Magazine article The Christian Century

Gays and the Church

Magazine article The Christian Century

Gays and the Church

Article excerpt

AS CRAIG STALLER'S commentary shows, the church wields its power over sexual minorities bluntly and cruelly, but often silently ("Something personal," Jan. 17).

That has left most of us who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered only three choices with respect to our relationship with the church: stay in the relationship as is and suffer further emotional and spiritual abuse, shake the dust off our sandals by divorcing the church altogether, or renegotiate our relationship with the church in order to partially disempower an institution which has shown itself to be closed-minded and irresponsible with the control it has.

By no means is this "third way" a perfect choice. But for those for whom it is the right choice, it is a powerful and special vocation. I hope and pray that the church will seek out Staller's testimony about the ways in which he is created, gifted and called, and try to understand the witness he and other followers of the third way offer the church.

Graham Van Keuren Newark, Del.

Staller lists three options in dealing with the conflict between his homosexuality and his ordained status: end the relationship with his partner and remain ordained; resign his ordination and stay in his relationship; or continue to have his "sexual orientation and professional life collide in ways that seemed to ensure clinical depression." He chose the second option. He seems not to have considered the first option seriously, at least in part because "celibacy is not a gift the Holy Spirit gave to me."

This statement illustrates a common fallacy of liberal theology: the failure to engage the Bible seriously. Nowhere does the Bible treat celibacy (or more accurately, abstinence) as a gift of the Holy Spirit, like healing, speaking in tongues or prophesying. Abstaining from sex outside of a marriage between a man and a woman is seen as faithfulness to God's word, like telling the truth, helping the poor and praying.

Abstinence is a gift of the Holy Spirit only in the sense that the Spirit helps us to be faithful disciples. This is a spiritual discipline the Bible requires of many heterosexuals as well. Dismissing the option of abstinence on the grounds that the Spirit has not given one the gift of celibacy is akin to dismissing the option of telling the truth because the Spirit has not provided the "gift" of honesty.

Michael Macdonald Broad Street United Methodist Church, Mooresville, N. C.

Craig Staller replies:

I did not dismiss ordination as if it were a pair of old dirty socks. …

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