July 22, 2010 / David Fitch

The Mission and GLBTQ Relations: Three Commitments of a “Welcoming and Mutually Transforming” Missional Community #1

Way way back last March I started a series of posts on the two issues of a.) women in ministry and b.)the normative status of Gay/Lesbian sexual relations, and their relation to each other theologically in the post-evangelical landscape. (The entire series is here) I saw the post evangelical landscape as divided between the NeoReformed missionals (NRm) and the postEmergent Coalescence(pEC). In relation to the church’s position on GLBTQ relations, one side (NRm) took what has commonly been termed the “Welcoming but Not Affirming” position while the other side took the “Welcoming and Affirming” position. I viewed both positions as inadequate for our post-Christendom times. I asked if either position was missional? See that post here. As an alternative, I wanted to explore the incarnational logic of Missional community, a logic I believe drives the Neo-Anabaptist missional engagement of culture. I called (with the help of Brad Sargent) this position “Welcoming and Mutually Transforming” (WMT).
I left off the last post by saying that the only way to witness to and to live this WMT position was through a “welcoming and mutually transforming” community (WMT) of sexual redemption that finds its very identity “in Christ” for the Mission of God in the world. I want to flesh out what this might look like in three posts, this one and the next two to follow. I want to propose that such a sexually redemptive community is based on three commitments that reflect the embodied (incarnational) posture of such a community in the world.
1.) We All Come Broken
2.) We Make No Pre-Set Public Statements on What We are For or Against in Sexual Relations (please do not jump to conclusions on this).
3.) We Embody Spiritual Disciplines that Nurture the Life in Christ for God’s Mission in the World including Listening, Reading Scripture Together, Confession of Sin, Repentance, Dependence Upon the Spirit and other practices that affirm Life, Sexuality, Friendships, Creation and place them all within what God is Doing for Restoring the world and Reconciling it to Himself (missio Dei).

For today’s post, I offer some comments on commitment  1.). Then I’ll go quickly to 2.) and 3.) in the next two posts.

The overriding assumption of the “Welcoming and Mutually Transforming” community is that all are welcome, and everyone who comes must come to it as broken, in need of transformation. If there is no acknowledgment of our brokenness, of our sin and need for God, it is not possible to receive the Kingdom of God. “Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” If we say we are not broken, if we have no recognition of our need for transformation, why then come?

As I said here in this post, the condition of transformation in Christ, i.e salvation, is that all of our desires are submitted to Christ for renewal, orientation transformation. This is the beginning of discipleship. This is not to say apriori that all our desires are corrupt and inappropriately ordered. It merely acknowledges that there are desires in our lives that are broken and in need of healing, and we do not always know which ones these might be. Furthermore, all desires find their rightful end in God and so all desires are in essence incomplete til they are ordered in this final way.

Yet this posture, of coming to Christ as broken, must be modeled before the world in community. We, the church must be first in the confession of our brokenness. This is not just a tactic. This is the first and necessary step towards the redemption, the dying and rising with Christ,  that births the renewal of all things. We must be living this “way” that we are inviting the whole world into.

The biggest problem with the evangelical church’s witness regarding sexuality among our society, nevermind among the GLBTQ, is that we ask others to change their sexual behavior without seeing the duplicity in our own sexual behaviors and orientations. We therefore come into a context, whatever its sexual issues are, from a power position, claiming everyone else is screwed up but us. This defies the incarnational logic of Christ, and the way the Triune God works in the world in Christ by the Spirit.

In the case of evangelicals and gays, evangelicals have typically baptized all heterosexual attraction as good and then offer “getting married” as the solution to anyone who cannot control him/herself.  We never deal with the stunning amount of screwed up heterosexual/monosexual desire that lies resident in our churches which heap abuse after abuse upon one another and sap our sexual lives of God’s purposes.
As the community of Christ, i.e. a “welcoming and mutually transforming” community, we must lead the world into redemption by first leading the way into humility, brokenness and confession. This communal embodied posture is the defining starting point for missional engagement with a culture’s sexual issues in Christ, no matter what they might be. It embodies what it is we are inviting all people into including those who call themselves “gay.”

I think the major objection to this from the GLBTQ advocates in our midst is that “this is a power play.” By saying all desire must be submitted to Christ, the argument goes, you are pre determining our sexual desire as sin. I’ll address this more in the next post. But for now, I wish to say that Jesus and the entire New Testament insists that those in power and those with the gospel must be those who give up power, in essence go and inhabit the world powerless, live in submission to one another, and to the “other” in submission to the Lordship of Christ. Instead of saying to the gay/lesbian “you must confess your sin ________, let us instead say “let me confess my sin to you” and invite you to join in with me (discerning sin in and among my life), as we seek what redemption might look like as we submit our lives to Christ. To anyone who might seek that a particular desire be classified as sacred over the supremacy of Christ, to those who are not yet ready to enter into the death and resurrection of Christ, we grieve. This, nonetheless, is what we live incarnationally as witnesses to. This is all we have to offer. The Triune work of God in the person of Jesus Christ. The way of renewal through the death and resuurection of Jesus Christ. We are not demanding that anyone follow this path. We are not pre-judging anyone. We are merely witnessing to (and offering non-coercively) to the world what God is doing and in and through Jesus Christ.

My question to y’all, is this posture of the WMT community a power play? Is the very giving up of power a power maneuver? If so, how?