It's something the church has been talking a whole heck of a lot about in the past few years, whether it's behind the scenes in policy meetings or out front in the media. Same-sex marriage. Partnered gay men and women who are committed Jesus-followers. Married, faithful gay couples loving and serving in the church. And every one of us, whether tacitly or after much consideration, has an opinion about it. But do we know from whence our opinion comes? In this episode, Mark gives a rundown of all the most-referenced Scripture passages used in the in-house debate and explains some of the varying ways of interpreting those passages - not to argue for a side, but to demonstrate that this is a complex, disputable matter - for a people, the church, who are called not to dispute even while holding Scripture as authoritative. That's where Wendy comes in.
This week in Part 2 of the conversation with Mark, Wendy VanderWal-Gritter 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 in affirming community.
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Notable Quotes from Wendy VanderWal-Gritter
"We can – not easily – but we can prioritize unity with an understanding that our unity in the church despite our differences affects our public witness. And if anything has decimated the church's public witness in North America, it's the topic of homosexuality. And so this idea of working towards unity in diversity with a hermeneutic of humility that says no one is a perfect interpreter of Scripture. We all need to be willing to say, 'I could be wrong. I really don't think I am and I've done my homework and I've studied and I've wrestled and I've fasted and I've prayed and I've waited and I've listened to people and I've done exegetical work and all that stuff. I'm pretty sure I'm right, but humility tells me to acknowledge that I could be wrong. And I don't have the full picture. I can always listen to a fellow sister or brother in Christ who sees things differently, and be open to the ways the spirit of God is going to show up in that conversation and potentially reveal something new to me."
"So this conviction that to be an incarnational people means we are willing to strip our power and privilege, we need to cloak ourselves with humility, and we can have conversations with one another even when we differ. Because Jesus in John 17 prayed that we would be one. That was his priority - so that the world would know that the Father had sent the Son; the world would see something good about a disparate group of people who have radically different ideas from one another, still loving one another, still worshiping together, still feeding the poor together, still working for justice, that that would be revolutionary in the world. And that's what I wanted to do with Generous Spaciousness."
"In the Exodus context, we were basically told to view people who were affirming of same-sex relationships as having a counterfeit faith or being deceived by the enemy. The problem is, Jesus said you will know a good tree by the good fruit it bears and I was seeing deeply faithful people - as far as I knew and I'm not God so I could be wrong - but I was no longer willing to write off an entire part of the body of Christ, which was increasing in number, that affirmed that somehow there was grace and there was blessing in that covenants that sexual minorities made to one another."
"Our differences are not a problem to fix. They are an opportunity for us to mature, to grow up, to listen to one another, to learn the discipline of dialogue, instead of just debating and turfing the guys who lose. This is a way we can be spiritually formed and shaped as a community, and when we do that, the people around us are going to be attracted to: 'Who is this Jesus guy that helps these people live and love together?'"
"[Tolerance] is a way I suppose in Canadian sensibilities to be nice to one another, but certainly people have a sour taste in their mouth because it's not really honest, it's not really robust, it doesn't actually grapple with beliefs and values. Hospitality is very different than that. Hospitality says, 'I, out of the call of the gospel, offer myself as a host to welcome you into my home. We will break bread together and I will welcome your viewpoint, and we will converse about it, and I will risk opening myself to hear you out with the sort of childlike wonder, 'Where will I encounter God in the midst of this?' Now the end of the day, we might radically disagree. But we will not radically disagree as enemies, we will radically disagree as people who have broken bread together, who have shared a home together, who have have some relational interaction."
"Hospitality is this strategy of God - the Power of powerlessness. It allows a different perspective to have a place at the table with honour."
"It's not like hospitality has no boundaries, but it is a posture that relinquishes power for the sake of humanizing one another."
"I love Desmond Tutu's quote...: 'If I diminish you, I diminish myself.' And we seem to have somehow have forgotten that in the body of Christ that we can somehow dehumanize people who are Christians, people of other faiths, people who believe differently than we do. And it's just not true. We are unified in being image bearers of God. All things hold together in Christ; God is about the work of reconciling and redeeming all things. And so we do not have an invitation to dehumanize another person who believes differently than we do. And I think that's a radical message that the church needs to recover and have a new imagination for the ways that we can be makers of peace."
"One part of the body cannot say to another part, 'I have no need of you.' And so that's a huge energy behind generous spaciousness. It's not this wishy-washy compromise where we link arms, sing Kumbaya, and everyone gets along real nice to each other. No. It's actually something that costs us much more. It costs us our superiority. It costs us our arrogance in presuming that we are right and everyone else is wrong. It opens ourselves up to critique to being challenged. But the challenge is also an invitation to grow, to learn more, to see more of God."
"If all good things come from the Father of Lights, then we ought not to be threatened by the idea that we might encounter God in the person we disagree with."
"One of the difficulties is that Evangelicals and probably others in the body of Christ to have become very suspicious of experience. We are very afraid of the subjective. And there are good aspects to wanting to test the spirits and not just kind of go with every wind and breath of teaching. But in mistrusting our own spiritual intuition, in a way, we have become very disconnected from the ways that God is moving now today. And so we go to written words on a page and say, 'That's the only safe way to encounter God.' And we have impoverished ourselves. Which is not to say that experience ought to rule everything carte blanche. I mean clearly God gives us guidance within Scripture about how to ensure that we are actually hearing God and not just being deceived. But I think we become so anxious and worried about self-deception or twisting Scripture to make it say what we want it to say, that we've prevented people from listening to their own hearts."
"It's risky to be open. But if Jesus said the gates of hell will not prevail against the church, and if the apostle John reminds us that perfect love drives out fear, then why are we letting fear be the dominant energy of how we're trying to navigate this turbulent and tumultuous time?"
"I think every community is trying to find their way. The way we can navigate this with the most love is humility, open conversations, a willingness to extend some space to one another, and I think if leadership is restricted from LGBTQ people who are partnered, that leadership needs to get in relationship with other communities - faith communities in their region - who are affirming of LGBT people in leadership, with the trust that God is bigger than our theological position on this matter. And rather than turfing someone to the curb because it's their desire to be in leadership and we don't agree with their theology, we are going to release them with blessing to another community. That's not a perfect solution; that is a reality of living between the now and the not-yet. But we do that relationally; we know the other community. We maintain a sense of connection."
"We don't need to be threatened by a theological difference on this matter. It's not a salvation matter. It's not an essential matter.... This is not a matter of Scriptural authority; this is a matter of Scriptural interpretation. I think that people can absolutely hold that the Scripture is authoritative for their lives and interpret it differently."
"We have clear guidance on how to be brothers and sisters on these things. And I think because we're so freaked out by sexuality and this has become such a politicized power matter - that the anxiety is very high. The thing is, the gospel of Jesus Christ invites us to relinquish power and to not be energized by anxiety and fear. So, friends, if we read the gospel, we have all that we need to live a life of godliness."
"If we can cultivate non-anxiety, I think we have a very hopeful way forward without perpetuating polarity and enmity that has decimated our witness and profoundly wounded LGBTQ people. It is not necessary to do that."
Next Week's Episode 24
Guest: Arthur Boers, author, minister, professor