The Blog

On Church Silence

*blows dusts off keyboard* It’s back!

One night I asked my roommate to do something small in our apartment. Super small. Something that would be super easy, barely and inconvenience for him. Turn on a light. I said very politely, “Could you turn on that light for me.” And he said no. Maybe he didn’t hear me, so I asked again. “Could you turn on that light for me?” This time with a high inflection, and a look of childlike innocence. Again, he said no. A bit more confused, I asked a third time in the sweetest tone I could muster, “Could you please turn on that light?” To which he turned on the light and uttered “And we got there!” He was waiting for me to say the magic word ‘please.’

I have this theory from my years in customer service that if the words, ‘thank you’, ‘please’, and ‘you’re welcome’, were assumed defaults in our culture, we would get along better with one another better. It’s the practice of positive assumptions. We would assume a person said ‘thank you’ after receiving something, and all requests had ‘please’ in front of them. No longer would we walk away thinking, “Oh that person was really rude.” But we are not there. For my roommate, it didn’t matter the polite, lighthearted tone of my request, and it didn’t matter that I’ve lived with my roommate for several years and he knows that I’m generally a polite person, it didn’t matter that my intent wasn’t to be rude either. It mattered that I say, “please” when I request him to do something.

On May 25th, George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis Police Officers. It is hard to believe how much the world has slowed down since then. Peaceful protests were met with more police brutality. (Reinforcing the protestors points.) There was looting and smashing of windows, but property and object can be replaced. George Floyd’s life cannot; Breonna Taylor’s life cannot; Ahmaud Arbery’s life cannot; neither, as my pastor last Sunday said, can “the names of all the black lives that have been stolen by the pernicious evil of white supremacy”. Racism is sin. White supremacy is evil. Both have no place in the Kingdom of God, nor with God’s people. It should go without saying, but sometimes we need to repeat it. Say it out loud. Remind ourselves of our path. The Church needs to be saying this again and again. Just like we do with Easter. Christians know the Easter story by heart, but that still doesn’t stop us from we say it every year, “He is risen.”

As the protests spread from Minneapolis to all 50 states; PR and DC; and at least 18 countries, in what could be the largest civil rights protest movement the planet has ever seen, the Church of the Nazarene remained silent for nearly a week, before they issued a generic statement about non-discrimination. More days past, more silence. Then a call to prayer and fasting that only gave 1 sentence to address “racism as a virus”. We know from past experience that if this was a natural disaster or same-sex marriage, the Church would have a statement ready to go. Why is this time different? That got me frustrated, I commented, asking them to say affirm that black lives matter, and I got me blocked by the Church of the Nazarene on social media.

It was against my better judgement that I checked-in on them. I was flabbergasted that no one had urged or suggested them to do more. Not a single comment questioned the context of the statement. Just a long list of people saying “amen.” The ask is simple. Say from your platform, black lives matter, so all Nazarenes will be on the same page. And ironically that got me blocked, not the 4.5 years I lobbied the Church to be more LGBTQ affirming with Nazarene Ally.

During my time doing Nazarene Ally, I often found myself being exhausted and drained by having to share my story, over and over and over and over again. Dispelling the same myths and bad theology was so taxing on me. I pipped up now because I can empathize with being worn out from trying to educate the masses on a topic. I can only imagine how much more tiresome it is for black Nazarenes who want to roll their eyes and say “Geez this conversation again?” with their white Nazarene colleagues but can’t because they don’t want to be “that guy” or come off as being too emotional.

I remember being in a Sunday School class at Bethany First Church a few months after I came out. The teacher was an old professor of mine who I felt safe enough coming out to months ago. He asked us at the tables to discuss who each of us define sin. After some time, people would share each table’s definition. The table next to me went, and gave their definition, “Doing things that are evil.” My professor dug a little deeper, “How do you define what is evil?” The spokesperson said, “Well, stuff that they say don’t do in the bible. Like gay marriage and stuff.” My heart started racing. I started sweating. My table was next. Should I ignore that comment? Or should I stand up for myself as the only gay in a room full of straight people? This happened to me as an adult, and I felt extremely powerless.

