The parson plopped himself down in the chair at the lunch table at a local eatery around which were gathered some sacred brethren of the United Methodist ordained. In the course of the discussion, one of the ordained brought up the subject of the Boy Scouts. He raised the question of whether the United Methodist Church should withdraw their support of the Boy Scouts should that organization allow homosexuals to be scout leaders.
Father forgive me for I have sinned. I didn't respond as I should. Instead, I said, "Well, hell, why don't we prohibit them from having scout leaders who have freckles since both cases are genetic." I should have been more patient. I guess I was in a bad mood.
The meeting sent me back to a blog I wrote back in February, 2007. Maybe I should just repost it here.
and the Church
York Times story which
appeared Christmas Day, 2006, headlined: “At Axis of Episcopal
Split, An Anti-Gay Nigerian.”
Polgren and Laurie Goodstein open the story by reporting, “The way
he tells the story, the first and only time Archbishop Peter J.
Akinola knowingly shook a gay person’s hand, he sprang backward the
moment he realized what he had done.”
story relates:”Archbishop Akinola, the conservative leader of
Nigeria’s Anglican Church, who has emerged at the center of a
schism over homosexuality in the global Anglican community,
re-enacted the scene from behind his desk Tuesday, shaking his head
in wonder and sorrow.”
the Archbishop’s quoted words: “This man came up to me after a
service, in New York, I think, and said, ‘Oh, good to see you
bishop, this is my partner of many years.’” The Archbishop added,
“I said, ‘Oh!’ I jumped back.”
must confess, when I read this I was horrified. The horror results
not from the Archbishop being anti-gay. The horror is in my reaction
to discovering the Archbishop is anti-Christ.
aware of the seriousness of that assertion. And, certainly such
actions as those of the Archbishop are too common among many who wear
the Christian mantle. Picture the scene in your mind’s eye. The
head of the Anglican Communion in Nigeria is participating in a
Christian celebration in New York City. After the service, a
gentleman, following the tenants of Christian hospitality, instead of
leaving immediately, seeks out the stranger from a far away land, a
visitor to the church, and extends the right hand of Christian
fellowship. “Good to see you, bishop.” And now, being courteous,
he introduces his “partner of many years.” The Archbishop jumps
he gives no description of vocalization, other than “Oh!” the
Archbishop’s actions cried loudly, “Unclean! Unclean!” Visions
of cast aside lepers of Jesus’ day are brought forth.
this I believe the Archbishop is wrong in his actions, and such
cannot be justified for one purporting to be a servant of the
servants of Jesus Christ. But, hold that thought and indulge me a
discussion of homosexuality and the church in today’s world.
began my ministry in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement in
America. The first parish I served brought me face-to-face with
demonstrations for desegregated schools and equal access to public
facilities. Within my first sixty days I’d seen Hosea Williams, of
the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, spit in the face of the
local sheriff in an attempt to provoke him. I’d also seen the
scores and scores of cars pulled up to the windowless white frame
building that served as the area headquarters of the KKK. Talking
with people at the county seat, with members of my church, and with
those who hung out at the local Gulf Station in the little community
where I served, I became much aware of the passions evoked over the
issue of segregation; there was a fury surrounding local emotions.
young cleric, naïve and inexperienced, I didn’t know what my role
was supposed to be. I was considered, I soon learned, a liberal. That
designation came not from any professed position of preached
theology. I was so timid in my bearing at that juncture of my
ministry I did nothing, absolutely nothing, to deserve the
reputation. I was liberal by association. I was a young Methodist
preacher, i.e., I was a liberal.
my heart I was rooting for those demonstrators who wanted nothing
more than to eat in the same restaurants and to have the same
opportunity of education as did I. My childhood had presented me
experiences that slung the injustice of segregation in my face. So, I
harbored a secret desire to be among the marchers, to fight to make
the world right. Yet, I was a pastor to the folks who were genuinely
fearful of what this inevitable onslaught of demand for equality
would bring. In that setting, I learned the emotion generated when a
people demand “certain inalienable rights” and others don’t
want to give those rights to them.
in the climax of my years, the same passions are raising their heads.
