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Monthly Archives: June 2014

“Colleges and Evangelicals Collide on Bias Policy”

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A June 9th article in the New York Times reports on an issue between evangelical student groups at Bowdoin College in Maine and the college. In fact, this is just one example in an ongoing 20+ year “battle” — I remember these same issues coming up when I was an undergraduate student.

The underlying issue, depending on who you ask, is either (a) the freedom or student organizations to choose their own leaders based on their own criteria; or (b) the principle that, on campus, student organizations (sanctioned and often supported by the school) should not be able to discriminate against anybody based on religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

[Before I offer my thoughts on the issue, some full disclosure: in college, I was an active member of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at two different schools; in fact, I was a leader at both — at one, I was “president” and in the other I was a small group leader as well as a leader on the “Outreach Team”.  Additionally, after graduation, I was advisor/campus minister for the Young Life chapter on campus (focused on leadership development) and was later a campus minister/pastor working on campus for three different churches — an evangelical church, a Roman Catholic Church, and the post-denominational church that I helped plant. I am also a friend of and supporter of Young Life staff, InterVarsity staff, and Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) staff. I should also add that my experience with both YL and IV were totally formative in my faith and discipleship and I am deeply thankful for both organizations.]

It is also worth noting that all of those organizations — evangelical, parachurch groups — hold a more-or-less anti-gay position. They teach that homosexuality is sinful — and that all sexual activity outside of a heterosexual marriage is sinful.  This should not come as a surprise. While I think their rejection of monagamous, committed, life-long, Christ-centered gay relationships (gay marriage) is both morally and theologically (Biblically) wrong, it should be noted that this is the dominant historical position within Christianity.

So what do I think?  Should groups like InterVarsity and Cru and others be allowed to deny membership or leadership positions to non-believers, LGBT students, or those who do not share their particular theological beliefs?  My answer is OF COURSE THEY SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO DO SO!

Here is why I believe we should allow these groups to discriminate:

1. Schools (especially public schools) should not be in the business of trying to determine what is a legitimate theological belief and what is not. Groups should be allowed to self-define membership, etc.  

2. The nature of the college experience is to foster discussion, celebrate real diversity (including of opinion), and to be a forum for different ideas. I think it is important that some student organization exists for all students, but not that every group must be for all students.  

3. Beyond religious groups, there are many groups that may want to and benefit from similar “discrimination”: a Rape Survivors Group, a Transgender Support Group, certain cultural/ethnic student groups, groups based on common major or interest or skill set, political groups, etc, etc.  

4. People vote with their feet — students are free to not join these groups, to protest these groups or to start their own groups. (For the record, I would love to see a progressive evangelical parachurch presence on campus… anyone what to pursue that idea?)

5. The campus community is best served by an openness to ideas — even ideas we don’t like or agree with — as opposed to a controlled and limited approach.

So ultimately I believe that these groups — often affiliated with national organizations — should be allowed to choose their own leadership based on their own criterion.

All of that said, the other piece of the puzzle has to do with funding. Often student organizations are funded by student fees, either distributed by the school directly or via some form of student activity board or student council or student government. I remember as an undergrad being involved with some of the discussions about how the money should be distributed.  Should an organization that has 200 members get the same amount as an organization that has 6 members?  Should all ethnic/cultural groups get the same funding?  And what about religious groups?  And especially religious groups that may discriminate?

I think it is a bad idea for the university/college administration to deny funding or access to campus facilities to these groups. However, if through the democratic process of student government, students choose to defund these groups, then that is within the rights of the student body — and a lesson in democracy, either good or bad (depending on your perspective).  And while I believe these evangelical religious groups have a right to meet, gather, worship, pray, choose their own leaders, etc, that is not the same thing as saying they have a right to funding, access to campus facilities, etc.  They can meet off campus in a church or coffee shop, in a dorm room, etc.  

So there are some definite complicated issues here. And while you might expect me to come down on the side of inclusion and being anti-discrimination, I think that the benefit of an open forum where these groups exist and are part of the discussion/community/etc, far out-weighs any downside.

THOUGHTS? 

 

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
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The Gay Christian Conundrum – Three Authors Discuss Their Journeys

I’m excited about this event coming to the Mark Twain House on June 24th, 7:00PM.

This promises to be a dynamic discussion between Jeff Chu, author of the book “Does Jesus Really Love Me?” (which includes a chapter about my story); Justin Lee, founder and president of The Gay Christian Network as well as the author of the book “Torn”; and former born-again believer and now atheist Chris Stedman, author of the book “Faitheist”.

I really loved Jeff’s book and have enjoyed his writing over the past few years. I also really appreciate his personal story, intelligence and openness.

While I never met Justin, I am a bog fan of his blog, book and work at GCN. I’m excited to hear him in person and to meet him.

Both Jeff and Justin — like me — have arrived a place where we can say and affirm that we are followers of Jesus who are also gay. Chris, on the other hand, has landed in a different place, having left the faith after becoming born again in his youth. While I have not read his book, I look forward to hearing his story as well.

I highly recommend attending this event — it really should be great! Let me know if you plan on going!  You should register for the event here.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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5 Year Anniversary

I haven’t posted anything on this blog in quite a while… since January… which coincidentally is when I started my new job.  Working 70 hours a week, 6 days a week, doesn’t lend itself to blogging.  But I have noticed that traffic on the blog is still pretty solid, so thanks for that.

Today, just some quick thoughts… Memorial Day Weekend marked 5 years since I left full time ministry.  It is easy to remember because it happened on a holiday weekend.  And it always causes me to reflect upon where I am, how God is working in my life, etc.

Simply put, five years later life is good. I love my job and have done well professionally. While my work schedule does not allow me to be fully invested in the life of a local church, I am blessed by the church I am a member of and the community I am surrounded by.  I am continually thankful for my family and have found that I grow closer and closer to them each year and value time spent with them more and more. I am still ordained, still preach on occasion, still officiate a few weddings… and yes, I do miss full time ministry. And yes, I would not be surprised if God calls me back into it sometime down the line. I feel like the grace-filled work of reconciliation continues and is fruitful.  And I am thankful for that.  Overall, life is good and God is great.

Now some broader reflections on the church and LGBT issues…

We are at a critical point in our society — and in our churches — on this issue. And LGBT folks — both in the church and outside the church — continue to wrestle with these issues individually. Each day seems to bring about another person sharing their coming out story or a straight person sharing how they have changed their views — followed by condemnation and attacks from traditionalists.  

Here is my general take:

Individual LGBT people have two options:

1. Accept the narrative that their sexual/relational desires are evil and sinful and choose to live with a certain level of hiddeness, self-hatred and internal angst.

2. Accept that being LGBT is one aspect of who we are and that God loves us as we are — and that we must learn to love ourselves as our God loves us.

One path leads to death — relational, spiritual and too often and for too many, physical.  The other leads to life.

And churches have two options:

1. Continue the narrative that LGBT people are inherently evil and sinful because of their sexuality and that they must conquer, destroy or grin-and-bear their sexuality in order to fully be part of the faith community and experience the fullness of relationship with God.

2. Continue to embrace, welcome and walk with LGBT folks — both believers and seekers — while affirming God’s unconditional love and the gifts / passions / talents that LGBT people bring to the church.

One path produces death — relational, spiritual and too often and for too many, physical.  The other leads to life.

My prayer this coming year is that more and more LGBT folks would choose the path of life. And that more and more churches would continue to point people to the path of life and to walk with them on that path.

We will be healthier for it. Our churches will be healthier for it. And God will be glorified by it.

THOUGHTS?

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
 
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