How often in Nazarene spaces is the topic of race brought up, or a racist joke told, or a micro-aggression done, and there is only one person of color present? What if this happened in a Jr. High Sunday School class and the teacher is the one who said it? Maybe I’m starting in the wrong spot… do White Nazarenes even know what a micro-aggression is? Do they even notice that for long periods of time they are all white spaces?

The Church of the Nazarene is wildly out of touch with what is going on outside its wall and needs to do a better job of dismantling systems of oppression, protecting the marginalized and standing up for those who’s voices aren’t being heard. Being anti-racist is a journey not ‘X’ you tick off on your resume and move on. I’m on this journey too, full of stumbles and taking steps forward. But, you might be thinking, “you can’t judge a book by its social media feed.” What if there are churches that are doing anti-racist things but aren’t posting about it? That is true, not all churches use social media the same, and there are church in the Nazarene umbrella doing their part to make their circles of influence more anti-racist. Sadly, they seem to be the exception to the rule. But it also proves my point that the leaders at the denominational level, aren’t highlighting these efforts at all. You better believe if there was a building campaign it would be all over on social media. Churches don’t talk about race because it’s hard, it makes people feel uncomfortable. But not talking about it got us in this mess. And they are not alone. It took some 150 years for the Southern Baptist Convention to apologize for their role in supporting Slavery.

This should be the Church’s Super Bowl, but instead of Ben & Jerry’s, Legos, football teams, hotel brands, drag queens and porn stars, are all louder in letting people know that black lives matter, racism is evil, and posting ways to uproot systemic racism. The Church is inside playing video games on Sega and ignoring the doorbell, while the rest of the world is outside protesting injustice. The Nazarene Church is forfeiting is right to speak truth to power by its continual silence. The Church needs to start reacting to racism as they do hurricanes and other natural disasters. They do a great job of letting people know where the crisis is, directing resources funds, and providing next steps for natural disasters. Why not systemic racism?

June 5th brought a ray of hope. A group called the “Black Strategic Response Team” issued a statement, under the USA/Canada arm of the Church, laid out the way forward for the Church of the Nazarene on racism. (This took a lot of digging to find their statement. Like looking for your keys in the living room and you find them in South Dakota. The USA/Canada website and Facebook page still have yet to post it.) Hopefully, the Church will listen and their suggestions to heart. Judging by the “all lives matter” comments, discussing racism in the Church of the Nazarene is not going to be an easy task.

There are a bunch of anti-racist resources for churches online already. It’s just a matter of putting the time, energy and money in. While they are fairly congregational, meaning the local churches have a lot of voice, they are still very hierarchical, top down for resources. That is why it is so important to have the Church of the Nazarene say unequivocally that black lives matter. It doesn’t hurt to say it and repeat what we know to be true. We already do this Christmas and Easter. We do this every time we say “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome.” We say it out loud, not for our benefit, but for the benefit of the receiver. It lets them know they are valued and respected. Their silence is speaking volumes about the character and nature of the Church.

If you’ve gotten this far, thank you. What is listed below is a million time more important that what I said above. Donate if you can. Thank you!

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All Good Things…

A little over 15 months ago, the Supreme Court of the United States issued their ruling in the historic Obergefell v. Hodges case. The 5-4 ruling made same-sex marriages legal across America. A truly remarkable win for LGBTQ rights, but certainly more work is needed to become a society that is fully inclusive, let alone a Church that is inclusive too. When people can still be fired because of their sexual orientation, or when transgender people are still being murdered, or when LGBTQ teens are bullied, kicked out of homes and even committing suicide, we know there is much more work to be done. As we celebrate this one victory, we must not forget that the job isn’t over, the goals have just shifted. We must remember marriage equality is the benchmark, not the finish line.