These are the passions of those who will not be denied and the
passions of those who interpret this irresistible force as an affront
to the sacred. In that circumstance, reasonableness and even openness
to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit is often stifled.
my United Methodist Church our doctrines are supposed to rest upon
four pillars: scripture, reason, tradition, and experience. As such,
let me look at this divisive issue in the light of these four
Wink’s article “Biblical
Perspectives on Homosexuality” which first appeared in
1979 (and reprinted at religion-online.com)
brings the biblical-based objections to homosexuality into
perspective. Though they are now almost thirty years from the first
appearance his words are worth heeding today.
observed that the issue of homosexuality threatened to fracture whole
denominations. (His analysis has obviously proved true.) He states:
“We naturally turn to the Bible for guidance, and find ourselves
mired in interpretative quicksand.” The issue becomes, for Dr.
Wink, not one of homosexuality alone but, also, how we go about
allowing scripture to inform our lives today.
looking at passages of scripture advanced as prohibitions against
homosexuality in the Genesis story of Sodom and supposed prohibitions
in Deuteronomy, and highlighting the actual intent of these
references, (1) and discussing lack of clarity to meaning
in New Testament references cited often as prohibitions as those in 1
Corinthians and 1 Timothy, Wink concedes there are three undeniable
prohibitions against homosexuality in the scriptures. These are found
in Leviticus 18: 22 (“You [masculine] shall not lie with a male as
with a woman; it is an abomination.”), Leviticus 20: 13 (If a man
lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an
abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.”),
and Romans 1: 26 (For this reason God gave them up to degrading
passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural,
and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with
women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed
shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due
penalty for their error.)
society depicted in these passages is one with no knowledge of eggs
and ovulation. The purpose of a woman was considered to be that of
providing incubation space. With such an understanding the spilling
of semen would have been considered tantamount to murder or abortion.
The society was patriarchal.
in a homosexual act would be an affront to male dignity. One can
glimpse the affront to maleness in that there is no similar
prohibition to homosexual acts of females.
remaining unequivocal condemnation of homosexuality is found in
Romans 1: 26-27. There is no doubt this is a condemnation of
homosexuality. Yet there is a twist. Paul, as well as other authors
of scripture, understood the practices they contemned as perversion
to be acts committed by heterosexuals. Modern considerations of
sexual orientation were not considered by Biblical writers.
the three unquestionable scriptural prohibitions in homosexuality,
Wink considers other scriptural prohibitions. Nudity was regarded as
“reprehensible,” even within the family. Sexual intercourse
during the menstrual cycle was to be punished by execution. Sexual
relations between unmarried adults were prohibited. The touching of
semen or menstrual blood caused one to be unclean. Sexual relations
between unmarried consenting adults were prohibited.
incest, rape and prostitution in Biblical times were reflections of
the property owner relationship in a male over female society. Wink
points to Genesis 38: 12-19 and Joshua 2: 1-7 as illustrative of the
tolerance of prostitution to ensure the virginity of unmarried women
and as a way to safeguard the property rights of husbands. In
prostitution only the woman, not the man, is guilty of sin.
Deuteronomy 22:22 assigns the punishment of death for the offense of
adultery. But adultery is not a married man having intercourse with
an unmarried woman.
was a regular feature of Old Testament society. Indeed, some scholars
see certain New Testament passages saying deacons and bishops should
have only one wife as indication of the presence of polygamy in New
practice is also evidenced in the practice of a childless widow
marrying the brother of her deceased husband to ensure children.
mores prescribed by scripture include the practice of endogamy,
marrying only within the twelve tribes of Israel, the abnormality of
celibacy (a practice required of priests by the Roman Catholic
Church) and the blessing of slavery, female slaves, and concubines.
considering these references to laws of the Old Testament, Wink
suggests one lift up the verses from Romans (10: 4; 7: 6): “If
Christ is the end of the law, if we have been discharged from the law
to serve, not under the old written code but in the new life of the
Spirit, then all of these Old Testament mores come under the
authority of the Spirit.”
of Wink’s more penetrating conclusions is: “The crux of the
matter, it seems to me, is simply that the Bible has no sexual ethic.
There is no Biblical sex ethic.”
it comes to the Scriptural Pillar, then, we have a problem. Do we get
to pick and choose? Do we have to accept all of it? If the choice is
the former, from where does authority of selection evolve? If it is
the latter who is going to serve on the committee to establish humane
methods of stoning? Or are Jesus’ words in Luke 12: 57, a clarion
call to our day: “Why do you not judge for yourselves what is
find ourselves here on the horns of a dilemma. The Bible clearly
condemns homosexuality in these few passages. Yet, the Bible just as
clearly sanctions slavery; the Bible disallows divorce; the Bible
permits prostitution, and so on.
judgment is to be drawn from the pillar of scripture? Perhaps the
greater tenor of scripture is the standard to be applied, that being
the Biblical portrayal of God constantly taking the side of the
powerless and moving all creation toward reconciliation.
shows us that until the late eleventh century homosexuality was
tolerated or ignored by the Christian church throughout the western
world. Condemnation of homosexuality became official around the time
of the writings of Thomas Aquinas.(2) (3) From this point
homosexual behavior is prohibited by religious authority and these
attitudes of the church found their way into the secular statutes.
