When I gathered people last year to have a conversation with Tim Otto about his book (Oriented to Faith: Transforming the Conflict Over Gay Relationships), I was a little shocked with how distressing his approach would seem to both the affirming and traditional folks involved. The gathering went well in the end, but that was after a lot of tilling (and anxiety) on my part. Throughout the whole process Tim encouraged me to simply persevere and stay centered. He is a great pastor and writer for folks like me who doubt the messaging of exclusion or false unity.
Most conservative churches seem to cloak their exclusionary policies with a welcoming message up front, only later to make it clear that same sex partners will not be allowed to do x, y, or z. In most liberal churches where the institutional exclusions have been removed, the general message is about a blanket affirmation based on the assumption that giving one’s approval will heal and restore the wounded LGBT community. To my mind, this often seems a bit too one dimensional. What it doesn’t take into account is that many folks feel more than one way about themselves and their relationships, especially when it comes to Christianity. While organizational policies aimed at stigmatizing and excluding sexual minorities smacks of the worst things in Christianity, communion that rests on getting one another’s approval (or affirmation) seems to lead to a false sense of “us.” By contrast, offering Jesus’ acceptance (not contingent on anyone’s approval) and a real embrace takes a much greater measure of empathy and courage.
This acceptance must have a finite manifestation for sure, but the internal markers are best known and appreciated within free relationships of mutuality and honesty and trust. And it cannot be manufactured by a doctrinal or position statement.
I highly recommend Tim’s response to this last weekend’s Orlando massacre that took place on “Latin Night” in a gay nightclub: An Invitation to Empathy.