What does it say about the priorities of the Church of the Nazarene when within a couple of hours a press release was issued condemning the Supreme Court’s ruling, but took the Church almost 4 months to (barely) even mention Ferguson, Missouri? Solving “racial tensions” in an isolated press releases does little to effect change. Real life is a series of interconnected events and story lines that ebb and flow and weave in and out of one another. The way we talk about one, effects how we talk about another. When we remain silent on one issue, it effects our actions and perceptions of the others. You can learn a lot about the priorities of the Nazarene Church by what they choose to focus their press releases on. If the Church of the Nazarene focuses on the political du jour, more people are needed to answer the call to help fight injustice in our world.

You can find the full Church of the Nazarene statement here. There is nothing surprising in it. If you are a Nazarene you can walk away feeling very good that the Generals are protecting the “traditional values” of the Church and will continue to stay true to its core. It is not what they said that is upsetting, but rather, it is what they didn’t say, or rather waited too long to say anything about. The silence, and inaction on so many human rights grievances across the globe, and the continual focus on one United States issue prove one thing: The Church has made an idol of this issue.

There is more to one could say to critique the actions and inactions of the Church of the Nazarene this last year. Between scandals at NNU, MNU, SNU and NPH, headquarters has had its hands full. However, it is unsustainable for one blog to do so. (That should be reserved for the “Nazarene Ombudsman,” if such a position were to exist.) Over the last 5 years, Nazarene Ally has had different levels of engagement to foster conversations about human sexuality and gender identity. And how those topics engage with our Christian faith. Nazarene Ally is committed to providing online resources about what it means to be LGBT and Christian, and provide information on other social justice causes, because they are all interconnected to one another.

As the focus of the greater LGBTQ movement shifts, so must the focus of Nazarene Ally. Whereas there is still a need for LGBTQ people to share their stories, and find resources to help them reclaim a broken faith. It is, however, unsustainable for one blog to critique the missteps of an entire denomination.

We hope that we have helped at least one person find closure and healing from scars they have received.

We hope that the online resources will guide people to a welcoming, and affirming church, and we hope they get their as soon as possible.

We hope that we did some good.

June 26, 2015

A statement replying to the Church of the Nazarene’s statement.

“You can be gay and Christian. You can be married, gay, and Christian. Human sexuality is not a choice. Any statement you make otherwise is dehumanizing and promotes division. Remaining silent when your churches and your people make similar statements is just as bad.

Church, when you take several months to mention the names of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and the countless others slain by police brutality, yet have a statement ready to go within hours about marriage equality, you have made an idol of this issue.

Your statements are wolves in sheep’s clothing. You say “love wins” yet you will not let us lead worship, usher, teach Sunday School, or even greet. How can that be love if you still view us as the lesser?

Gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people are children of God, just like straight people are. Church, your stubbornness and unwillingness to admit faults has created a wedge between you and your LGBT+ and Ally members. Even still, we are called to forgive you for the transgressions you have done to us. Just as we ask you to forgive us for the faults you see in us during these discussions.

We look forward to the day that we will all be reconciled unto one another and to Christ. For we all come to the same Table, which is not ours but Christ’s. Gay or Straight, Trans or Cis, we are all partaking in the same communion.

Peace be with you.”

M15 Conference to Have Workshop on ‘Homosexuality’

M15 Conference returns to Kansas City after 8 years. The quadrennial conference focuses on missional efforts across the globe with special emphasis for the United States and Canada world areas.

According to a press release by NCN News, the upcoming conference is slated to have a workshop on ‘homosexuality’.

It could be a time of taking baby-steps towards a more open dialogue with Church Officials, laity, and the church’s LGBT members. More than likely it will just re-enforcing the Church’s rhetoric against LGBT people.

In 2013, the Church of Nazarene passed four amendments to the Church of the Nazarene Manual, defining who can be married, and encouraged Nazarenes not to support TV or movies with homosexual characters.