This would continue virtually unquestioned until the late nineteenth
century when medicine and psychiatry began to contest with the
religious institutions for primacy in matters of sexuality. At this
point the understanding of homosexuality as pathology and not a
crime, or even sin, begins to develop. This understanding would be
prevalent until the dawn of the twentieth century.
Ellis, a contemporary of Sigmund Freud, published his Sexual
1896. This was one of the earlier attempts to examine the subject
from a scientific viewpoint. Ellis had studied eighty homosexual
males and had concluded this sexual behavior was not the result of
disease. He continued to study sex from a biological and
multicultural perspective. With the publication of Studies
In the Psychology of Sex, Ellis
insisted that homosexuality was inborn and therefore could not be
differed with Ellis. His research convinced him that all humans were
born bi-sexual. The relationship a child experienced with parents and
others determined whether the sexual course that followed would be
homosexual or heterosexual.
1935, Freud wrote a letter to the mother of a homosexual. He said:
is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no
vice, no degradation, it cannot be classified as an illness; we
consider it to be a variation of the sexual function produced by
certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly respected
individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals. . . It
is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime, and
cruelty for . . .(5)
should be noted that Ellis, Freud, and the other early leading
psychoanalysts, and their research was not the result of empirical
testing. The conclusions were based on the analyst’s observations
and were not separated from the bias, expectation, and attitudes of
the researchers. Still, these early writings first brought the light
of modern scientific reasoning to bear on the issue of homosexuality.
would be the ground-breaking empirical work of Alfred Kinsey that
birthed a reassessment of homosexuality in the twentieth century.
Kinsey’s work revealed that a significant number of American adults
reported having participated in some form of homosexual behavior to
the point of orgasm after the age of sixteen.
study cast doubts on the general belief that only a small number of
those who desire to look for the data, there is a large quantity of
empirical research supporting the dismissal of the idea that
homosexuality is in any way resultant from psychopathology.
of the most extensive of these empirical research efforts is that of
Evelyn Hooker. The American Psychological Association says: “Hooker’s
work was the first to empirically test the assumption that gay men
were mentally unhealthy and maladjusted. The fact that no differences
were found between gay and straight participants sparked more
research in this area and began to dismantle the myth that homosexual
men and women are inherently unhealthy.” (6)
research is of particular note in that it has been replicated by many
other scientists using a multitude of research methods. (7)
is obvious from the contemporary debate over homosexuality, there are
psychologists and psychiatrists who still hold negative views toward
homosexuality. However, the preponderance of empirical research does
not support any assertion that homosexuality is in anyway a form of
1973, homosexuality was removed from the official list of mental
diseases by the American Psychiatric Association. In 1992 the
association released a statement that endorsed the repeal of all
legislation criminalizing homosexual acts by consenting adults in
McNeill, while still a member of the Jesuit Order, who ministered in
the homosexual community, and a practicing psychotherapist wrote an
article that appeared in The
March 11, 1987. McNeill, a homosexual himself, wrote from his
experiences, his research and writings. He writes, “I was convinced
that what is bad psychologically has to be bad theologically and
that, conversely, whatever is good theologically is certainly good
his book, The
Church and the Homosexual, McNeill
attempted to debunk three positions of the Christian community about
lesbian and homosexual relationships. These were: 1) “the view that
God intends all human beings to be heterosexual; 2) that homosexuals
are a menace to the values of society and family; and 3) that
homosexual love is sinful and alienates the person from God.
regard to the first supposition, McNeill asserts that such thinking
assumption that sexual fulfillment is the exclusive right of
heterosexuals. He, obviously, having a familiarity with empirical
research, in part, as referenced above, affirms that homosexuals and
lesbians are, as much as heterosexuals, part of God’s creative
plan. “God does not despise anything that God has created.”
he states: “Every human being has a God-given right to sexual love
and intimacy. Anyone who would deny this right to any individual must
prove without a doubt the grounds for this denial.”
to the second Christian position he feels is in error, that
homosexuals are a menace to family and society, he asserts the
lesbian / homosexual community, as part of God’ creation, possess
the gifts and talents to be a positive contribution to society.
