What is going on?
Over the past two weeks I have fielded phone calls from three different young gay men requesting “spiritual safety.” These are not exactly expected, as I am a known traditionalist. The conversations go like this:
Caller: “Hey Matt. So you know how I’m a Christian?
Caller: “Well, I need some Christian friends.”
Me: “The Episcopal Church welcomes you.”
Caller: “Yeah, about that…as a young gay person who loves Jesus and wants to grow in his faith, I feel like an outcast in my church much of the time.”
Me: “Ouch. Is it really that bad?”
Caller: “Well, when I talk about ‘Jesus, and the power of the Resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings,’ I get raised eyebrows. When I talk about evangelism, historic doctrines, or believing the Creeds, people tug at their shirt collars…and clergy their clerical collars. They are very excited about Spong, Borg, Crossan and the Buddha, but they get the willies when I want to talk about Augustine, Aquinas, NT Wright and the Messiah.” They tell me ‘we welcome questions,’ but it seems that orthodox answers are the only ones not tolerated.
Me: “I know you well enough to know that bugs you.”
Caller: “Uh, yeah. I joined a church because I want to be Christian. …So, can I hang out with you…even though we are in different places on sexuality?”
Me: “Have we ever talked about sexuality?”
Caller: “No, but well, word on the street is that you’re “not really with us.” You treat me like a brother in the Lord, though, and not like some kind of oddball because I believe the core doctrines of the faith and that the Bible is the Word of God.”
I want to raise a question: How is it that young people feel belittled for being too Christian in a Christian church? And (here comes my conventional logic defying proposition) could orthodox, trinitarian theology be replacing sexuality as a point of alignment for a growing number of LGBT young adult Episcopalians?
I am sure that my politically doctrinaire friends on both the Left and Right are warming up their typing fingers to punch out a fiery response for daring to wander outside of the accepted sexual orthodoxies right about now. But before your fingers fly, let me ask you to put aside the arguments of the past, the ones you have rehearsed and rehashed answers for, and peek around the corner, for just a moment. Think about those three phone calls and ask yourself if they might be pointing at something significant on the horizon…
Imagine that you are a twenty year old Episcopalian. You view the world through post-modern eyes…you place high value on maintaining relationships with people, including those with differing viewpoints from your own. Whether gay or straight, you are coming of age in a world in which, chances are good, that you have not fought over sexuality. In that world, young Gay Episcopalians seem to be seeking out the theologically orthodox for supportive Christian discipleship.
My snarky side wants to whisper, “Gee, that sounds like actual tolerance.” You know, from before “tolerance” was code for “progressive,” when it was a word that presumed disagreement. After all, I don’t have to “tolerate” those I agree with. We already agree. Much has been written about the exclusivity of “inclusivity” – How the only idea that is out of bounds is the idea that some ideas are, in fact, out of bounds. The old and inherently contradictory notion that there is no objective truth except, of course, the statement that there is no objective truth. But now my iPhone call log is showing a growing list of indicators that at least some of the group the Episcopal Church has most tried to enfranchise are feeling disenfranchised. What kind of inclusivity is it that is gives Gay Millennials the experience of being excluded for simply wanting to follow Jesus according to the traditions and doctrines of our faith, as set out in our prayer book and Scriptures?
And does this point to an emerging generational divide within the Episcopal Church? Boomers, for whom winning arguments is culturally quite important, are wired differently from post-modern Millennials. For Millennials, respect trumps truth. They would rather be in relationship than be right. They embrace mutually contradictory ideas without internal conflict. It confuses those over 40 when Millennials report that they are both significantly more pro-life and more pro-gay than their parents. Many boomers are shocked when they hear of Millennials requesting Rite One weddings (including the “dreadful day of judgment”), and that when playing “Jesus Seminar” on the Creed they vote their marbles more orthodoxly than their parents.
I see winds of change blowing into the Episcopal Church. It came in with the Millennials when they walked through the batwings and bellied up to the bar at the last General Convention. Did you notice that GenCon12 voted to become both more progressive politically while, at the same time, holding the line on theological orthodoxy? Did you notice the groundswell to shrink national structures and sell the national Church Center? Did you notice the Acts8 Moment? Many Boomers seemed surprised at those swirling winds.
