a few years now decades, a certain tension festered within my church denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA). One might say it is The Gay. Or Biblical Inerrancy. Or Social Justice. Or Any Number of Other Polarizing Issues. There tend to be broad coalitions that form along different sides of The Issues, although don't assume, my friends. In theology queer bedfellows abound.
If you've followed this blog and the goings on of the PC (USA) over the last few years, you're probably up to date on our Troubles. But here's a quick synopsis (in 3 easy steps) for those who don't care at least as much as I do:
1) Last year the PC (USA) amended its Rule Book to allow the ordination of individuals sexually active outside of marriage (which is defined by that rule book as between one man and one woman). Effectively this means that we can ordain Queerly Partnered Queer Folk (and as critics are wont to point out: Philanderers too).
2) This caused some people in the PC (USA) to make a Joyful Noise unto the Rock of Our Salvation and to dance about as Miriam did with tambourines. I personally danced in front of my
castle apartment in an ephod. I also raised my ebenezer (which I used to think was a beer mug, but it's not.)
3) This caused some people in the PC (USA) to say "Eek!" and "Ew!" and "Abomination Unto the Lord, Verily!" and "We're Dying!" I thought for a while this was because of my ephod, but others tell me it's really because of the New Rules.
This week the #3 folks are meeting en masse and announced the creation of a new Presbyterian denomination. For a thousand reasons (race, gender, power/control issues etc) besides the fact that I am unrepentantly queer, I will not join them. But the fact that I am unrepentantly queer sorta puts the nail in the coffin. I was tempted though, because they met in Orlando. And yesterday my heater went out in my apartment in New Jersey. I might have given up the gay today in exchange for heat.
Frankly, though, I've been a bit busy with sorting out some life matters, and I didn't realize the #3 folks were meeting this week. It was sort of floating in the back of my head that the meeting was soon, but when I woke up people were tweeting with hashtags and countertweeting and accusing each other of snark and asshattery. I threw a log or two on the fire--why not?
Then a random exchange this afternoon occurred on twitter. One of my tweeps tweeted this:
Something in my head snapped at this exchange and I responded to the good friar and the good professor that I don't need anyone to declare my sexual relations holy. It may have been the use of the royal We that the Friars are fond of, but it's just as likely that what snapped in my head was a weariness at being discussed and tossed about like a volleyball between #3 folks and #2 folks.
Both the good friar and the good professor have offered me hospitality and companionship, and I am very fond of them. And in this exchange it occurred to me that this is exactly right--I do not need anyone in the church (or out of it) to declare my sexual relations (or lack thereof) to be holy. God and God alone declares what is holy and what sacrifices to accept. It is my judgment call what to offer.
I've been caught up some in this Presbyterian Melodrama, worried with the rest of us about what will happen if we split in two. Will the Fellowship become a Gaping Vortex of Doom sucking congregations and money out of the PC (USA)? Will the PC (USA) become a Den of Iniquity where people are allowed to marry their toasters and pets? If we tie ourselves to the
tracks cross, will Dudley Do-Right Jesus come to save the day?
I have been trying, with some success, to be content with my current life situation. I find myself excited about the prospect of piecing together small pieces of ministry close to home. I look at the blank map of new church developments for the PC (USA), and I think maybe I could add a dot to the map. In fact, for the last several weeks, this is what I have been thinking about when I wasn't thinking about the fact that my heater went out and the roof was leaking. But this Melodrama keeps interrupting my focus.
As I thought about the Melodrama unfolding, and my own epiphany tonight that I do not need humans to declare my sexuality good or holy, I thought too of how we ministers tend to get into ministry to fulfill a deep thirst for external validation. We like being liked. We like being considered good at our jobs. We thirst to appear righteous. Attention feels like a lover itself (part of why I have
a blog two blogs). The #3 folks and the #2 folks are vying for all kinds of attention right now, me along with them. (I will do penance for this attention seeking blogpost later.)
Here's what I know: I'm not leaving the PC (USA). Some people are going to. You're really either okay with homosexuality or you're not. And either way there's a whole lot of ministry that needs to happen. I wasn't afraid of ending a marriage, a ministry, or a PhD program. I'm not afraid of a bunch of folks walking out of this denomination and taking their money with them. There will still be the ministry around this leaky apartment to get to no matter what happens in Orlando.
I don't have time to worry about churches that are anti-lgbtq, nor do I have time to listen to how they aren't really anti-lgbtq and that they love the gays. Actually, I believe they do love the gays, it's just the kind of love I've learned to avoid. I have scandalous books to read and obnoxious blog posts to write. And I've got some odd jobs to complete, a house to clean, children to raise. I still need to put away my Christmas tree decorations.
I got caught up in the Melodrama today, and it reminded me of driving the car with my son. A while back he developed the habit of kicking my windshield from the passenger seat just to hear me scream. Here's how it went:
*kick kick kick*
"CHILD! Stop that! You know better! I've said this before a thousand times. When you kick the windshield the crack gets bigger. You're going to break my windshield, and I don't have the money to fix it. Do you have the money to pay for it?"
and on it goes.
Then I'd look over at my child sitting there and he would smirk. At which point I lost my grip on sanity. (This is not a metaphor or a joke. Raising these boys has been hard.)
One day I decided I wasn't going to play this game anymore. I decided I didn't care if he broke the windshield, but I wasn't going to watch him smirk while I freaked out. This is how it went that day:
*kick kick kick*
*kick kick kick kick kick*
*kick kick kick kick kick kick kick* "Hey MOM"
"What is it, son?"
"Do you see this?" *kick kick kick kick kick*
"What? Oh, the leaves are turning! Isn't that pretty?"
*kick kick kick* "No, MOM! LOOK!" *kick kick kick*
"Oh, you're right, they opened that rest stop again."
"Arggh! No, MOM, I'm kicking the windshield!" *kick kick kick*
"Did you say something, honey?"
"Oh forget it! It's no fun if you're not going to react. Man, your therapist is GOOD."
He stopped after that. Mostly. Every now and then he kicks the windshield to see what I'll do. I have to stop myself from getting dragged back in to the Melodrama, because that self-righteous rant about how he's going to work off the cost of that windshield at $5/hour for the rest of his life feels pretty good. It feels better than worrying about fixing the broken windshield, actually.
It's worth reading Matthew 10:8-15 to remind us of a call to ministry:
Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for labourers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgement than for that town.
So. Go do good. And do it for free. Find good people and say hello to them. If they will listen to you, stay a while. If they won't, keep it moving. Let God sort it out in the end, cuz they'll get theirs.
So I'm wiping the dust. Because Jesus didn't say "Keep on at each other's throats until you have converted the other to your way of thinking." Jesus said keep it moving and don't worry about the money. So I'm going to minister, right here in the PC (USA), and if brothers and sisters feel compelled to get out of dodge, I'm going to wave goodbye and get back to my work. There's things to DO, and if you're not sure what, go read this sermon by the Rev. Dr. Margaret Aymer Oget.
And if you need courage, go read "When Visions Are Rare" by the same Rev. Dr. Margaret Aymer Oget.
But for God's sake, let's stop boring each other with the posturing and posing. There's work to be done, and it doesn't do itself. We don't have to like each other and we don't have to agree. Although stranger things have happened.