“Consequently, I am convinced there is a special providence in the
emergence of a visible gay community within the Christian churches at
this point in history.
the assertion that every homosexual act is sinful and that homosexual
love alienates the one who engages in it from God, McNeill insists
homosexual love can be holy and can reflect the presence of God in
the human community.
on the research of the last century he maintains that 1) one has no
choice about sexual orientation, and 2) the only healthy reaction to
being homosexual is to accept it. (9)
for one, would prefer to believe that the church is wrong about
homosexual activity than that this sadistic, superego God has any
true relation to the God of loved revealed in Jesus Christ. He
asserts the mainline Protestant churches when facing the homosexual
issue today do not ask the moral question of their position “Is it
right or wrong?” Rather, they ask “What is going to work?” (10)
must also address the issues of “reparative therapy” which are
being advocated by certain religious right and/or anti-gay groups
today. At the forefront of this is the Family Research Council, an
arm of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family association. These
“reparative therapy” programs hold that the homosexual can be
“redirected” away from the “deviant” behavior through proper
intervention therapies. One is reminded of the deprogramming
therapies of the cult intervention programs.
crux of such intervention strategies is that homosexuality is not a
biological function but rather a deviant choice based upon incorrect
choices. Is homosexuality, then, biological, as opposed to the type
of behavior as that put forth by the Family Research Council and
fact of the matter is the research conducted by the Family Research
Council is considered flawed by some of the better scientific minds.
This fact can be confirmed by simply conducting a Google search of
the material. This paper, in the interest of brevity, will not delve
into this issue but simply point out two excellent sources for
consideration. Chandler Burr wrote a comprehensive overview of
“Homosexuality and Biology” for The
June 1997 issue. Burr concludes his writing with: “Five decades of
psychiatric evidence demonstrates that homosexuality is immutable,
and nonpathological, and a growing body of more recent evidence
implicates biology in the development of human orientation.” (11)
the face of the mounting scientific evidence that homosexuality is
not a matter of choice, one cannot but wonder at the manner in which
the church fails to act to include the gay community more fully.
McNeill points out the absence of a moral debate that is the refusal
of the mainline churches to engage those condemning homosexuality,
assures that the only voice on the issue is that of the conservative
and reactionary forces.
pillar of our faith is simply self-evident. In the light of
scholarship in regard to the understanding of scripture as well as
empirical research into matters of sexuality allow no other
conclusion than that homosexuality is not a perversion of the sexual
act, but rather is a human urge toward intimacy that is part of the
person at birth.
points us to the multitude of instances where scripture is not only
ambiguous but contradictorily. It is fruitless to list here the
number of scriptural prohibitions modern Christians ignore as a
result of the advancement of the knowledge of humanity.
also reminds us that we who are Christian are not allowed to use
bias, or honest belief that homosexuality is wrong, as an excuse for
the sin of hateful persecution.
crux of the matter is simply that we creatures created with the
ability to reason. It is what sets us apart. And to fail to apply
reason to the continued evolvement of our theology and religious
mores is to deny our creative nature.
also reminds us that we can debate this issue endlessly. Is it
a homosexual gene? Perhaps Chandler Burr in The
Atlantic Monthly article
referenced above puts it best:
can enlighten, can instruct, can expose the mythologies we sometimes
live by. It can make objective distinctions – as, for example,
between sexual pathology on the one hand and sexual orientation on
the other. But we cannot rely on science to supply full answers to
fundamental questions involving human rights, human freedom, and
human tolerance. The issue of gay people in American
did not arise in the laboratory. The principles need to resolve it
will not arise there either.
here what is said must be my personal experience.
have to tell you from the get-go: same-sex relationships do not
personally compute in my mind. There’s no doubt I’m heterosexual.