But none of this should come as a surprise. It is what always happens with the second-generation after a struggle. And with sexuality, in much of the country, Millennials are second generation people. In issues of race, those who fought for equality are shocked that the second generation has forgotten the struggle. With women, young adults have to be taught that gender inclusive language is important…because “when a woman might actually become President of the company or the country,” as one young African American woman recently told me, “pandering to me with language isn’t important.” In the sexuality debates, most Episcopalians now in college have never known a church in which LGBT people were not welcomed. The last conservative church departures occurred when they were in junior high. Gay Millennials are telling us, “We joined this because we want to be Christian.” And my ringing iPhone tells me that, too often, we are making it difficult for them.
As the culture continues to change, will the Episcopal Church keep Gay Millennials? Or will they end up going someplace else – someplace that puts more emphases on their faith than their orientation?
In another fascinating conversation last week, a friend, a woman in a long-term same-sex partnership, told me, “We want our kids in your children and youth midweek programs.” They live close and trust us. They are not going to give our church a shot, however. “We are going to keep driving (40 minutes) to our megachurch on Sundays. We know they are not Gay-friendly, but the preaching and music are great.”
Her statement was a fascinating example of cultural change coming: In a world in which LGBT people increasingly have public affirmation and political protection, they no will longer need the affirmation of the church. When they engage the church it will be because they long for the faith of the church. All of which leaves a question hovering like incense after a high Mass: As evangelicals become less LGBT hostile, will the Episcopal Church hold on to LGBT Millennials?
Is my ringing phone an aberration? Or are we quickly entering a new era in which LGBT people will no longer come to church for affirmation but for transformation? (In fact, maybe they were seeking transformation the whole time.)
And how do we give transformation? What if we simply remember who we are – a prayer book using, Lambeth Quadrilateral believing, transformation expecting church? Ditch the fuzzy Christology, hermeneutic of suspicion, and denials of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Return to basic Christian teaching that we are dead in our trespasses and sins and there is one solution, to be made alive in Christ. Proclaim, without fingers crossed or apology, that humanities’ ills are only be solved by casting ourselves on the mercy of God to receive the gift of salvation purchased on the cross at God’s initiation and God’s expense, “For by grace you have been saved.” I am not arguing for the dropping of the ability to question in the Episcopal Church. We learn by questioning. I merely argue for the charitable assumption of the Great Tradition and, at the end of the questions, the clarity of our leaders to say, “Here is how Christians have clung to God for 2000 years.” To quote Greg Boyd, “faith isn’t about trying to feel certain about your beliefs but being willing to commit to living a certain way despite the fact that you’re not certain.”
A new wind is blowing. One in which young people, including young Gay Episcopalians, will engage with churches because they want help to walk with Christ in a community of other Christ-seekers.
How will the Episcopal Church fare in this brave new world?
 Politically progressive: Same sex blessings, affirming inclusion of transgendered people. Theologically orthodox: No Communion of the unbaptized, Confirmation as necessary for parish office.
 Check out the Christianity 21 Conference and the Progressive Youth Ministry Conference, both of which feature unambiguous and unashamed Jesus speak. The way evangelicals talk about homosexuality, or choose to avoid talking about it, and the way most evangelicals treat LGBT persons is certainly changing. Influential evangelical, Tim Keller’s comments in an Ethics and Public Policy Forum is telling of this direction: “Large numbers of evangelical(s)…will continue to hold the view that same-sex marriage runs counter to their faith, even as they increasingly decide they either support or do not oppose making it the law of the land.”
 BCP, 877-8) 1) The Bible as Word of God teaching all things necessary to salvation, 2) The Nicene Creed as the sufficient statement of faith, 3) The 2 Sacraments given by Jesus for the life of the body and 4) the historic Episcopate as the organizing principle of Christ’s Church)
 Ephesians 2:1-5, Rite One Eucharist: “All glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption.”
60 thoughts on “Exclusive Inclusivity: Will The Episcopal Church Keep Gay Millennials?”
Hey Matt, this is a very insightful blog that goes along with some things I observed at the EC21 event. It had no theology, or better said, it had every theology. And the orthodoxy of the event was that all theologies are created equal. Thus, the distinctiveness of the Christian message seemed totally lost to me., But them I’m one of those dreaded “boomers”.
FYI, you mention that you are a traditionalist when it comes to the LGBT issue. I’m not aware of any Christian “tradition” or practice of Jesus that excludes people from the Christian table.
For many, my traditionalism seems quite revisionist. And for others I go not nearly far enough.
From the article you can gather that I have a good number of interactions with lgbt Christian friends in a given week…add the fact that the first fb shares the post got were from lgbt millennials, and you can probably deduce that I am not what one usually thinks of when they think “traditionalist.”
I have different roles. In my role as diocesan, I am EVERYONE’s youth director. In our church, we include all the baptized at our table (which is what our canons state)…although in actuality no one is carding at the door.