Read more about the conference at website below:

http://www.m15conference.org/

God and the Gay Christian: A Wesleyan Perspective

When I read Matthew Vines’ new book, God and the Gay Christian, I wished my younger self had had this book. I was a closeted gay guy who attended the very conservative, evangelical Church of the Nazarene, which for all intents and purposes is the little brother to the United Methodist Church, both of which are under the WesleyanArminianism faith tradition.

Whenever there is a situation that is hard to reconcile the first place a Wesleyan gets help is from the Bible. But we, Wesleyans, don’t use the Bible alone. We approach the situation using the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, a four-pronged test that helps us make sense of it. The Wesleyan Quadrilateral views the situation in the context of scripture, experience, reason and tradition. Vines’ book has put the issue of being a gay Christian perfectly into the framework of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.

In my many years as a closeted gay, I would secretly read articles about Christianity’s view of homosexuality and faith and feel hopeless. The pro-gay texts would negate the importance of scripture and emphasize experience. Which made me feel good because I wasn’t being told I was going to hell, but also made me feel heretical because I had to become a Marcionite to get there, which then made me feel like I was going to hell. The anti-gay texts would do the opposite; they negated all my experiences as a gay Christian in order to honor what the Bible says, and I’m back to hell without passing Go.

Vines’ book is different. He approaches the topic by placing high value to the role of scripture. The same way Wesleyans view it. He continues to balances that high value of scripture; with his experience of growing up a gay Christian in Kansas; defers to church tradition on its application of celibacy, marriage, and sexual orientation; and walks you through the reason and logic of supporting the case for same-sex marriage. This book could be the new benchmark in which all conversations about Christianity and homosexuality start.

The topic of homosexuality inside the Church is not without controversy. Critics are already saying that Harvard educated Vines has misused biblical hermeneutics (how scholars interpret the Bible) in order to manipulate his readers. I could write ad nauseam of the clichés and scare tactics opponents are saying about this book. My favorite critique says that Vines wrote the book as part of the larger gay agenda, timed perfectly to “introduce confusion within the evangelical firmament.” The Wesleyan Quadrilateral can test claims of the opposition too. How do they look on the backdrop of what we know of scripture on this topic; the experiences voiced by gay Christians; the traditions regarding the treatment of the other; and the reasoning’s behind such accusations?

I feel like God and the Gay Christian will have a depolarizing effect on a topic that has become über polarizing for the Church. A part of being Wesleyan means that I have to make room for everyone at the Lord’s Table, even those completely in opposition to my stance on same-sex marriage. Doing so unites us. Vines’ book lets us make room even for them.

Vines’ central theme isn’t solely finding Christian blessings of same-sex marriages, but rather our awareness of treating everyone as being created in the image of God. Vines masterfully bankrupts the church’s policy of exclusion and blanket celibacy for gays and lesbians by pointing out that we are to called and created be in relationship with one another because God is in relationship with God’s self (Father, Son, and Spirit). This lines up perfectly with the Wesleyan doctrine of social holiness. To paraphrase Jürgen Moltmann we are invited to participate in the perichoresis, or the circle dance, with God, and invite others to join.

My hope is that God and the Gay Christian will help people who are struggling to reconcile their personal faith with human sexuality like I was before I came out. Or maybe it will encourage people who are on the fence about this issue to boldly step out and engage in ways that help restore broken relationships and invite more people to the Table, and into the great circle dance.

As Time Goes By…

Every Sunday night the local PBS affiliates plays a set of British sit-com classics. The third one is called “As Time Goes By”. According to IMDB, “Lionel (Geoffrey Palmer) and Jean (Judi Dench) were lovers many years ago at the time of the Korean War. They are separated by a misunderstanding but meet again [years later] by chance.” It isn’t the funniest of the four, but its plot is solid. We watch them fall in love again. They had both moved on, many missing years separated them. We watch as they struggle to reconnect in their later years, in a brave new world of the 1990s, and with grown children of their own. Its probably the least funny, going for subtle realism comedy over the slap-stick and puns of the others, but I still watch it week after week.

