Tough Cases

Though the Bible is relevant at all times, it’s awfully hard to find passages that speak directly to the latest situations confronting the church in the West. In New Hampshire the Episcopal church is rapidly approaching a split over the election of a gay bishop, while the church of England is swept up in a controversy over the ordination of a bisexual person (formerly a he, now a she). Each of these issues are complex and arouse a myriad of emotions from both sides entangled in the controversies. How can the body of Christ stay together and still move forward in the midst of this crippling situation?

The Bible very clearly speaks out against homosexual behavior, and a good study of this can be found in William Webb’s book: Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis. So I don’t see how a person who truly takes the Bible seriously can condone the selection of a practicing homosexual into the clergy.

Nevertheless, no matter how wrong you may think this election is, the key issue seems to lay more in our reaction to it. Truly God is the one who makes the final judgment, we can only provide warnings and offer critique, pointing this bishop to the truth as we think it has been revealed in scripture. But the truth of the matter is that division seems to be a lose-lose situation for all involved. In addition, let’s face it, gay people have to put up with hell. You don’t have to read a lot of stories by David Sedaris to realize how mean people can be to a gay kid. So I want to be compassionate and understanding to this bishop and prospective priest. My disapproval of their behavior and selection are not the same as my hate and wrath.

In the case of the woman who used to be a man, I find that such a situation is beyond everything I’ve ever experienced or known. I don’t know how deep her pain runs, how alienated and rejected she must have felt, and how much damage must have been done to her in the process of changing her sex. It seems odd to me, beyond explanation, and I have no idea what God thinks of all this. It’s hard enough to say anything about her choice of lifestyle, but to think of her as clergy seems to be impossible. To a certain degree I want to pull back, keep my thoughts to myself, and leave it up to God. But in another sense, he has given us a role within the body to speak truth and words of rebuke to one another. When do we speak up? What should we say, if anything?

And so how do we find out way out of this maze? How can we show love and maintain unity, while also pointing out sin for what it is? All too often I find myself falling for the same old boring answer. By the Spirit of God we will know what to say and when to say it. I am humbled and overwhelmed at the complexity of these issues. They push me to the end of my knowledge and wisdom. I have nothing constructive to add to the discussion but to point to God. In one sense, who are we to say anything in judgment of anyone else? But in another sense, when God places a message on our lips and it burns in our hearts, who are we to hold it inside and not say it? In either case we think too much of ourselves.

So let us think less of ourselves and more of God, praying earnestly for wisdom and the right words. We truly are deeply in need of his guidance.