The Gospel welcome is universal. However, changing Scripture and 2000 years of tradition on marriage are above our pay grade. Others can and have felt called to do that, and if that is theirs to do, so be it. It just isn’t our mission. We feel no need to push our convictions on other churches and merely ask the freedom not to have other’s pushed on ours, which probably reflects our mostly Millennial makeup. It is also a bit stereotypically Episcopalian to say “All are welcome. Here is what we are about. And we love you, even if you aren’t where we are.” Besides, our hands are full with making sure our people are fed, clothed and housed… Sex is REALLY a back burner issue that doesn’t come up all that much.
We are in a multi-ethnic, low income context. In our place we are called to love others, preach the Good News of freedom through surrender to Jesus, help people to engage in a life immersed in Scripture, and trust people to respond to the Holy Spirit as they grow in Christ.
Actually, this has always been true, for the most part – at least in my experience. The gay people I know – including myself – have always been more theologically orthodox than the general TEC population.
There’s a really simple reason for that: a gay person would have to have been totally mad to have involved him/herself in the church over the past 20 years or – unless he or she actually believed what it taught. I mean, it would have been ever so much easier to have joined the Unitarians (or stayed away entirely); who needs to be part of a constant battle for 20 years, and to have their existence fought over at every turn?
Truly: nobody needs it. But we do need the faith; for me, it’s the only reason to be here. What’s actually odd, to me, is the automatic connection that many people seem to have made between being gay and theological liberalism; there’s no real relationship there at all that I can see. People either hold to the Creeds, or they don’t; what does their affective orientation have to do with it? There’s not a single mention of “the gay issue” in the Creeds, after all….
Thank you, Barbara! You have an important story to tell. It is one that mirrors my experience in our church. My eyes were opened at a funeral a few years back when the L/G clergy this priest had recruited stood and publicly thanked him for welcoming them into the church and then expressed their dismay at his theology – they didn’t want to change the Creed of the words of the Lord’s Prayer. They just wanted to be Christians. Thank you for taking the time to comment!
When I first started attending a theologically and liturgically progressive/liberal Episcopal church, I felt immediately at home, but then after a couple of months when people started to get to know me, it felt like another “coming out” process as I told people about my seminary and ministry history in the Evangelical Charismatic movement. I actually had one priest say, “You actually believed in that crap? I thought you were smarter than that.” That certainly did not feel inclusive at all. It was like they wanted me to fit some profile for younger gay Christian poster boy, and if I didn’t fit their projections, they were disappointed.
I think we’ve made a huge amount of progress at our church, largely because our rector directly addressed this kind of half-inclusivity, like you mention above, and so our congregation is home to people all across the theological and social spectrum. People probably wouldn’t face outright rejection or judgment if they expressed their love for the fundamentals of theology and Scripture, but I do think that’s a point soooo often missed in the greater TEC. People assume young Christians, especially young gay Christians, are all way over on the left, which, to me, is just another form of stereotyping.
I don’t want to have to apologize for the things that really connect me to thousands of years of Christians reciting sacred words. And to me, “more-progressive-than-thou” judgmentalism is really just another flavor of “holier-than-thou” elitism. As you said, true tolerance assumes disagreement – AND respect in the face of that disagreement.
You totally hit the nail on the head when you wrote, “For Millennials, respect trumps truth. They would rather be in relationship than be right. They embrace mutually contradictory ideas without internal conflict.”
I also love what Barbara says in her response above. When I left the Fundamentalist Evangelical church, I went exploring, and I just found the warm and fuzzy theology of UU and Unity to be inauthentic, at least for me. I want something transformational – I want death and resurrection and the Holy Spirit. I want touchstones to the faith that have been around for centuries. I want to be able to wrestle with my doubts, but I also want to be able to really, deeply, truly believe in something too.
What you wrote may not be an easy thing for people to hear, but it’s an important message nonetheless. The last place one should have to apologize for his or her blatant Christianity is in church. I find it heartbreaking when we proudly and loudly proclaim that we don’t have to “turn off our minds” in church, but we snicker when someone starts talking about loving the Lord or being thankful for the cross, effectively telling people that they need to turn off their faith, or at least turn it down a little.
Eric, your words have power and grace. Thank you for sharing.
What y’all are doing to nudge your church into a broader, more historically Christian place is an inspiring to me as well.
God’s blessings on your life as you seek Christ yourself and in the many ways you share him with others.
Fr. Matt, the more I read your writing, the more I know we are twin brothers of different mothers.