In this season of Lent, I find myself separated from my love, and in a struggle to reconnect to it.

I was like most of you, just a kid going up in a church with a funny name: Nazarene. The 30-minute drive down Interstate 35 from Overland Park to Olathe takes forever when you are 4 years old. But every Sunday morning and night, then once more on Wednesday, I could be found some where inside Olathe College Church. I did what everyone else my age did. With the exception of winning the pine wood derby contest and a few “big parts” in the children’s musical, I was perfectly ordinary. Homely if you will. I went to “Big Church” with my parents and passed notes the whole time. I was in the Victor just like everyone else at CCN. In junior high I raised money to go on mission trips. I did what I was supposed to do. Some might say, I was literally the poster boy for NYI.

It was at that giant church in Olathe that I fell in love with a Jesus who did counter-cultural things, who taught that forgiveness and peace were better ways to make sense of the world. I fell in love with the Church, and how it ebbed and flowed with the seasons. How it created ways for people to connect to others. I fell in love with being a part of something so much bigger than myself.

Then the winds changed; a dust storm. I was naive enough to think that I could escape the storm unharmed. My expectation did not meet my reality. I was confronted with the reality that the policy trumps people.  I was naive enough to think they would bend the rules for me. That this time it would be different. I wasn’t some outsider. I grew up here. I can show you where I was sitting when I left to go pray at the altar and ask Jesus into my life. Just a few feet away is where I stood when I was given Minister’s License. The chaos of the storm separated me from my Church. I could have converted the entire planet to Christianity, but it would have been meaningless to those in Lenexa because of one issue: my sexual orientation.

Because this issue has been blown out of proportion, I feel like that’s all anyone sees me as, a gay rebel-rouser who should stop complaining because “I knew the rules when I signed up.” In the solitude of Lent, and in the darkness of my personal Gethsemane I ask God questions I am too afraid to speak publicly:

“If Christians see me as terrible, maybe God sees me this way too…”

“Why did You make me gay?”

“Why did I even start this foolish blog?”

“Maybe I’m wrong, maybe it is sinful to be gay…”

“Am I doing any good for You or the Church? Or am I just like that “reformed” guy but barking on the other side of issues?”

Lent’s introspection has forced me to deal with the spiritual pains of this separation. Will I ever get back to the church of my childhood? Will I find my childlike wonder in a new denomination? Or will I be forever jaded because of this whole experience? It is hard to separate the good from the bad in my memories. Even more difficult is determining what was real and what was fake about my Christianity. Bittersweet memories of a time gone by. There are times when I want to walk away from it all. Those questions circle my thoughts like vultures in the desert. Without a community of support it is harder and harder to fight them off when they land. It’s been 4 years, seems like 40, have we done anything? I’ve spent the last 4 years trying to hold on to a shadow. The dust from the storm settles, and I realize just how far removed I am.

For many gays, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer Christians, it is easy to get stuck here; in the separation. In the emotional rawness of being rejected by people you thought were on your side, but weren’t, or not fully, or are now but not when you needed them. The deeper the cut the longer it takes to heal and so we linger in the separation. But even those of us who once called the Nazarenes their own, need to be reminded that Easter is coming. The pain and hurt won’t last forever.

Like Lionel and Jean were reunited. Things were different between them, years had passed, but their love was still there. When Easter arrives, it heals wounds, eases pain, and helps us forgive. It will look different for everyone. My hope is they will, at their own speed get there. Getting closure doesn’t mean rushing back to the Church of the Nazarene. In fact, it may mean staying very far away. I just worry that some of us won’t get that closure, and will stay in the bitterness. Healing and closure, in all their varied forms, are our destinations.