For that reason alone my experiences with individuals in the
homosexual community have been times of learning and of growth.
first experience in coming to my positions on homosexuality is simply
the study and the learning of information such as that cited above
under Scripture and Reason. Early in my Christian life I concluded
one cannot have it both ways. Either the Bible is totally correct,
inerrant, or it is not. If it is inerrant then we cannot be allowed
to pick and choose which portions we will obey. My entire life
experience has taught me we all pick and choose.
choose to eat pork because it pleases me; I ignore the Biblical
prohibitions because I know how to cook it and it is no longer a
threat to the health of my community. I have chosen all my married
life to not follow the Biblical dictates of not sleeping with my wife
during her menstrual cycle. I have freely and unconditionally
welcomed into the membership of the church divorced persons and even
persons whom I had personal knowledge had participated in adulterous
relationships previously, despite the Biblical condemnations of such
have chosen to grow in my understanding of what is required to live
an authentic life of faith in this world. And my understanding of
homosexual relationships has grown over the years.
long ago, I was blessed to be the senior pastor of a church that
served a community which was probably thirty-five to forty percent
gay. There my learning curve increased dramatically. Previously my
views on homosexuality and the church were academic. While I had
known a few homosexual persons my exposure had been limited.
memories of the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered people who
inhabited that parish are vivid. They are memories of people deeply
committed to their God, to their church, and, often, committed to a
loving relationship with a life partner. I also have memories of
sitting in a hospital waiting room with someone whose partner was in
intensive care, but who could not go into the area as visitation was
limited to “family.” I have had too much experience with denied
health or death benefits to not realize the wrong that is being done.
writing began with a presumptive statement being made by me that
Archbishop Akinola was anti-Christ. I’ll stick by that. But my
judgment of the Archbishop is not based on the suppositions above
concerning the issue of homosexuality. My criticism of the Archbishop
is two-fold. As his relating of the story is told in the New
York Times article
one gets the feeling the Archbishop almost delights in his memory of
jumping back at contact with a homosexual.
in and of itself is decidedly not an action the Christ would have
phrases keep running through my mind, “Judge not lest you be
judged,” “The second is like unto it, you shall love your
neighbor as yourself.” On and on the quotations could go.
the Archbishop thinks the homosexual he met is a vile degenerate
would not the proper action be to place his arms around him and
proclaim the love of Christ?
this is one parson who fully believes that when the last verse of
Revelation was completed God did not shut God’s mouth and have no
more revelation. God continues to reveal God’s self. And in this
issue of homosexuality God may be revealing each and every one of us
as the person we really are.
by subscription: www.clipart.com
references to Sodom are put aside with the observation that the sin
committed against the visitors to the city was perpetuated by
heterosexuals, not homosexuals. When a similar (or same) story is
related in Judges 19, again Wink suggests the references “refer to
a heterosexual ‘stud’” and points out this reference is to
infiltration of Canaanite fertility rites into Jewish worship.” The
King James Version inaccurately labeled him a “sodomite.”
It should be noted that Aquinas seems to condemn homosexuality within
a wide range of sexual acts, specifically he argues against any form
of sex that does not have the intention of producing children.
The parson had just popped the trunk of his hybrid and begun placing the groceries he'd just purchased inside.
“Hello, Parson, how are things with you?”
The parson turned to behold a young man whom he did not recognize.
“Things are well with me,” he said. “I'm sorry; do we know each other?”
“Ah, no, no we don't know each other. But I've heard of you. And I've heard of that church where you're the pastor. Friend of mine told me you folks have what you call an “inclusive” church.”
“We try to be inclusive,” said the parson.
“Inclusive. Well, what's that mean. Does that mean you let foreigners worship there?”
“Yeah, foreigners. Them illegals. Are they welcome to worship there?”
“We don't ask for documentation at the door,” said the parson.
“Bet you don't. And I heard that homos are welcome there. That true, too?”
“The doors are open to everyone.”
“Yeah, well you realize you're only encouraging illegals and you're condoning a sin that is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord.”
“The doors are open to everyone.”
“I bet. So, you're telling me it's okay if I come to your church and worship with the low life?”
The parson stared at the man a moment. “The door is open to everyone,” he said.
“Right,” said the man. “Tell you what, I'll see you next Sunday.”
The parson finished placing his groceries in the trunk. He closed the lid and then slid in behind the wheel. He cranked the car, but before taking the car out of park he looked up and the cloudless sky and said, “This is a pop test, right?”
By: Ansley (the Parson's thirteen-year-old granddaughter)
By definition love is a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person. Love is a concept that everyone knows about. How would you feel if all of a sudden your right to love was taken away? Empty? Alone? This is how approximately 8.8 million people feel all the time. Gay marriage is a touchy subject to discuss because it deals with religion as well as personal values. Although in American society people as a whole are not in favor of gay marriage, I strongly believe in the right to marry the same sex. I can understand why people would be against same-sex marriage, but do they understand why I would be for it?
