire and the idea of redemptive violence as members of the military or funders of their war chests through taxation we talk of a fallen world that makes this necessary, we honor their service, we cheer on the enemy's death, we pray for their safety and victory, and we welcome and love them in community.

It is incontrovertible that we do that last part but what of the rest in light of the supposed allegiance to the reading of scripture that condemns homosexuals and its practice? Doesn't this sort of reading elevate the Old Testament / Covenant even above Jesus? That is an interesting move for supposed followers of Jesus. That a personal and conscentual choice of relationship is somehow worse than ,or even equal to, the killing of those we are charged to love is ludicrous.

If you don't find this particular example persuasive than know that EVERY FOLLOWER OF JESUS PICKS AND CHOOSES IN REGARDS TO READING AND FOLLOWING THE BIBLE. Everyone. And thank God that we do this. If we really followed the Bible with a literal reading we would alternately kill certain breakers of OT holiness code and then realize that The Kingdom of God is far from us according to Jesus. Thank God for the Holy Spirit to guide and convict us on these things.

Lastly, I'd like to suggest that Christians really take seriously having their mind renewed and changed into that of Jesus' so that we may move forward in applying HIS ethics to our world. Jesus' ethics supersede those that came before. Jesus' way SHOULD be our way. Jesus didn't treat people with love and respect only so far. He didn't welcome them into community, to His sacred table, only so far. All were welcomed and made a part. Let us move toward making this so.


Ben Gray said...

I've been a regular reader of both yours and Shawn's blog. Having recently been in a VERY similar situation myself, rest assured that this is almost definitely a positive, beneficial thing that has happened to Shawn. The church is less without him, he is greater without that church.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to say that I can affirm your ambivalence towards homosexuality but your perspective is more informed by our culture where sexual ethics no longer really exist among "consenting" adults. You understanding of the Scripture almost assumes that the Old Testament and the New Testament come from two different Gods...that is heresy. Paul affirms the non-legitimacy of homosexuality in several passages. I have heard the explanations that this has to do with temple prostitution and the like. Paul does not qualify it this way. I would sign my name but if I do I can be used against me and I can be fired. That is pretty tolerant, huh?

chrisflinchbaugh said...

@ Ben Gray - Thank you Ben for your thoughts of commonality. I should clarify though that our church had nothing to do with Shawn's firing. The Atlantic Conference of the BIC did that. As a member of the leadership at IMG I can say that most, if not all, of us stand behind Shawn's approach to pastoring and the stance we as a group decided to take. But, yes, you are right, our church IS less without him.

chrisflinchbaugh said...

@ Anonymous - Perhaps understandably, you have inferred that I shared my personal perspective on homosexuality in my post. I, in fact, did not, at least not in full. Instead I pointed out the inconsistency with which those reading all of the Bible literally, which I don't, apply its teachings/morals/codes/ethics etc especially when it concerns others supposed sins or heretical ways. Next I talked about how odd it is as Christians to apply Old Testament teachings more strictly than those of Jesus especially when they sometimes conflict, at least in what seems to be the "spirit" of them. I can only assume that you have read enough of the Bible to have encountered said conflicts.

As for two different Gods writing the Bible, I don't believe that. On the other hand the Bible doesn't read as a divine download. Additionally, there are many literary genres in the canonized collected scriptures some of which were never intended to be read as history or with complete divine authority. Take Psalms as an instance of this even as it is often used as definitive information about God.

I'd love to type more about this with you if you are open.


chrisflinchbaugh said...

@ Ben Gray - I noticed on your blog you posted "Yet another young pastor is abused by his church". I'd like to think it wasn't his faith community, of which I am part, but instead the denomination. The relationship IS different which I think you can appreciate.

That said, our church is far from perfect :)

© 2012. Design by Main-Blogger - Blogger Template and Blogging Stuff