Where am I now? I’m not sure… I wish I did. Until then, I’ll pray that the Lord will protect me, and those with stories like mine, from bitterness and that I will act in ways that bring the Kingdom of God closer to earth, that’s about all I know to do. For me, when Easter does arrive, it’ll will be a much anticipated reunion.

Are You Being Served?

Every Sunday night the local PBS affiliate in Oklahoma City plays a set of British sit-com classics. The second one is called “Are You Being Served?” Taking place almost entirely on the men’s and women’s floor of the Grace Brothers department store it follows the employees through their day of helping customers and staying out of trouble with the owner.

It is late in the Lenten season. We are at a point in the journey where we begin to wonder if Easter will ever arrive. Like our cast watching the clock until their shift is over, we wonder if we will make it through. 20 days left… then I can have pop again. 15 days left… then I can get on Facebook again. 10 days left… then I can eat chocolate again. Fasting a part of us to overcome temptation. Lent will end, but it isn’t over yet. Before it does we need to answer the question, “Are you being served?”

During this season of Lent we step into the wilderness just as Jesus did before he entered Jerusalem. We are wandering the streets of an urban maze. The journey leads us into places we don’t want to go. Streets we’ve never been on, but somehow they look familiar. Darkness creeps over the sky, as shadows grow deeper.

In the twilight we look out at the world; faceless figures moving on the horizon. We need to keep going. But we stay just a bit longer on the street corner as our eyes adjust to the dimming atmosphere. Gazing down the street ahead, streetlights begin to flicker on helping us to begin to make out what we see.

Keenly aware of our surroundings our eyes tear up. We see the world, this city, and these people as broken. Surrounded by brokenness and overwhelmed on how to stop it. Down the road we see a church, and find brokenness even there. It outrages us, but we cannot do anything about it. The windows of the store behind us reflect our broken selves. We stare back into the reflection. The pretense of perfection is removed our true self is exposed. We stagger back, embarrassed and hoping no one else saw our reflection. How can we fix the brokenness around us if we are broken too?

Sometimes it all seems hopeless. And our question still remains unanswered.

We can’t find the answer internally. It is a questioned posed to the group. Each customer that walks into Grace Brother’s Department Store is asked, “Are you being served?” While we laugh at their wild antics and mishaps of how they help the customer in a sit-com, it is rather painful when we hear answers from real life.

It is a scary thing to ask the Children of God if they are being served, because we assume everyone is. We are scared of hearing “No…I’m not. I’m being overlooked.” Too often we ask the question and are too quick to wait for a reply. Too often we are confronted with people not being served by the Church that we don’t even need to ask. Too often our response is to do nothing.

Instead we need to adjust our course as a Church. Lent offers us the time and space to do that. Lent was used as a time to welcome back those who had strayed from the Church. They would be welcomed back with a new baptism on Easter. Therefore, as a Church, we can use this time to find out who among us is not being served, and serve them in time for Easter.

If one of us is not being served, the whole Church suffers because of it. If there is just one person that is being hurt by the Church, we all hurt.

To fix the brokenness we see all around us, the broken world, the broken church, the broken people, the broken self, we serve those around us. Even though Lent exposes our personal brokenness, it doesn’t cripple us from participating in God’s redemptive works that initiate things being fixed and set right. We ask to be forgiven by those we’ve over looked and prepare to set out on a new path by Easter. In this process we find reconciliation. Those who weren’t served are being served now.

But we don’t stop there. We ask the question again, “Are you being served?” to everyone we meet.

Even after the Church of the Nazarene decides to include people like me, there will be another group out there waiting for the Church to be of service to them. Once all the gay and lesbian feet are washed, there will be another group with unclean feet.

Who still needs their feet to be wash?

Who is it at our church that is being overlooked?

Who is not here?

Who is not being served?

