About a month ago, I had a conversation with a younger friend who is contemplating an advanced degree in theology. He wants the degree to help move the church on LGBTQ issues. He was unsure if this route was was still a feasible one, asking me: “But, haven’t all the theological arguments about LGBTQ equality already been made?”
I assured him that they had surely not been, with the evidence being that church teaching, and in many places church practice, still treats LGBTQ people in second (or third) class ways. But I understood his uncertainty. Hasn’t there already been enough words, information, and conversation over the past 50-odd years to help church teaching change?
Later that week, I came across a section in my daily meditation booklet called Give Us This Day, which helped me realize that the question of knowledge in regards to LGBTQ people is somewhat moot.
“People flocked to the desert to see John, the precursor to the Messiah, but many recoiled at his prophetic proclamations, his unusual presence, or both. Then came Jesus, who consorted with people on the margins, those shunned by the pious and rich. He made a home with those not welcome at the temple. Like John, Jesus was also judged for his actions and appearance.
“A fixed vision of salvation is anything but. When we possess a rigid view of redemption, we might feel clarity of mind, but we close our heart. We define God for ourselves, leaving God little room to be God.
It was the short second paragraph quoted above that struck me. When we presume to think that we know how God should act, we are definitely NOT talking about salvation–our own or anybody’s. Salvation happens by God’s grace, and it can happen any way God wants it to happen. And it often comes from people and places that we least expect.
I think the reason some people of faith find it so hard to accept LGBTQ people is that their “clarity of mind” keeps them frozen in a certain way of thinking. But what can change their attitude is not more information or better information. They will be changed only by opening their heart. The answer to solving the church’s LGBTQ problem is not primarily a matter of mind, but of heart.
Of course, education is still, and will always be needed. I think part of the problem with some church leaders is that even though there has been so much information about LGBTQ people, issues, and theology, they haven’t even begun to absorb it. Time and again, their statements on LGBTQ issues reveal their lack of solid information. While getting information to them is important, we must also always be ready to help them open their hearts, as well as their minds. That’s why, I believe, a gentle and loving approach to people who disagree with LGBTQ equality is so important. Approaching them in such a manner helps them open both their minds and hearts.
God is always the god of surprises, and our salvation often comes from places we least expect. Fran’s closing line helps us to remember that when we keep our hearts open, we do much more than learn new information. What happens is that we “welcome and make room for the God who so often is not the God that I imagine.”
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, October 3, 2020