Let’s take religion to start off with. Someone once anonymously stated on an online article, “I always thought the freedom of religion implied to the right from religion as well.” If this were to be true, is it right for the country to take away someone’s right to love based strictly on their beliefs? What if someone is a different religion other than Christian and doesn’t go by the Bible? How does being atheist fit into all of this? All of these are significant points to consider. What about the fact that state and religion are supposed to stay separate? If state and religion were actually separate, I bet more than six states would approve of gay marriage.
Morals also play a part of this ongoing argument. The way you were brought up affects your view on this. Your religion, how your parents were raised, and the type of household structure you were brought up in can affect your opinion on this issue. I was raised to accept everyone for who are. If they had disabilities, you accept them and learn to live a lifestyle that accommodates their needs. How is gay marriage any different? The way you feel about other people is just a part of who you are, just like disabilities. If someone wouldn’t look down on another person with a handicap, why would they look down on someone who is in love with the same sex?
Naturally people are going to disagree with my point of view. But if I were to ask someone who has a different viewpoint than me why gay marriage shouldn’t be legalized, what would their argument be? Does not legalizing gay marriage come down to feeling uncomfortable? Is it something people aren’t used to and therefore it is presented as wrong? But when you think about it, isn’t that how everything new works?
I believe that same-sex marriage should be made legal everywhere because it is simply just love. When you think about it, who is really hurting? How is it going to affect you in a negative way? Same-sex marriage, whether between men or women, is just a form of love. Maybe it is different from what you are used to, but when it comes down to it, it is all just the same thing. It’s just a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
parson sat on the sofa in the corner nook of the coffee shoppe. He took
a moment to arrange the pillows behind his aged back to accommodate his
five foot six frame on the furniture designed for five foot seventeen.
Having adjusted to the maximum he took a sip of the rich java, and
enjoyed the full body and rich flavor which belied its decaf makeup. Two
seminary students sat across from him, one working on his Master of
Divinity the other working on her Ph.D. in a yet to be narrowed down
field of American religious history. Both were drinking a mixture whose
name the parson might once have recognized when he was learning ancient
trio shared news of various acquaintances. The students asked the
parson if certain rumors about certain better-know pastors were true,
and asked for the parson’s evaluation of the new bishop. The parson, in
turn, asked them what they’d heard about the better-known pastor. Their
revelations he added to his otherwise empty store house of gossip. As
for the new bishop the parson pleaded ignorance, as the bishop’s as yet
never extended invitation to dinner at his residence deprived the parson
of adequate knowledge to make a determination.
the M.Div. student, fired up his notebook to share with the parson an
article the new bishop had written. The parson promised to read it later
in order to become better informed.
“So, are you’re finishing seminary this year?” he asked James.
“I am, Parson. Finally.”
“Have you started the process with the Board of Ministry?”
closed his notebook, glanced over at Monique, the doctoral candidate,
then back at the parson. He cleared his throat and said in a quiet
voice. “Actually, Parson, I haven’t,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going
to take the path toward ordination.”
not!” the parson stammered, forcing himself forward on the sofa. The
statement had caught him completely by surprises. He’d known James for a
decade and his whole life journey had been leading toward ordination.
James smiled at the parson a moment, then he asked, “You don’t know?”
what?” The parson looked over at Monique whom he’d know just as long as
he’d know James. She was smiling, obviously at the parson’s
“Parson,” said James, “I’m gay.”
room seemed to shrink. The parson was completely surprised. He’d never
considered this. He’d never had occasion to consider this. The parson
sank back into the sofa. A thousand emotions surged through his body. He
stared at young man he’d thought so long to be a rising star of the
church. He did not know what to say. Sorrow wracked his being. The
consequences raised their head and impaled his spirit.
It seemed a short eternity before the silence was broken.
“Parson, are you okay?” asked Monique.
“I guess so,” said the parson. “This is why you’re not going before the board?” he said to James.
“It is,” said James. “I’m not going to lie.”
“Are you going to another denomination?” asked the parson.
“No, Parson, I’m not going to do that. I’m sticking around and I intend to make a nuisance of myself.”
The parson smiled. James was a delegate to the Annual Conference. He might start attending more frequently.
“What about you, Monique,” the parson asked.
“I’m not going to be ordained either, Parson.”
“I know you’re not gay, Monique.”