Keeping Up Appearances

Every Sunday night on OKC’s PBS affiliate OETA, a British block on the tele airs that includes: Keeping Up Appearances. It follows the antics of middle-class socialite Hyacinth Bucket (It’s pronounced Bouquet!). Nothing embarrasses Hyacinth more than her chav-esque brother-in-law Onslow. She can hear that he isn’t wearing a shirt even on her “white slim-line telephone with auto re-dialer.” She wants to be more like her wealthier sister Violet, who has “a Mercedes, sauna, and room for a pony.” Hyacinth’s biggest fear is that her neighbours will find out that her life isn’t as perfect as she projects it be. Hyacinth insists on formality and proper form as she tries to climb up the social ladder. Her rigid adherence to etiquette sends her falling embarrassingly back to the ground.

The Church shares some personality traits with Hyacinth Bucket; correcting people on trivial facts; insistence on tradition at the cost of relationships; the whitewashing of one’s past or current well being. The result is a Church that caters to the rich board member rather than the homeless non-church goer. The Church’s track record on women in ministry, science, LGBT issues, all have been swept under the public relations’ rug and ignored.

For example, the policy for women in ministry for the Church of the Nazarene has been inclusive since the church was founded, but the practice has been far from it. From 1920 to 1988 there were only two District Superintendents elected. 2005 was the first and only time a women has held the highest office as General Superintendent. Three of the General Superintendents currently elected only had a total of 3 women pastors on staff at two of the top ten largest Nazarene Churches in USA/Canada. When we retell the myth of inclusion for women, and still don’t have the numbers to back it up, that is keeping up appearances.

One doesn’t need to look any further then the story of Galileo. He was convicted of heresy for telling people the sun doesn’t revolve around the earth. The Church pointed to scripture to ‘prove’ Galileo wrong, that the sun in fact did rotate around the earth.  It would be another 500 years before Galileo would be exonerated by the Church that formerly banished him.

The Church’s power and influence is much like Hyancith’s. Those who wish to turn down Hyacinth simply because she won’t accept no for an answer. Similarly, those who wish to stand up to the well polished PR machine of the Church find themselves in an uphill climb. Wouldn’t the conversation about LGBT issues in the Church be different if the Church acknowledged that LGBT people go to Church and included them in the conversation?

Hyacinth has a desire to be around people of the best breeding in higher socio-economic classes like her sister Violet, and doesn’t her best to hide any connection she has with the lower ranks like that her two other sisters. Sadly the Church will cater to those who fit a certain mold instead of focusing on the people the Church is instructed to cater to, the outliers. The PR machine glosses over the homeless and those in poverty when putting pictures up on the Church website.

The Church’s effort to become a “glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle” has hurt many people. Because of it people have legitimate reasons never to step foot into a Church again, or associate themselves in any way with Christianity. The Church has got it backwards. We don’t become spotless and then show up on Sunday, we come as we are full of our sins, dirt, soils and stains. It is only when we acknowledge our faults to one another that the doors are open for the awesome power of redemption, forgiveness, and reconciliation to come through. We play this game of keeping up appearances so to look perfect. That game backfires and hurts the people the Church is supposed to protect.

It is embarrassing to admit mistakes. It is awkward. It is hard for the Church to admit it has gone about things in the wrong way because the Church is made up of people who hate to admit they are wrong. But God is stubborn just as much as we are. God will wait, and God won’t budge on loving us or loving on God’s Church. We don’t have to keep up the appearance of perfection when we are in the presence of God. Why should we when we are around God’s people? Let us all acknowledge our dirt together, for when we finally do, the sooner we shall be clean.

Much to Hyacinth’s chagrins her neighbours and friends know about her brother-in-law Onslow, and her sister Rose whose skirts are too tight and too short for public viewing, and they don’t care. They know, and they don’t care. Everyone seems to know that sinners go to Church except for the denominational Facebook page. How much more will God pour out God’s love on a Church that recognizes its faults and seeks forgiveness from the people it’s wronged?

