Here’s a bold claim: the church should put aside all other declarations when it comes to engaging the LGBTQ issues of our day, and start by gathering around the affirmation “We Are Broken.”
I believe the LGBTQ issue is being ideologized in American culture as well as in the church ON ALL SIDES. A church’s or individual’s public position on the issue has literally become the moniker on whether you are in or out of the evangelical orthodoxy club. I understand why people on both sides would do this. There’s important things at stake. But ideologizing the issue: i.e making the LGBTQ into a concept that one is either for or against, extracting said concept from real lives and concrete communities, and galvanizing people around one side or the other, accomplishes nothing in the church for God’s mission.
Instead of all this, I suggest we start gathering people together around the affirmation “We are Broken.” Arriving at this posture, I suggest, is the starting point for the engagement of this issue. Of course it is the posture that must be re-inhabited by the community of Jesus Christ whenever she is confronted by any fork in the road that comes when a church body is confronted with a new and or conflictual issue in culture. This posture, labeled by the words “We Are Broken,” is always the starting point for the process of discernment in Christ. We come together under the common agreement “We are Broken” and then invite others to join in as we seek the way forward for healing, redemption and new creation.
Now I admit, big denominations and large mega churches are probably too far along the process of ideologization to go this route. When money is involved, when power is assembled, we gravitate towards hot button issues and get behind agendas. So, just maybe, it shall be the missional communities working in the neighborhoods who shall make way for a renewal of a different kind.
I therefore suggest that it might be up to missional communities, confronted with the issue of same sex relations (or for that matter other points of disagreement over how we shall lives our lives together as sexual beings) to begin by gathering in this way. Begin a conversation around the question “are we broken?” Not “are you broken?” but rather “are we broken?” The leaders of such a conversation should start by admitting “I am broken.” If the church leaders have led a perfect sexual life and never encountered issues in their own lives of sexual brokenness, then they should not be leading this issue in their local churches. They should look to others who have struggled with issues of sexual brokenness to lead. The discerning posture cannot begin until we all gather together in the place of “we are broken.”
By saying “we are broken” we are clearing the table. Arriving at our brokenness goes beyond whether one claims a heterosexual, bi-sexual, gay, etc. sexual orientation. When the leader confesses “I am broken” it forms the safety and the space by which we gather before the cross. Frankly, regardless of whatever sexual orientation we inhabit, if you feel like everything is perfect in your life in this regard, there simply is no need to discuss your sexuality in the church. Taking all particular sexual sins off the table, can we agree, together that WE ARE BROKEN? The gathering of people before Christ is for the broken. And …. “we are broken.”
By saying this is the place where we start, we are not (nor should we) denying the 2000 years of history in Christ, it’s time worn understandings of sexual redemption in Christ. But these understandings need to be furthered into our lives through discernment of Scripture in the Spirit. God must work to extend the depths of these understandings into our lives. None of this can happen apart from the mutual submission to Christ that comes from the place of mutual confession “we are broken.” By saying we are broken, neither are we denying the various understandings and histories of sexual identity each person brings. Again, we come with these histories and enter in to what God is doing here. But the LGBTQ person, and the rest of us, cannot enter in to this discussion if we cannot trust one another to be in the center of God’s work. This comes by first saying “we are broken.” Then we come to the cross, that place where we together confess our brokenness and come to submit our lives to what Christ would do.
Can we then agree among our missional communities that before anyone discusses this issue, goes public with a statement on the sexual issues of our day, before we get into the actual details, or any of the issues are to be determined, before we can even discern this among ourselves, before we can even examine ourselves before the Spirit, we must make way for a safe place that is comfortable, loving and supportive where we can mutually submit to one another and say “we are broken.” From here, we can love, care and have discernments about ANYTHING. But most importantly, from here we can submit one to another to Christ, allow His gifts, his discernments to take shape in a group. God by the Holy Spirit can work here.
Again, this kind of unusual place will probably have to happen in small missional communities (where you can avoid the ideology). Because we live in one of the most sexual charged, excessively sexually focused, sexually abused, sexually broken cultures (compare U.S.A. to Africa or even Europe), we will need to make way for these kind of places. And so to deal with any of this, we do not need a do’s and don’t’s list of what’s permissable and what is not. We need a place where the Holy Spirit can work in and among His people, a place of uncovering. Otherwise we will get no where in this mess.
So the first item for missional communities (and I would argue for the broader church as well) to accomplish in this day of controversy over sexual relations, is discuss how we can put ideology aside, and come together in small spaces where there can be redemption because “we are broken.”
Is this possible? Is this a pipedream?