As someone who grew up in ministry in a post-modern, relatively fundamentalist, contemporary megachurch, I was told at times that my gay-dar was too sensitive, when I would mention to a friend that a church member or pair of “friends” in our church might be of a different orientation. Funny, I was usually right. It was interesting to me to see LBGT individuals be so enthusiastic about the church that preached a message very contrary to their lifestyle. Almost every Sunday.
Then again, I suppose that the message was also contrary to my own lifestyle, despite my best efforts. Though I’m a heterosexual, I had (and have) enough of my own sin to worry about, before I overly concern myself with what other folks might be doing in their free time.
As I’ve grown older, I find myself with more and more orthodox leanings theologically, but also more committed to the idea of loving my neighbors, without narrowly defining who my neighbors are. Unless they’re Zwinglianists. That Zwingli undoubtedly burned some icons and rood screens that I would have loved to have seen while traveling in Europe. And fans of any football team that Lane Kiffin has coached. He’s the devil, for sure.
I love how you worked Lane Kiffen into that. That took blogger “I got game” to a whole new level, bro.
As an adopted kid and a regular reader of your blog, I suspect you might be right about the “brothers” thing!
And “huzzah” for lets welcome all but correct the Zwinglians (tongue in cheek). I too have enough sin for all of us. (Besides my Zwinglian friends are all hazing me on the recent communion posts…which were actually written because I am celebrating a Eucharist at a conservative seminary this Friday night and we were talking through how to explain what is happening. Here is when I make my pop-cultural reference and break into Bob Dylan’s “O the times, they are a-changin.'”
They are a-changin’, indeed.
I used to regularly celebrate the Eucharist with an InterVarsity group at UGa, and once explained the meaning behind it and vestments to the group, including a discussion about the presence of God in the bread and wine. I’m sure I sullied the belief systems of about 3/4 of the room, which was made up of impressionable Baptist college students. I bet their pastors have baptized them time and time again to try to get my teaching out of them.
Interestingly I know of a couple of baptists who have been baptized more than they have been communed. That would fall into the realm of “unintended consequences” wouldn’t it?
Actually, I think it falls under “bad theology”.
Sorry, my Baptist brethren. I love you in the Lord.
Hi Lee. Most of my Baptist friends roll their eyes in embarrassment over stuff like that…in much the same way we roll our eyes when we hear of mainline people denying the resurrection and having goofy ideas about Christ’s deity and the atonement.
In the big scheme of things one is probably harmed less by getting over-baptized, even if it is a baptism they don’t believe enough about. The snark meter goes up as I wonder: Does three non-sacramental baptisms equal one regenerative one?
As I said on facebook, I found this to be quite an interesting article, and I think it’s fair to ask these difficult questions. You also make a valid point about how theological liberals and conservatives need to develop a deeper sense of mutual respect within the Episcopal Church. Personally, I was raised in the Communion (growing up in the ELCA and baptized as a child), and I came to our Full Communion partner the Episcopal Church through campus ministry. Although I can only speak for myself and my experience, I was once fairly orthodox, but moved toward the more liberal wing of Presiding Bishop Schori and Bishop Spong. I appreciated the inclusion of biblical criticism, and the acceptance of creative and personalized theology. Nevertheless, I do acknowledge the importance of respecting the evangelical wing of our Mainline denominations. I think it’s only right to welcome theologically orthodox people, gay or straight, and accept them as they are. While I’m sure we don’t agree 100%, I think we can agree that our denomination needs to practice some discernment on how to heal unnecessary divisions and cultivate greater respect. Thanks for the article!
Thank you, Caleb. And thank you for taking time to comment.
Many come to liturgical/sacramental traditions because they want “faith +” rather than “not that kind of faith.” Carving out a place where that group feels appreciated (or at least not badgered) would be helpful…or at least kinder.
Very good article. While the national and spiritual perceptions of homosexuality are changing, I agree/fear that TEC may unwarrantably take that as a shift from orthodoxy. While I can’t speak for all, I think for most people there is a distinct divide between the political and spiritual; meaning progressive politics doesn’t always signal progressive theology … I was attracted to TEC for it’s ritual, tradition, and cohesiveness. I found comfort in the simple binding of Anglicanism coupled with the basic truths sealed through the Nicene Creed. Can you imagine MY discomfort when I learned neither was universal? … I believe in inclusiveness, but it’s disquieting when calling God “Father”, holding firm to the Trinity, believing in Hell, and affirming the Virgin Birth is seen as “Odd”.
Great comments. I had just the same reaction! My first thought was, “These people don’t know how cool their stuff is. They seem embarrassed of the treasures in their basement!”
