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

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Why Barbara Wheeler is WRONG

Just received my copy of The Presbyterian Outlook in the mail. I was disappointed to read an article by Dr. Barbara Wheeler, Why Not Replace (or Retain) G-6.0106b? Wheeler is an ally to the cause of lgbtq justice in the church. She writes:
I still think that G-6.0106b must be removed. It is a blot on the Constitution. It was tortuously worded to create the appearance of fairness — the same standard for gay and straight officers — as cover for its discriminatory intent, the exclusion of gays and lesbians. It promotes misuse of the church’s great confessions of faith as catalogs of sins. By specifying only one kind of behavior that “demonstrates the Christian gospel in the church and the world” (G-6.0106a), it elevates the sexual dimensions of the Christian life over those that receive equal or greater emphasis in Scripture.
She has that right. Then she makes a 180 degree turn. Not this year, she says:
A yes-no vote on Amendment 08-B will not accomplish what remains to be done: reaching a theological consensus about norms for human sexual behavior.
It is hard to get a grasp on privilege. Here is a seminary president, a straight person, a well-meaning liberal, bright and articulate, who has been blessed with the privilege to earn the title, elder. I don't know if it is a matter of caving under pressure or fear of success, but it seems at the moment when significant change can happen, liberals get scared. They are scared of losing the institution. Scared that conservatives will leave. Scared that demands for justice do not sound nice.

It is offensive, frankly, after all the work that has gone into bringing people thus far, that a straight would have the temerity to say it's not time yet for you gay people to get your rights.

What is this about the need to reach "theological consensus about norms for sexual behavior?" Are we supposed to wait for justice until every Presbyterian realizes that discrimination is not what Jesus would do? Theological consensus never occurs prior to major change. Theology follows politics. It always has. We only think it happens before. Change comes from the hard work of politicking and voting. Justice is not granted. It is taken.

Did the church need to wait until no one was racist before working for civil rights? Did the Presbyterian Church reach "theological consensus" before ordaining women? No. People are still racist and sexist in the church. Those who wish to keep the status quo have no motivation for conversation unless they are pushed to change.

Dr. Wheeler writes:

The goal of full acceptance for LGBT persons in the church and wider society will be furthered only by searching Biblical study and loving theological conversation in which Presbyterians feel free to explore views different from those the majority now holds.
This is where Dr. Wheeler is fundamentally wrong. Obviously conversation about these matters is a good thing and it will help in some cases. But conversation is not enough. We are dealing with deep-seated issues that will not ever change for many people.

We do not live in a friendly world. We do not serve in a friendly church. Discrimination is ugly. It hurts. It is most insidious when it is within the church and covered over with theological language. There are large numbers of people in the church
who will not get it. Justice is not about waiting for them to get it before making needed changes.

However, there are more and more people who do get it. They get it because they have been forced to deal with it. There is never discernment, discussion, or chatting over tea and Cheetos unless we force the conversation.

This business about conversation and discernment and theological consensus before change is a stalling tactic. The only people who are for this are the conservatives who do not want change and straight liberals with privilege who only want change if it doesn't upset their apple cart.

The revised amendment may not pass. It will be disappointing if that happens. But we have barely begun the voting and the privileged liberals are already throwing in the towel. I believe it can happen.

Make the change. Vote yes on the new G-6.0106b and talk it up!!!


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