Just last night, 21 Coptic Christians were beheaded by members of ISIS. And so the debate continues: whether or not the moral - even Christian response - is to stop the brutality with military intervention; to meet violence with violence. Mark does not wish to make a case for or against this argument or to feed the flames with premises for one side or the other. Rather, the case can be made that the church has forgotten the core conviction that makes non-violence even possible: a robust conviction of the resurrection. What if that traditional doctrinal affirmation - the resurrection - has direct and real-world implications for how to live and die in the face of unspeakable horror?
Then Mark sits down for the first of a two-part conversation that covers everything from Wendy's coming on as Executive Director of New Direction to how churches on any number of places along the theological spectrum can best respond to persons of the LGBTQ community. This week in Part 1, Wendy talks about some of the major influences that affected her awareness about the legacy of New Direction as she took the role of Executive Director in 2002. It's a fascinating and highly relevant account of her listening, feeling uncomfortable, being unexpectedly welcomed, meeting undeniable grace, and becoming a beacon of hope for Christians accustomed to being marginalized and hiding in the shdows.
Next week in Part 2, Wendy talks about hospitality, the Christian posture of welcome, humility as a way forward, how different churches can be places of hope and healing, and how partnered gay Christians need to find safe places to love Jesus fully.
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Notable Quotes from Wendy VanderWal-Gritter
"I've tried to explode the pigeonhole by writing this conversation into the larger questions that are facing the church that often the church is trying to avoid but need to be addressed. Like: how do we really view the atonement? What are we really doing with penal substitutionary atonement in terms of mission and being on a mission? How do we understand the Incarnation? How do we read Scripture in light of - not just science - but in light of literary criticism historical criticism? How do we - now that we're in an age of technology where our average parishioner in the pew has access to multiple theologians, multiple interpretive grids, different ways of considering all kinds of questions - think actually New Direction has stayed in the thick of that to say, 'Really, same-sex marriage is a case study of this larger picture of what is the new wineskin we have to consider if we hope to really engage people in our cultural context in vibrant faith and conversations that really matter. And that means we have to ask all those other questions and really have a courage and a willingness to risk in inviting uncertainty and in inviting questions into all those arenas. Because our postmodern fellow Canadians aren't going to buy the black-and-white modernist solution to everything."
"... I'm connected to the larger church. I'm not just in this ghetto of trying to understand LGBT people. Rather it's, 'What contribution do LGBT people make to these bigger questions the church is facing?' And because they've had to wrestle with such intense matters of power and privilege and injustice and alienation and in the text and all of these things, they actually have a very critical contribution to make as the church sort of groans towards what is the next iteration of what we will be in our neighborhoods and in our cities."
"For me, what was hardest was the number of [LGBT] people who had lost their faith in the journey, but somehow the response of the church and their sense of who God was had become so warped and so twisted and so tortured that they could no longer buy into a system of faith that included Jesus and the Trinity and the atonement."
"At the time, New Direction, we were very small. We would get these random contacts: deeply devoted - often Evangelicals - who said, 'Okay, when I read the Bible, I think this is what it says. So please help me; I'm struggling, I'm struggling, I'm struggling!' But then I came to realize that those people five years down the pike, ten years down the pike, were the people who were so traumatized and sometimes had a shipwrecked faith. And so that majority ex-gay-survivor story was.... Within reparative circles basically the sense was, 'Don't believe them!' And I said, 'I can't not believe them! Why would they lie about this?' Just like I can't question somebody's story who says, 'God has healed me and changed me,' I also can't question the story of this human being who has shared vulnerability and openly what their experience has been."
"My way of engaging systemic change is to try to engage from the inside rather than sort of criticize from the outside. And so that's why it took the role of regional rep for Exodus."
"The idea that you would oppose protections for LGBT people from being fired or from being kicked out of your apartment... like, that was just bizarre to me. So contradictory to the gospel."
"This is long-haul ministry. The alienation and the hurt has happened over a long time and bringing life and repentance and hope into that is not going to be an overnight quick fix. And so part of my work I think is just sticking around."
"I've had crazy things said to me. Someone said, 'How do you live with yourself - with the blood of thousands of teenagers who've killed themselves on your hands? How do you live with yourself?' That's a pretty hard thing to hear. And I think our typical knee-jerk reaction is to say, 'It's not my fault. I didn't do it. This is the good stuff I've done.' And I've had to learn to resist that knee-jerk reflex and instead say, 'I'm sorry. I can't carry this. I can't live with this. But I acknowledge that thousands of teenagers have taken their lives because Christians got it so desperately wrong.'"
"To be willing to take [criticism] and not be defensive and not give explanations and give excuses – Christians aren't very good at that. Because it's hard. Who wants to carry the pain? Who wants to feel like the bad guy? Who wants to be blamed when you sort of feel like, 'Well really - thousands of kids haven't killed themselves because of me!' And yet to say, 'No. It's not about me. It's about being in-place-of. Being incarnational. Being willing to acknowledge and say this is why we need Jesus.' Because none of us can carry this! And Christians have screwed up so terribly; we need to fall on our knees before a gracious and merciful, loving God who weeps and so laments that his people have so gotten it wrong."
Next Week's Episode 23
Guest: Wendy VanderWal-Gritter (Part 2)