Week One: "Our Families"
Wekk Two: "Gay and Christian"
The Science of Orientation and Gender
Our guest speaker was a doctor of pediatrics from Riley Children’s Hospital, and she gave a presentation on adolescent development, especially as it dealt with same-sex attraction. (At our request, she did not address transgender issues. We don’t think the congregation is ready for that discussion at this early stage in our growth. But I included an article on the subject on the resource table.)
As she covered the facts of development, a number of studies were quoted. I was glad to hear her name the source, longevity and brief methodology for every study quoted. She even discussed the weaknesses of two of the studies and addressed the questionable methodology of studies being quoted for opposing conclusions.
An interesting thing happened during the question period at the end: three people asked three different ways, “Is it a choice?” The speaker answered thoughtfully and at length to say “no” three different ways. One of those questioners asked when it’s a good time to intervene and change a child’s orientation. After the long answer that said it isn’t possible, the petitioner asked, “So, we need to go younger?” That person has a long way to go. But I want to stress that instead of throwing our arms in the air and dismissing him as a lost cause, it is this person and those like him we must embrace. If we are asking them to welcome us—even though they disagree—we must model the behavior we are asking of them—even though we disagree. Grace is not conditional.
I live for the day when the silence in our church is one of grace, that what is unspoken is understood to be acceptance, when orientation and gender identity don’t need to be subjects of lengthy discussion because it simply is not an issue.
There was no mention of faith issues except by the class leader as he closed; he hoped that what we are learning here is a step toward a more inclusive church, making this a place of safety for our youth. As in weeks past, class had to be halted well after the closing time, and people rushed to resume the discussion with our speaker. Attendance continues to grow; today we had 81 attendees. (Remember, standard attendance for this class has been 20-25 up until now.)
In a related note, news came today of yesterday’s vote in our presbytery on a change in the denomination’s constitution. The Presbyterian Church USA is calling for a vote to return ordination requirements to the original language of 400 years prior to the change in 1967; that is, from “fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness” to “fidelity within the standards of the church.” This change returns the discernment process to the church and its presbytery (collection of local churches) which approve ordination of individuals. It allows churches to decide for themselves whether or not to ordain openly gay persons.
Historically our presbytery has voted against the change. Yesterday, by a margin of TWO votes, it passed (108-106). The national vote is currently 39 yes, 66 no. It requires a majority of 87 to pass. While this local decision is a reason to rejoice, it also is part of the reason that one of our presbytery churches chose to leave the denomination at the same meeting, just prior to the vote.
This turmoil gives us cause to reflect and determine our course of action. We must move carefully, educating people in a loving way, allowing for reasonable disagreement, always reflecting the behavior we hope to see in others. Be the change you wish to see.
Next Sunday: "What the Bible Says about Sexuality"
Image courtesy of Christ First Church of Gainesville, GA.