It is ironic to see evangelicals in our neck of the woods appropriating the ancient church as fast as they can learn it.
Thanks for commenting!
Thank you for your words! I can tell you as a theologically orthodox late GenX/Millenial priest, I feel constant pressure from my colleagues to “loosen up.” I have even been told that I have betrayed those who have paved the way for me in the first place, and that I have no concept of grace. When I went through the ordination process I was told that I relied too much on the Prayer Book and orthodox theology and I needed to be more “open to the spirit.”
I should also add that I’m a gay man and been married to my husband for 7 years
God bless you in your ministry, Keith. I join you as a BCP fan.
…and I have never understood how maintaining the identity of the giver of grace was a repudiation of that grace. If anything it seems that it cheapens the grace to cheapen the essence of the giver.
Thank you for commenting!
Wonderful post. Thanks again, Fr. Matt.
I sincerely hope that our leaders in TEC have not been willing to openly discuss and affirm new teachings on sexuality simply as a means to an end: i.e. get young people to give TEC a look because “we’re so progressive”. If so, they’re going to be disappointed. I suspect, with you it seems, that the time is fast approaching when our views on these issues will not mark us out as unique. And if all we have to offer in addition to progressive statements on social and political issues is a tired old liberal Protestantism dressed up in new post-modern clothes, then I can’t imagine TEC being an attraction to my young peers (honestly, I doubt I would be here if I had not grown up in this church and so become convinced of the deep bedrock of faith and doctrine that is our heritage, a conviction I hold in spite of, not thanks to, some of our leaders).
“And how do we give transformation? What if we simply remember who we are – a prayer book using, Lambeth Quadrilateral believing, transformation expecting church?”
Amen! I don’t think I will ever understand how some of our clergy have come to see TEC as the church where “anything goes”, theologically and liturgically. This is simply not who we are, if we take seriously our own doctrine and discipline. Is it because we simply trust our people to act in good faith and not violate their baptismal covenant and/or ordination vows? Surely we should be able to find a middle way between a medieval, authoritarian approach to church discipline and a hands-off approach where individuals can simply have the church be whatever they want it to be, as if nothing we say or pray really carries any weight at all?
Hi Rob, You always have strong thoughts! Thanks for commenting.
I really don’t think that anyone did it as “an end to justify a means.” I think Episcopalians, although fallen like all humanity, are better than that. I think we had a consortium of evangelicals & charismatics, anglo catholics, “nation at prayer” conservatives, and “nation at prayer” social justice liberals. Lgbt people were brought in by the SJ Liberals (because they felt it was right, the next civil right to fight for…AND it conveniently gave them a majority, which the cynical would say they used in a Sharia Law manner: “one man, one vote, one time,” with strong encouragement to the conservative evangelical/charismatic and many Anglo-catholics to bail out at GC 2006 with the election of +Katherine.
The irony is that, with cultural changes combined with the removal of the conservative churches, many lgbt clergy are coming to the awareness that they really have much more in common with prayerful moderates than the secular/progressive group.
I have joked with my evangelical friends mortified at some of the things some of our clergy say in public, “If you want to talk to Christian clergy in our church, generally you want to talk with L/G clergy.” I get stunned looks as it just doesn’t compute to them…but the commentary on this post indicate that lots of clergy feel that way.
The irony is that many observers would say that we are witnessing the beginnings of your new medievalism with 815 having assumed (and codified) metropolitan authority and ACNA about to invest the same in their next archbishop…their blogosphere is blowing up with chagrin at their papal sounding process.
Your new via media would be great. Unfortunately we are turn of the century Americans. We seem to only be able to manage over-reaction to issues, social, political and religious. 🙂
God’s peace, my online friend.
Thanks, Fr. Matt. I always value and am encouraged by your witness.
By the way, I loved this line: “when playing “Jesus Seminar” on the Creed they vote their marbles more orthodoxly than their parents.”
Peace of Christ.
That was a very gifted progressive priest who told me that one. He was surprised.
Praise Jesus for this post. The church I am leading has grown from 30-40 on a Sunday to 120-130 in 2 years. People are amazed you can be welcoming to all and truly believe in Jesus. The good news is the more I look out into the Episcopal Church and our seminaries the more I encounter faithful Christianity that is progressive of sexuality but holds to the historic faith of the church.
That is most excellent news. Blessings.
What utter compromised rubbish! There is no such thing as a LBGB follower of Christ, as there is no adulterer, thief, sexually immoral,…..etc. the only issues here are a comprised message that doesn’t deal with the sin and the need for repentance and healing.
