Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Potential New Members



Welcome to Shuck and Jive! This is Conversations with Bob!

Hi Bob!

Thanks for your last post. I have a had a great number of hits today from Presbyweb. I don't subscribe so I don't know what was written about me. Apparently, someone posted a response I made to you on that site. Great! So if you are visiting from Presbyweb, welcome! Please join in the discussion!

I have a great deal to say about Empire and its pervasive influence in both testaments of the Bible. It is not merely a backdrop, but the very reality of which the canon responds, in my view. More on that later.

First, since my Presbyweb friends are here, I would like to answer a question that you posed to me:

So when you say that you don’t care what the Bible or Jesus say that you disagree with them because of your experience, I have to say I disagree with you. Do you really mean to place your experience as a higher authority than Scripture?

In response to that question I have a story, an exhortation and a question!

Story: In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, we find this interesting scene. Huck is floating down the river with runaway slave, Jim. They meet up with a couple of characters, bounty hunters I reckon, who are looking for runaway slaves to take back to their rightful owners. Huck gets separated from Jim, and is asked by the bounty hunters whether or not he has a slave with him. Huck faces a question of conscience. Huck knows as everyone knew that slavery was ordained by the Bible. He knows that stealing is a sin. He knows that Jim is the property of Miss Watson. The Christian religion as Huck has internalized it is supportive of slavery and he knows that he is doing wrong by helping Jim escape. It is stealing. However, he knows Jim. He likes him. Yet, if he helps him escape he is going against the Bible and against God. What does he do?

Huck eventually decides that he is willing to be damned, "All right, then, I'll GO to hell," and he does not turn Jim over to the bounty hunters. Did Huck do the right thing?

Moment of Silence

Exhortation: Let's say your cousin visits you. He is someone with whom you are close. He comes out to you as a gay man and says that he has someone he loves. Obviously, he cares what you think. He is hoping you will understand and embrace him. What do you do? You have been raised in the church. You are pretty sure what the Bible says. Do you say to him:

a) Wait a moment while I go ask my preacher.
b) Wait a moment while I reread Robert Gagnon's book so I know the correct way to parse that Greek word in Paul's letter to the What'stheirnameians in order to figure out what "God" says.
c) "I love you. I am pleased that you have trusted me with this. I am so happy for you and your partner. I will stand by you both come what may." Then give him a big hug.

In answer to your question, Bob:
Do you really mean to place your experience as a higher authority than Scripture?
Yes. Of course. Life is bigger than a book, even a book that has been covered over by a shovel full of dogma. It is life experience in which we learn (often the hard way) what it means to love and to be loved. I quote from another of Paul's letters to the what'stheirnameians, [I do not quote to prove my point nor to appeal to a higher authority, but because I think Paul understood the difference between knowledge (even knowledge of scripture) and love]:

Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
End of Sermon.

Question after the sermon: Bob (and other clergy visiting), here is a hypothetical situation. Let's say that two men (let's call them Bob and John) have been visiting your church for several months now. As you visit with them in their home, you learn that they have been together for ten years and are obviously in a relationship. They even have a son, Bobby John, who is twelve. He is Bob's son from a previous marriage and lives with them. Bob is a high school teacher and John works in construction. They are evangelical Christians and really enjoy your church. They like your theology, your sermons, and the community that you lead. They have met some friends in the church. They really like and trust you. They plan to stay together for the rest of their lives. They have hinted that they might like to talk with you about how they can improve their relationship. Finally, they wish to become more involved in the church for themselves and for Bobby John. They would like to see him involved in the middle school youth group.

They attend your new member's class and wish to join. In the class you discover that Bob would like to work with youth and that John has a compassionate side and would like to visit with the elderly and those who are in the hospital. One of your session members, whom you admire, is a little skittish around them and finally strongly hints to you that if they become members he and his wife (and pledge) may move to another congregation.

It is crunch time. They have requested membership and their names are presented to the session. Do you support them becoming members? No fair leaving it up to the session as the session looks to you for guidance. What do you think, Bob?

My hunch, Bob, is that you will receive them into membership as you are a compassionate pastor. You are not bullied by that session member. Yet, you have a question of conscience. You believe what the Bible says and of God's will for humanity regarding human sexuality. You also are aware of the definitive guidance and/or authoritative interpretation that Rev. Jim of the IRD has so eloquently pointed out regarding not only ordination to office but church membership as well.

What will you do? Life experience or scripture?

Grace and Peace my friend,
John
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