March 8, 2009

All God's Children, Week Three

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.


Anonymous said...

Birdie.....I have never commented on your blog, but I enjoy your writing and the subjects you write about. Have you read The Shack by William Young? If you have not read it, maybe you will. I would love to hear your comments about the story and the characters.
I'm a Hoosier and live in Indy.

Caddy Jean

Java said...

How very encouraging, all around! It sounds like a wonderful discussion in the class.

There have been many issues over the years that have caused divisions in the Presbyterian denominations, and of course the organized church generally. This time it's this issue. Next time it will be something else. Prayer is always a good idea.

Birdie said...

Caddy Jean, welcome and thanks for reading! You are not the first to urge me to read that book, so I'll pick up a copy and let you know. I've got another I'm working on, so it may be awhile. I've seen your kind comments elsewhere, so I'm looking forward to more as you see fit.

Java, that church in our presbytery left for the Evangelical Presbyterian denomination. (Was that your church's affiliation?) I agree that some will always look for differences. We must show them how to live with them.

Ur-spo said...

at least you are talking about it.
in my church they have a 'we are right/not quetion this/ if you don't like it, go away approach.

tornwordo said...

I just sigh when I read that people are still stuck on the "choice" issue. Did you choose which hand to write with? Did you choose that which stirred your sexual feelings. No of course you didn't, but somehow in some supernatural way, I did. It's hard for me to abide such ignorance, but thanks for fighting the battle!

Patrick said...

Yes, grace is for all, and I need to be reminded of that as much as anyone. I draw some comfort from the fact that the 'so we need to start younger' questioner at least attended this function, rather than staying at home, snug in his/her assumptions. Asking a question, even one predicated on a mistaken belief (that change is necessary) is still better than making a pronouncement. I know it's a failing on my part that I have so little patience with many of these culturally ingrained misconceptions. Having seen them refuted credibly so many times, it's easy to forget that many people have not yet seen them challenged, let alone refuted. Once again I'm grateful to you and people like you, who are taking these steps towards connection. My anger still gets the better of me quite often.

Roxrocks said...

Do you ever feel like you are swimming uphill through pancake syrup? Keep on keeping on, Birdie!