Saturday, February 10, 2018

Alan McCornick on Cardinal Marx, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship on LGBTQ Employees, Heated Debate About Progressive Evangelicals and LGBTQ Lives: News

I'd like to recommend today good commentary by my friend Alan McCornick about the story of Cardinal Marx and the case of the disappearing yes (aka, My God! No! We can't possibly bless you!).  Alan's commentary, entitled "The price of a blessing," is at his Hepzibah blog. Alan speaks German fluently and has an advantage many of us lack, when it comes to reading and summing up what the German media have been saying about this story.

Here's Alan's conclusion:

Marx was given an opportunity to answer that question about whether the church could bless gay couples with a clear yes. He could still harbor the thought that these people are living in sin but see the grace of God extended to all believers, sinners and folk of the straight-and-narrow alike, as well as everybody in between. Are sinners (if that's what they are) not worthy of blessings? But he chose instead to remain in the good standing with his authoritarian bosses instead of joining with the large-tent contingent. Fine. The Catholic Church in Germany has a long history of enabling authoritarians — I don't need to mention names. Marx will go down in history as just another one. 
Maybe in a hundred years there will be a sea change and people will no longer need to believe God wants men on top, women on the bottom. And that hetero reproductive sex is the only permissible way to be erotic and passionate.  It's possible these notions will go the way of astrology and a belief in unicorns, and there will be more room for real love and compassion. In the meantime, lesbians and gays will no doubt go on fooling themselves into thinking they’re simply being forced to sit in the back seat when actually they are outside the car being dragged along the road on a rope.

The My God, no, we can't possibly bless you! story is not confined to the Catholic context. What Alan has to say about Cardinal Marx's . . . circumlocution . . . when he was asked whether the church can bless same-sex couples is one facet of a bigger story that is unfolding all around us right now.  Just yesterday, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which broke away from the Southern Baptist Convention some years back after the SBC made a hard-right turn, announced that it is lifting its "absolute ban" on the hiring of openly LGBTQ people in CBF institutions. 

But: and there's always a "but" (yes, the church can bless same-sex couples, but this must be done on a case by case basis with pastoral discernment in each case): people with leadership roles and people occupying missionary positions in the CBF cannot be same-sex married couples or openly LGBTQ people. They must be single and celibate or traditionally married.

The . . . circumlocutions . . . in this particular story are already leading to the same kind of dueling headlines we saw in the My God, no, we can't possibly bless you! story. While Baptist Press, to which I have just provided a link, heads its story with the headline, "CBF nixes 'absolute' LGBT hiring ban, maintains it for leaders," Baptist Standard spins the story somewhat differently with a headline, "CBF revises hiring policy; lifts LGBT ban for some posts."

This decision is now resulting in serious fallout in CBF churches that had committed themselves unambiguously to full acceptance and full welcome of LGBTQ people and LGBTQ couples. Period. No ambiguity. No invidious distinctions. Just this morning, I received, along with a long list of other folks, an email from a pastor of one of these CBF-affiliated churches that has worked long and hard for full welcome and full inclusion of LGBTQ, people signaling that his church will now have some hard decisions to make about its CBF connection.

As I read this news this morning, I was reminded of a passage in the book David Gushee published last year, Still Christian: Following Jesus Out of American Evangelicalism (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2017), in which he states,

With the characteristic paralysis of the Southern moderate, CBF neither affirmed my theological work [on the "gay issue"] nor rejected it on theological grounds. The organization quietly dismissed me from service not because of a principled theological conviction but based on pressure from that part of its constituency that would not abide my continuing in any official CBF role. 
The "gay issue" has not gone away from CBF, and more and more voices within that faith community have come around to the conclusions that I have drawn, while others remain resolute in their opposition (p. 140).

And there's more: a few days ago, Shane Claiborne of the progressive evangelical group Red Letter Christians, announced that this group will sponsor a revival — a gathering of progressive evangelicals — in April in Lynchburg, Virginia, where Jerry Falwell, Jr.'s, Liberty University is located:

This announcement is now sparking energetic discussion on Twitter about whether a group of evangelicals can really call themselves progressive when they do not (as Shane Claiborne does not) explicitly and unambiguously affirm LGBTQ people and same-sex marriage. Eliel Cruz, an openly bi journalist and activist who was formerly executive director of Faith in America, responds to Claiborne's announcment with this tweet:

Matthew Vines, author of God and the Gay Christian, seconds Eliel and backs him up:

Kevin Miguel Garcia adds to the discussion,

And Rachel Held Evans, author of Searching for Sunday, responds to Garcia,

Patience Pearson responds to Rachel, Matthew, Eliel, and Shane,

David Peters adds,

Dianna Anderson, author of Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity, thinks that Shane Claiborne's replies to the important critical questions all these tweeters are putting to him are simply insufficient and evasive:

Brantley Gassaway, author of Progressive Evangelicals and the Pursuit of Social Justice, states,

And then Brantley adds,

Broderick Greer concludes,

It seems obvious to me that the "gay issue" is not going to go away. It can't go away until Christian churches and organizations, which claim theoretically to be about love, justice, and mercy, address it transparently and unambiguously. Until they move beyond the yes and no that leave a group of fellow human beings in the limbo state of being partly blessed but partly excluded, partly loved but partly unloved, partly affirmed as human while partly treated as less than human . . . . 

To move beyond ambiguity requires a step I have not yet seen many Christian leaders, Christian organizations, Christian journalists and academics willing to take: it requires honest confession that the churches have made an idol of heterosexual maleness, and honest confession of the cruelty and damage that have been visited on many hapless human beings through the worship of this idol. It requires honest confession on the part of heterosexual male Christian leaders that they enjoy and have long enjoyed unmerited power and privilege that have allowed them to lord it over women and queer people — damaging themselves in the process, even as they inflict damage on those "less than" themselves.

People on top, people with unmerited power and privilege, are seldom keen to relinquish their power and privilege — even (or especially?) when it's unmerited. In the case of heterosexual male leaders of Christian institutions, there's longstanding theological blessing of this power and privilege, bolstered by the assumption that God is something like a heterosexual male writ large in the sky. A heterosexual white male writ large in the sky . . . .

It's going take a long time for that theological assumption to be dispelled, as women, queer folks, people of color, and others question it. This assumption is being fiercely defended by the current U.S. White House and its backers, and it is, to a great degree, why the straight white men occupying the White House are lodged there, given the power to enforce this theological assumption and inflict misery on women, queer folks, and people of color. See: Rob Porter story.

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