Parson. But the more I’ve thought about it the more I’m uncomfortable
with the thought of being ordained. I think it would be more than
two-faced. I can’t reconcile the enormous amounts of money the church
spends on itself while the world is hungry. I’m fed up with the
hypocrisy. I could go on and on, Parson.”
parson said nothing for a couple of minutes. James excused himself to
get another cup of the concoction he and Monique were drinking. Monique
leaned forward, “Aren’t you going to show off any grandkids pictures?”
The parson smiled at her winsome way. He pulled out his iPhone. Monique
moved to sit beside him on the sofa as the parson began to flip through
the pictures. James returned and sat on the arm of the sofa to view the
while later James moved back to his seat. Monique remained on the sofa.
James said, “Are you okay with what I told you, Parson?”
James, I’m not. And I’m not okay with what Monique tells me. I’m
disturbed that folks like you can’t find a home in the church. I’m just
conversation continued for another hour. At that point it moved to the
restaurant two blocks down the street, and from there it continued at an
Irish pub another block down.
was almost midnight when the parson left for home, exhilarated from
having been with two young people who’d skipped through is parish almost
two decades ago and sad, so sad.
Jamaica died. Funny, that seems such a trifle thing to say,
but it is true. Jamaica died. My friend, the Rev. Paul Turner, called to tell
me the news. Jamaica died.
This did not make the evening news. There are not going to
be scores of people at his funeral. But he will be missed; he will be missed because
Jamaica was one of a kind, an original, unique, never to be forgotten by those
who really knew him.
He was an attraction around the neighborhood of the
inner-city church where I was pastor. When Jamaica walked down the streets
everyone knew it was Jamaica walking down the streets. Jamaica’s attire could
not be missed. On any given Wednesday, or Thursday or Friday, for that matter,
you might see Jamaica strolling along singing some tune at the top of his voice
for an audience of himself. It was possible to ignore the singing, but one
could not ignore the way he was dressed.
Jamaica was way ahead of his time in fashion taste. He may
have been centuries ahead. Or, come to think of it, he could have been
centuries behind. Who knows? What he was, without a doubt, was one of a kind.
As Jamaica walked down that sidewalk singing his song, he
might be sporting a turquoise print skirt worn over navy blue sweatpants. Both
of these would stand in stark contrast to the black and white plaid vest worn
over a tuxedo shirt with blue button studs. And the top might be tastefully
adorned with a pith helmet of faded khaki color.
Jamaica resided on this earth in the parish I served, but
Jamaica lived on a separate plain. Jamaica was not inhabited by the normal
mores that constrain the average person. Indeed, Jamaica was beyond average.
His clothing was but the beginning.
On a frequent but irregular basis Jamaica would attend our
church services. As is the custom of fashion plates like Jamaica he always made
a late entrance. That entrance would have him parading down the aisle toward
the front pews immediately after the first hymn, but after everyone was seated
in order to afford them a view of his latest expression of eccentric fashion.
He had been known to stop before entering his selected pew to raise his hand in
recognition of the pastor and call out to me, “I’m here, Pastor, and I’m
yearning to hear the Word.”
My church was a teaching parish. Seminary students assisted
with the service. One of my greatest delights was the first time Jamaica showed
up in the tenure of one of these students. As the parishioners and visitors and
Jamaica filed out, shaking hands and proclaiming how they “enjoyed” my sermon,
when Jamaica came by, I’d introduce him to the rookie student and then say, “Jamaica,
this is a seminary student. Could you tell her about the Book of Romans?”
He would. Having the student trapped by the subtle way I’d
worked her into a corner so she couldn’t escape, he would, in fact, recite the
Book of Romans to her.
Jamaica was a star student in high school long ago. He
excelled in athletics and academics. And then the accident happened. He struck
his head. Brain damage resulted. Jamaica was never the same. A young black kid
from a poor black family got limited medical care. Jamaica descended into a
world that only he inhabited.
I could never enter Jamaica’s world. But occasionally, in
those rare moments of lucidity, he entered mine. There was the day we sat in
the window of Zesto’s devouring the fried chicken, onion rings, and blueberry
milk shakes and talked of the recent City Council elections. He explained to me
the prejudices and misdirected efforts of the occupants of the local police
precinct. And on one of those occasions he even discussed what he classified as
the “shallow theology” that had informed my sermon on the previous Sunday.