…and yes. Homosexuals can be set free by the power of theBlood of Jesus Christ. Whether they WANT to be free is the key, as with all sin. We see this regularly in our Healing Rooms, the same as cancers healed, MS, Strokes, Parkinson’s…. And all other forms of the “devils work”.
 He who does what is sinful is of the devil,* because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God* appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.*  No one who is born of God* will continue to sin,* because God’s seed* remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.
The Church will continue to have little authority and power to set captives free if it tells them they’re not captives. Jesus NEVER compromised the truth, and was scathing of the religious leaders who did -Isaiah had a bit to say about this, and Yes, Jesus was there – He IS the Word.
Don’t ever praise those who try and use human compassion in place of god’s revealed truth.
I can appreciate that this conversation is shocking to you. It is really an inside conversation to a church that has lesbian and gay people in pews and clergy ranks. I am certain that is beyond the pale for many Christians.
Your statement that there is “no LGBT follower of Christ just like there is no ‘adulterer, thief, sexually immoral'” confuses me. It seems to me that you are saying that
there will be no one in heaven who has unrepented sins on Paul’s sin lists. Are you saying that someone loses their salvation when they engage in unrepentant sin? Or that they were never saved, if not fully engaged in life reflecting a growing sanctification?
I really do want to praise those who do things that are praiseworthy, even if I do have theological disagreement over what is and what is not sinful.
I am with you that sin is sin, and we are not the ones who get to define them. But do you really mean to say that there no sinners in heaven with unrepentant sin?
What about the millions of church ladies for whom “pray for them” is an excuse to slander? That is on the same list. Are there “no slanderers in heaven”? What about the greedy? Also on the list. Are there any greedy people in heaven? I have this suspicion is that there will be more than a few slave owners in heaven. You know, the ones that loved God and yet had this one blind spot? Slavery isn’t on any sin list, but most of us find it shockingly sinful to own another human.
You are correct that Jesus was very tough on liberal religious leaders (Sadducees). Surely all clergy will have to answer a higher standard (James 3:1). Jesus was even rougher on Pharisees though, those who had good theology (resurrection, belief in God’s holiness and a desire to reflect that), but they also held others to standards they could not themselves maintain and labeled who was in and not in the Kingdom. If one has to be a religious leader, better a Sadducee than a Pharisee.
Personally, I will take my chances with the sinners. I am one and they faired better with Jesus anyway.
Thank you for writing.
I’m a gay man. When I get married, there will be no “mater”s in our household. Our marriage will not lead to a state of matrimony, even if we ever decide to adopt children,which we won’t. We won’t seek Matrimony from the Church because that’s not what we have. But we do have a relationship, a union, and a household that blesses everyone around us, and there IS something sacred there, born of our love for one another. Fidelity, patience, kindness, love, reconciliation, refuge, all those things are there. Regardless if John Boswell was right about what the ceremony meant to clerics East and West a thousand years ago, there WAS a ceremony in the books that made a household out of two men, and it looks and feels, admittedly in mostly an Eastern Rite context, to express exactly what we have together, and even prays that our union according to the Spirit might endure without scandal or offense. I find it a conservative thing to re-purpose, rather than reinvent, the wheel, and it’s a rather ancient and beautiful wheel looking back at us from old texts.
Yes, the LGBT folks I know look at it this way. We don’t want to upend the Church and her faith, we want to be included within the life of the Church as the faith already is, with the same rights, responsibilities, and expectations as anyone else. We know that Paul was wrong about us, that our intimate lives are not a God-imposed punishment for idolatry, a divine pox upon an otherwise heterosexual Aphrodite devotee; this part of Christ’s Church has heard our testimony, and has listened, and we are grateful for this. But now that such a thing is out of the way, we have much more to say, and offer. The Church must continue to ask and listen, now that we are openly within her bosom. One thing the Church will discover is that Boomer gays are more like Boomers, Gen-X gays are more like Gen-X’ers, and Millenial gays are more like Millenials. Oh, and gay men are still men, and lesbians are still women, and though I am blessed by lesbian couples I know, and their households, their union is as much a mystery to me as matrimony is between a man and a woman is a mystery to me, and that’s OK. It blesses, so let’s bless it.
Coming back to your point: the Church has listened to us so far, and has decided to include us, and we are grateful. But now the Church must continue to listen and be prepared for what follows. The results, I venture to say, will be surprising, enriching, and edifying, as I trust they have been so far. God made US, not those boxes everyone expects/ed us to fit in.