2014 Oklahoma LGBTQQIA College Summit

Nazarene Ally will be in attendance at the 3rd annual Oklahoma LGBTQQIA College Summit presented by The Equality Network Institute.

The summit will be held in the Main Building at Oklahoma City Community College on Saturday, March 1st, from 10am until 5:30pm.

According to TEN Institute, “panelists will include Professor Toby Beauchamp, representatives from The Equality Network, Oklahomans for Equality, Cimarron Alliance, and students, faculty, and staff from universities and colleges around the state.”

To register for the Summit, go to http://tinyurl.com/2014CollegeSummit. Registration is free and includes lunch and a t-shirt.

We hope to see you there!

Let Them Eat Cake

Let Them Eat Cake: Homosexuality and the Church’s Image Problem
By Jake O’Bannon

An article like this warrants full disclosure up front. So let me tell you who I am.

I am a 22-year-old male from Oklahoma. I have been raised in the Nazarene church and still attend the same church today. I am straight and engaged to be married in July of 2014. I do not have a lot of gay friends, and I don’t often see the ones that I do have. I have never felt judged, silenced, bullied, or denied because of my sexual orientation.

That’s who I am. As you can tell, I lack life experience when it comes to homosexuality. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion on it. And as a Christian in today’s culture I think it’s a topic that needs to be talked about more than ever. Which the church having a major role in the current homosexuality debate, the question must be asked: How is it doing?

To answer that question I think it’s best to look at it through the scope of someone in the LGBT community. Again, as you noticed above, I am a terrible example for that, but I’m going to try. If I were an LGBT person, the church is not the first place I would want to go. You may have heard the stat, but according to a study by the Barna Group in the book “Unchristian,” 91% of non-churchgoers between the ages of 16-29 believe that the church is antihomosexual, and 80% of churchgoers believe the same.  That was the number one answer given by participants in the survey when asked what they think about the church.

No matter what you think about that statistic, there is no denying that there is an image problem. Even if you agree that the church is antihomosexual and believe that to be right, you’re still part of a group that is losing followers for coming off as judgmental. It’s a touchy subject, but there must be a better solution.

I once heard a story about a Christian man in Colorado who owned a cake shop. He sold a cake to two men one day, but when he found out that the two men were gay and the cake was for their wedding, he refused to give them their cake. The case even went to court because the man continued to refuse their business. Now you might have read that and agreed with the shop owner. If you did my response to you is that’s foolish. Also, it’s part of the reason why young people are leaving the church.

Let me ask you this: What is the worst thing that could have happened if he gave them the cake? To some it might be that they feel affirmed in their sexuality and they “don’t change.” To that I would say that if your goal is to change people, denying them a cake isn’t the way you’re going to do it.

But what is the worst thing that could happen if he didn’t give them the cake? That’s easy, because it only takes a Google search to find out how damaging it can be for a Christian to deny a gay couple their wedding cake. Articles from ABC News to the Huffington Post were published about the story; the story of a Christian man being judgmental. Thousands of people around the world read it. And we wonder where the 91% number comes from…

Our job on this Earth is not to play the judge. It just isn’t. The man who did not give that couple a cake is destroying the very faith he confesses to follow.

There is no better quote for this issue than the words of Billy Graham when he said, “It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.” No matter what your personal views on homosexuality are, it’s time for Christians to stop playing the role of judge and start making cakes.

Open Door Blog

Jake O’Bannon, special contributor to Nazarene Ally,  is a 2013 graduate of Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Oklahoma. He is now pursuing a degree in law from Oklahoma City University. Jake enjoys ushering at church, and going on dates with his new fiance. Jake is also a founder of OpenDoor, a blog developed to “be viewed as a type of paradigm shift. OpenDoor consists of a group of Christian young people who see problems with our world and are willing to talk about them.” This article was first published on “OpenDoor Blog” on January 3rd, 2014. Posted with permission.