Walking On Broken Glass
Well, it has certainly been a season. After missing all of Christmas with the flu, and spending some much needed time on vacation in my happy place, in sunny Carpinteria, California with my beloved, I have had a good amount of time to reflect on many things; primarily my relationship to “The Church.” The title of this post is an homage to one of my favorite artists, Annie Lennox, and also descriptive of the state I find myself in, in relationship to institutional religion.
In August of 2018, I was suspended from all service as a Subdeacon in the Orthodox Church in America, and told I could no longer vest and serve in Liturgy, teach catechism, preach sermons, lead groups, or wear my cassock (fancy black dress for churchy dudes) because I refused to remove or “clarify” my post regarding my support for the LGBTQ+ community.
Initially, while some of this was expected, I was not upset or hurt. I knew very well that by posting my beliefs, I could come under scrutiny and might ruffle a few feathers. However, I never expected the scorched earth that followed. In the time that has passed since August of last year, I have heard next to nothing from leaders in the church. I understand not knowing what to do with someone; I don’t understand pretending they don’t exist. Most recently, I have been asked to stay away from the camp that I faithfully ran for 17 years. The new director is being bullied by some folks who believe I “might be a danger to the children” as I may “spread my gay liberal agenda'” to them. Some have even threatened to keep their kids from camp if I am involved in any way. This is madness. What have we become? This is “The Church?”
Sadly, I believe I must write this now, as too much time has passed, nothing has changed, and people are wondering what is happening, with many starting to come to their own conclusions. Brass tacks: I have been silenced and ostracized by the church I have served my entire life, because I questioned the teaching and tradition of the institution and it’s treatment of LGBTQ+ people, and after 20+ scandal-free years of working with youth and camps, and for a time as the National Youth, Young Adult, and Campus Ministries Director of the OCA, I am now believed to be unfit for leadership and unsafe around children.
It hurts. It’s hard and grievous. I am frustrated and angry. But, that being said, I am also glad. I know I am not alone. Many others are asking the church the same questions, and, if what I am experiencing is only a tiny fraction of what anyone in the LGBTQ+ community has experienced at anytime in their lives in any church, it is a humbling joy to stand in solidarity. Marginalizing anyone is wrong. The Church is the one place everyone should feel welcome, safe, and loved. The suggestion that your voice matters less or should be discounted because you are born a certain way (gay, female, brown, etc.) is absurd, and frankly, not compatible with the Gospel. That we consume our own and build walls rather than bridges to ensure “they” don’t corrupt our institution should be telling enough. That some delight in another’s punishment or casting out, is a clear sign that we are adrift. A tree is known by its fruit.
As the Reverend William Barber II once said,
“When someone excuses a person’s bad behavior with the phrase, ‘Well I know he’s a good person in his heart.’ I want to say, frankly, I don’t give a damn what’s in your heart. What do your actions say about what’s in your heart? Jesus didn’t curse the fig tree because it didn’t have good fruit in its heart; He cursed it because it bore no fruit for others. What’s ‘in your heart’ is shown by what you do, not by what you say is in there.”Rev. William J. Barber II
On reflection during this time, the question I have asked over and over is, “What is the fruit?” Is “The Church” making people more loving, more inclusive, more joyful, more involved in helping the “least of these”…or not? Am I? Do we live the life that Jesus the Christ exemplified, or do we just worship His journey while refusing to walk it ourselves? Do I?
Talking is hard. It’s often like walking on broken glass. I don’t know where all of this is going, or how it will end; I only know that I cannot be silent when I see others being treated as “other” and told they do not belong, by the same people who say they are the Beloved of an unconditionally loving God. It really is that simple. Do we live what we say we believe, or not? Do our actions show that? Out of the heart the mouth speaks and the body acts. What do your actions say about the fruit of your heart? If perfect love casts out fear, what are you afraid of? You are beloved by God. So are “they.”
“I would rather live on the verge of falling and let my security be in the all sufficiency of the grace of God than to live in some kind of pietistical illusion of moral excellence. Not that I don’t want to be morally excellent but my faith isn’t in the idea that I am more moral than anyone else. My faith is the idea that God and His love are greater than any of the sins we commit.”Rich Mullins
I don’t have all the answers, but I know who I’m with. I’m with Jesus, who is always with “them.” I hope that I am. I hope that we are. Time will tell. A tree is known by its fruit.
If the LGBTQ person cannot come the Church because of the cold shoulder, the silence, the soft(hard) pressure, where will they seek salvation, communion, love and hope? We have to hold the space, expand our hearts. sit with the situation not pressuring to conform but walking as one of them alongside, or… or the good news is sexually, gender, identity gnostic, exclusive, for the few who were assigned to get it. And I don’t believe anything after the or..
Did you read this? http://www.davidjdunn.com/2018/11/10/baaalderdash-were-all-just-sheep-here-a-response-to-fr-john-parkers-lgbtq-fearmongering/
I often wonder what will happen to me when I marry. Will I be able to me married by a priest when the time comes? Will I be shunned by the church completely? And what will happen to my wife? Will she also be shunned and kicked out of the church? There’s a reason it’s so hard for me to keep my faith.
I am grateful you are speaking up and voicing concerns that so many of us have harbored for some time. I love the orthodox faith, but I love Christ’s message to serve the least of these more.
For whatever reason people tend to disassociate or even despise that which they deem outside the norm, forgetting how devastating it can be to be on the rejected end.
Hitler convinced a whole lot of Christians that Jews were what’s wrong with the world. People believed him.
Many God-fearing Christians practiced owning and trading slaves… I mean, it was in the bible right? It’s what was always done up to that time. Some of the saints even wrote messages of be a good slave and don’t run away from your master in the New Testament. That didn’t make it right.
Just because Christians, heck Orthodox Christians as a whole have rejected gays since the beginning does not mean it is what God wants.
God sometimes opens our eyes over time. Rules in the Old Testament included abstaining from unclean foods (pork, and a ton of non fish seafood). Even the Sabbath was on Saturday. But what happened? New Testament: God says it’s okay to eat pork and that He makes the food clean. Can you imagine the outrage many people felt when the news broke? I imagine many people clung to the old rules thinking perhaps these new guys are crazy and out to scare the kids.
Many Orthodox Christians of today eat pork, worship on Sunday, and believe slavery is not so great. Is it really such a huge shift to believe that perhaps God created some people gay, and maybe it wasn’t a mistake?
I don’t understand what you mean by “support” of the LGBTQ community. Do you think that two men or two women should be able to experience the sacrament of marriage in the Church? Because the teachings of the Church make it clear that that is not acceptable – such an act would wound the souls of all involved. Do you think the Church should care for people who are struggling with the temptation to have romantic relationships with people of the same gender? Of course! The sacraments of Holy Confession, Communion, and Unction are prescribed for all Orthodox Christians who seek healing for our tendency to sin. We have to trust that the Holy Spirit guides the fathers and mothers of the Church in all they teach, including the teachings about homosexuality.