Thank you for sharing your story, Clint. It does seem to me to be as you say, that we are more like our age cohort than our orientation cohort.
I am not familiar with John Boswell. (Sex is no realm of expertise for me. I’m just a guy asking the church to make room for his friends.) What was Boswell’s work?
Same-Sex Unions in Pre Modern Europe was the name of the book in question. It is controversial and not beloved in some circles, as can be imagined, but many of us gay folk found it very interesting and resonant. It isn’t a perfect study (is there ever?) but it’s an important one nonetheless and no one can deny that those ancient texts are there, the controversy is what to make of them.
I see why people both liked and disliked it depending on their presuppositions. What, in your mind, is the validity of the research and findings?
What constitutes “premodern?” Is this “Christian Europe”?
My reading of church history and the early fathers has given a consistent picture of a church that, much like Judaism, used sexual restraint as a point of missional difference between those inside and outside of the family of faith…to the point of placing such a high value on celibacy that they had to fight this gnosticizing tendency and encourage sexual activity among the married.
The scholarly consensus was that the medieval liturgy Boswell discovered, and which is still used by the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox, was intended as a celebration of chaste friendship. Gay couples used these liturgies of friendship as a sort of marriage ceremony often enough that they were eventually suppressed in the West. But the liturgy of brother-making was never intended as the blessing of a sexual relationship.
I enjoyed reading this. My partner and I are often asked why we don’t attend an open and affirming church within a more liberal Christian tradition. One of the reasons we don’t is that at least some churches within this category seem to have a zone of acceptability in terms of what counts as a legitimate gay relationship. Another issue is that when attending churches in this general category, we’ve often been made to feel unwelcome because we’re pretty theologically traditional. We wrote about that not long ago on our blog: http://aqueercalling.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/what-if-you-went-to-an-open-and-affirming-church/
Hi Sarah and Lindsey, Thank you for sharing your experience. I will check out your blog post right now.
“Ditch the fuzzy Christology, hermeneutic of suspicion, and denials of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Return to basic Christian teaching that we are dead in our trespasses and sins and there is one solution, to be made alive in Christ”
Yes. YES. YES! Couldn’t agree more.
As a big fan of your preaching, I am honored that you commented on my blog.
Embracing our trinitarian and incarnational heritage is indeed appealing to post-babyboomers, but not all babyboomers and not all Episcopalians should be made the strawman for Jesus Seminar folk, whose limited scholarly time of impact fadeth quickly. Matt’s article overstates and stereotypes about babyboomer Episcopalians of what is true for some.
Hi Reverend James, I can certainly do not intend to straw man all Episcopalian boomers. Born in ’64, I am the last of the boomers, and an Episcopalian.
I was really defending three friends in conversations in one diocese. They have felt isolated and intimidated for their understanding of the trinity and high view of Jesus. This has been their experience in multiple parishes by multiple clergy and vestry folk.
I am sure Christological fuzziness and “exclusive inclusivity” is not true of “all.” Nothing ever is. If the comments made by millennials in response to this post are any indication, though, I am confident that it is a fairly widespread phenomenon. I faced it in my own ordination process. “You don’t actually think Jesus is the only way to God, do you?” “The Bible, history or story?” “Jesus, God or great guy?” In each case, there was a correct (non-traditional) answer expected.
A link to your article was emailed to me by one of our church members. I’m an Anglican clergyman of the reformed-evangelical persuasion in the Diocese of Sydney, Australia and I’m amillenial (to complete the labels).
I liked the tone of what you wrote and understand the ministry context in which you minister. However, (and in the midst of preparing a message on 1 Corinthians 13!), surely one mark of a believer is someone who is fighting against (any) sin? Yes, my life is sin-stained; but my Lord is Jesus and while he loves me, has rescued me, and will complete the work he has begun in me, I daily fight temptation to sin – in all areas of life.
So I don’t think we honour our Lord when we ignore or reinterpret parts of scripture we find uncomfortable. Ironically, Paul’s great chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 is written as rebuke to the Corinthian church who not only tolerated sexual sin (along with other sins), but celebrated their freedom to do what not even the pagans did! Paul calls them brothers (and sisters) sanctified, and chosen – they are God’s people. But he also calls them to repent and fight against sin. That, I’m thinking, is a great example of true love and tolerance on Paul’s half – and a great challenge to all who bear the name Christian – am I fighting against sin in my life, or have I given up?
Thank you for writing from so far away in concern for your Anglican cousins.
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Hi there! This article couldn’t be written much better!
Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
He continually kept talking about this. I most certainly will forward this information to him.