I’m remembering the last time we ate together in that
window. He was dressed in creased blue jeans, with a floral skirt of some
summer weight pleated material that would rise and fall with the movement of
his walking. These were accented by the oxford blue button down shirt with the
black and white striped tie, all of which stood in stark contrast to the bright
red straw Easter style bonnet upon his head with white feathery object sticking
out the right side. I don’t remember what we talked about that night. But I do
remember when we left. I turned toward my car; he turned in the opposite
direction and began to skip down the sidewalk singing, “Oh what a beautiful
morning …” which sounded incongruous coming from him in the late hours of the
My last memory of Jamaica is the day I did a video interview
with the Reverend Paul Turner about his faith journey into his ministry to the
GLBTQ community. We’d finished the interview in the parlor of the Epworth
United Methodist Church, the church of the parish I’d served so long ago and
where Jamaica had felt welcomed. During the last twenty minutes or so of the
interview Jamaica had his face up against the window with his palms plastered
to his cheeks to give him a clear view.
Afterward, I took Paul outside to meet Jamaica. We talked
for a while. We shared some good stories. Jamaica told me he loved me. He
needed a ride to someplace. I asked Paul if he could take him. As they walked
toward the car I called out, “Hey, Jamaica, tell Pastor Paul about the Book of
Romans.” The last words I heard Jamaica say were directed at Paul:
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle
and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through
his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human
nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was
declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead:
Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace
and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience
that comes from faith ….”His voice
faded as he and Paul drove off.
Jamaica died. He was my friend. I loved him. I will miss
Thank you for your invitation to be a part of the communion service at your church during the Annual Seekers Weekend Retreat. Alex told me you would be asking me to take part. I certainly would be happy to do so. However I would like to clarify a few things. Exactly what part would I play in the service and to what extent would I be involved with the prayers and other parts of the ritual?
To: Eddie Smithson
From: Questing Parson
I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.
In regards to prayers and such, I will be handling that. We’re using an abbreviated version of the communion ritual. This primarily consists of what we United Methodists call The Great Thanksgiving.
Alex wanted me to contact you to be the person who actually assists me in distributing the elements. We’ll be serving the elements by intinction, which is the act of the participant dipping the bread into the wine him or herself. Our request to you is to be standing beside me holding the bread from which each will tear off a piece and then dip that into the chalice.
I hope this provides some clarification for you.
To: Questing Parson
FROM: Eddie Smithson
Dear Questing Parson
Thank you for making that clear. I think I should be able to handle that without any difficulty and I would be glad to help. However, I would like to inquire as to who, in your church, is allowed to take the Sacrament in your church.
To: Eddie Smithson
FROM: Questing Parson
I am glad you have agreed to be a part of the service. I know Alex will be more than happy to learn this news.
As to who participates, in the United Methodist church the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is open to all.
Looking forward to meeting you.
To: Questing Parson
FROM: Eddie Smithson
Dear Questing Parson:
I am not sure I completely understand your use of the term “open to all.” I assume you are referring to “all” to mean that persons of any denomination are free to take communion in your denomination.
To: Eddie Smithson
FROM: Questing Parson
Thank you for your interest in our liturgy. Actually, when we say the Sacrament is open to “all” it is not referring to the various denominations, although that is certainly included. The invitation is to all, denominational as well as other.
To: Questing Parson
FROM: Eddie Smithson
Am I to take this to mean that you let anyone, including people who are not members of a church to be a part of this?
From: Questing Parson
To: Eddie Smithson
The short answer to your question is “Yes”; we do.
From: Eddie Smithson
To: Questing Parson
Excuse my confusion, but by saying that you are saying ‘non” Christians would be welcome to take part in the communion.
From: Questing Parson
To: Eddie Smithson
Your last email begs the question of why a “non” Christian would even be at such a service. But the direct answer is that we’re not going to make that decision for the individual. The person partaking of the Sacrament is the one who determines whether he or she is Christian.
To: Questing Parson
From: Eddie Smithson
In all due respect, Sir, anyone could say they are Christian and be part of the service.
To: Eddie Smithson
From: Questing Parson
I cannot argue with your logic.
To: Questing Parson
From: Eddie Smithson
It seems to me your church is opening the door to sinners, thieves, and even gays to receive the Lord’s Supper. Frankly, Parson, I cannot countenance a “non” Christian being a part of this celebration.
To: Eddie Smithson
From: Questing Parson
After careful consideration I have decided to not argue with your logic. As a consequence Joe Walker will be assisting me in the service instead of you.
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