Monday, August 31, 2009

Life Giving Love and Human Sexuality


  1. In my sermon on August 9, 2009, I spoke of the ELCA's upcoming national assembly. At the national assembly, votes were to be taken on a social statement and ministry recommendations.
    The Social Statement is entitled Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust. The statement is intended to be used for instructional purposes. The ministry recommendations are entitled Report and Recommendation on Ministry Policies. The recommendations asked for a change to the criteria for admission to the ministry roster of the ELCA.

    Introducing this concept, I quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer from his book ETHICS. In the book, he asks "Is it correct to say that it is the task of the church to offer solutions to the world for its problems today...The Church has so far failed to master the social, economic, political, sexual, and eduational problems." The statement that the church makes to these issues does not set "out from human problems and ask for solutions. The way of Jesus Christ, and therefore, the way of all Christian thinking leads not from the world to God, but from God to the wolrd." The statement of the church " not a solution, but a redemption."

    I used the text of John, chapter 6. I made this theological claim: The life-giving love of God through Jesus Christ redeems all of creation. Using the images of life-giving water and the bread of life, I spoke of a call to move our attention from the provisions of daily bread to faith in the provider of the bread. Through Jesus Christ, we believe God to be the provider of sustenance to the world. I challenged the congregation to look at our daily provisions and to explore the wisdom, depth and richness of what we have.

    Using this framework, I asked the congregation to explore the wisdom, depth, and richness of marriage and friendship. In asking to see marriage in a way more reflective of friendship and friendship taking on the qualities of marriage, we may be missing the wisdom, depth, and richness of these relationships. I do not think that we are fully aware of the implication of making the change in defining marriage and friendship.

    For this reason, I have urged us, as a congregation, to believe in the possibility of the redemption of marriage and friendship. This frees us to explore the wisdom, depth, and richenss of these relationships. This exploration requires time and the right time for a conclusion. I do not think that we, as a congregation, are at the right time to make these decisions.

    My purpose in framing this discussion is to initiate conversation. To move forward quickly in this decision is to assume a unity of belief that we, as a church, have not achieved.
    You are invited, through this blog, to engage in this conversation.

  2. Greetings! Thanks for initiating this dialogue. I think that culturally in this media-saturated age, we sometimes allow ourselves to view events as defined points rather than gradual shifts. An example of this is the "Luther" movie from which one could conclude that the events across time after the nailing of the 95 Theses spanned mere nanoseconds rather than a progressive period. I applaud TLC for fostering healthy ways to dialogue in community.

  3. Pastor Mentzer,
    I appreciate the marriage/friendship framework you have established in the initiation of a very sensitive topic. I am frequently troubled by the issue of gay marriage, in particular, and the issue of ordaining those who are in committed same sex relationships. I struggle to come to grips with the topic, without telling my story.

    I am a member of your congregation and was born into a family with longstanding ties to the Lutheran denomination. I also lived for approximately 20 years of my adult life as a gay woman. I no longer identify myself as gay. I came from a good Christian/Lutheran family, but my childhood was far from ideal. I did a lot of therapy in my late 30's and early 40's to address various family of origin issues and needs that were unmet by my parents. They did the best they could as parents, but they were human and had their own flaws and issues.

    The interesting thing about my story is that I never went to therapy to get over being gay. Frankly, I just accepted it as my choice and did not see it as a problem. I found, however, that as I healed the emotional brokeness and wounded parts of me, I no longer had a desire to be with a woman. I no longer needed a woman to meet my emotional and physical needs. My desires simply and gradually changed and I now truly seek a committed relationship with a man.

    Having been very involved in the gay community in Lancaster and in MCC, a church which ministers primarily to gay and lesbian Christians, I observed many committed, monogamous, gay couples, as well as those who had many partners. I often felt that there was something very adolescent about being gay. It was as if they (and myself) had an exclusive best friend. I know that many gay men and women have gender issues. I know I had.

    My perspective now is this: If someone does not feel comfortable in their own skin, if they cannot accept being born a woman or a man, then how can they be comfortable in a traditional hetersexual relationship? It seems, however, that rather than do the hard work of acceptance of their own gender, they make society do the work of acceptance. It is society that has to accept them as homosexual, but they do not have to accept their own gender and learn to love the skin they are in. Acceptance is hard work. It is egually hard for society to accept homosexuality as it is for an individual to accept their gender and some of the roles implicit within that gender.

    I left the gay community about seven years ago. I still have some close gay friends whom I care about very much, but I sometimes struggle with seeing most of them as living honest, authentic lives. Interestingly, they often live out the traditional male / female roles, within their "holy unions."

    Often I hear it said that there is no "gay agenda," but I believe there is. The gay agenda is pushing society to its limits, pushing the established societal boundaries to a point where we are, as you say, missing the wisdom, depth and richness of both marriage and of friendship. As a society, I don't believe we are fully aware of the implications of re-defining marriage. I sometimes think that society is spiraling out of control. On a humorous note, it reminds me of a bumper sticker I recently saw. It read: "Where exactly are we going and why are we all in this handbasket?"

    I have never posted a comment on a blog before and I hope I did it right by posting it anonymously. If not, oh well, maybe it is time I come "out of the closet" as a former gay woman. Thanks again Pastor Mentzer for initiating this discussion.

  4. We live in a society where it is admirable, and even a little trendy, to come out of the closet as being gay or lesbian, but it is not so to come out of the closet as being formerly gay.

    Changing the criteria for admission to the ministry roster of the ELCA is yet another example of the gay agenda, forcing society to do the hard work of acceptance of a lifestyle that, for the majority of God's people, is difficult to accept.

    In 1993, I participated in the March on Washington to advocate for the rights of gay and lesbian people. Now I have come full circle and would like to advocate for the churches who so struggle with these issues. I commend so many faithful heterosexual Christians, who despite their convictions, choose to continue the dialogue without despising their opponents, in fact, who do so with amazing grace and love.