Fairly certain he will have a great read. Thank you for
Thanks for reading.
I am late to the party again, I see. Oh well, I will chime in anyway. For a very long time, if you were gay, you had to believe in order to put up with all the crap that came with being gay in church. If you are going to believe, you might as well go the whole way.
The liturgy and tradition are what brought me to the Episcopal church:
“….that we may be filled with all grace and heavenly benediction…..”
Rite One Post Communion Prayer
“….do you trust only in His grace and love….”
The Vows in the Affirmation of Baptism
“….I am the Resurrection and the Life…..”
The majesty and dignity of the entire Burial Service (Both Versions!)
But I interpret all of that through the lens of a died-in-the-wool evangelical:
I have no time for the exclusion that comes from the four-tiered (lay, deacon, priest, bishop) system of ministry in this part of the Christian sandbox…(but I put up with it because those are the rules)
I give my priest an incredibly hard time about the “holy hocus pocus.”
I could go on…but you get the idea.
So now all of that is changing….and maybe I will still be on the outside-only now it will be because I am not conservative enough…..sigh
I hear the Baptists in my life put down the Episcopalians and the Episcopalians love to tell the Baptists that they have “bad theology.” Somehow, I am stuck trying to build a life in the middle.
OK, I am a bible-believing, PrayerBook loving, keyboard playing, single gay tenor who espouses “sacramental dispensationalism.” I am used to people who think I am somehow “confused” trying to straighten (no pun intended) me out….I was hoping that the young people might be willing to work with me….now they have gone all conservative…
I can’t win…..
Hopefully as we move past the sex ward we can move toward a place where we can give each other room within the creedal boundaries of historic Anglicanism.
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I get what Boomers are, or the Baby Boom generation, and Gen ‘X’ but define for me Gay Millenials and explain what you, Clint Davis, mean by, “One thing the Church will discover is that Boomer gays are more like Boomers, Gen-X gays are more like Gen-X’ers, and Millenial gays are more like Millenials…”
Where is the moral compass in guiding the Episcopal lower schools with a dress code that only becomes ‘gender neutral’ regarding jewelry and makeup… Why are the elders, the knowledgable, the informed, not pointing out that as gay males are still males, lesbian females are still female, and transgender persons are still either male persons identifying with being female or female persons identifying with being male? With that being said, I believe the church needs to put pressure on Episcopal Schools that although we accept all persons we still deserve to have a fundamental male and female dress code especially when it comes to the very young. Whether a person is Transgender, gay, or lesbian, nothing in the world changes that one is born with inherent DNA, x or y chromosome, denoting male and female distinction. Transgender is a psychological disorder of body dysmorphia. What psychological disorder is not void of major insecurities. So why contribute to the masses at the young lower school age, mass confusion with allowing jewelry and makeup? The school should at best do away with allowing jewelry and makeup altogether. When a six year old was asked, “What if all the boys wore their hair long, wore earrings and make up?” His reply was, “Mommy, I wouldn’t know who the girls are and who the boys are.” I fear for all the young ones who may become confused and not otherwise healthily and appropriately identify with their god given gender.
Hi Suzanna. Thank you for your call for basic logic in teaching our children about our humanity as God’s enfleshed creation. Somehow we have, in our desire to embrace, dropped the acknowledgement of our creation and bought into secular anthropologies of non-binaryism rather than the scriptural, historic, and observed forms…which, come to think of it, sounds a lot like “scripture, tradition, and reason.”
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This proves out what I’ve said for years: The “Christian” Left believes the opposite of the Bible on all sorts of key matters, not just their rebellion against God’s design for sex. Just get them talking and they’ll deny Jesus’ deity, his exclusivity for salvation, the authority of scripture, and more. They are indistinguishable from the world, except that they falsely call themselves Christians.
The “Christian Left” is a complicated group…like evangelicals only even more spread out over the map since they don’t have a hermeneutic they agree on the way evangelicals do. That is how the Left has people that are very strong on the deity of Christ but are pro-SSM (like Nadia Bolz-Weber) and others who deny the resurrection and biblical miracles but are against SSM. A growing number on the Left seem to believe in everything traditional except to be pro same sex marriage. They are very confusing as they don’t agree on much except that evangelicals are bad.
Agreed that they aren’t completely monolithic, but in my experience in the UMC (I was there 15 years before moving to a more sound denomination) is that they were pretty consistent. I also note that they are very pro-abortion. The group that actually goes by the name “Christian Left” is loudly and proudly pro-abortion to the child’s 1st breath. No exaggeration.
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