Thursday, 7 May 2009
Why I Need to Still Go To Church
Yesterday I was reminiscing about myself on the day after the last Westminster General Election. Well with news coverage over recent days I've also been reminiscing about a different day from 2005, the day of my Parliamentary Candidates Development Day.
Looking at that group of four potential approved candidates now they included the PPC for the target West Coast seat Katy Gordon PPC for Glasgow North, the 'go to' Lib Dem blogger for many in the MacBloggosphere in myself and the minister of the moment Rev Scott Rennie. The group of four on that day was a group not backward in coming forward, some would think quite a feisty bunch, but the least 'feisty' of the lot would probably have been Scott.*
Basically a eruption of criticism has blown up about Scott's sexuality which has been known publicly for some years because he has been called democratically, and that decision upheld democratically, to a new charge, Queen's Cross Church, in Aberdeen. Let's get the democracy of the decision clear Presbyterians require a 2/3rds majority of the communicant voting members of a church to call a new minister to become their pastor; Scott comfortably acquired 86%. The Aberdeenshire Presbytery which is the group of all Ministers in that area then ratified that decision in January by 60 votes to 24. In both cases to have such levels of support any politician would be happy. So why is the issue still up in the air and unclear?
I know that Caron, Lallands Peat Warrior and MacNumpty have all written excellent pieces from different standpoints and I recommend once you get to the end of this piece to go and read them all. But I feel able to add a little something different to the story because apart from that day I share a lot in common with Scott.
Like him I was raised in what was at the time a conservative Presbyterian Church, indeed my father was an Elder and Boys Brigade Captain. Like him after coming to my own faith and being settled in it I had to come to terms with my own sexuality. Like him I also had major struggles coming to terms with that while in a very active role of serving God, him during his pastoral role in Brechin me during my stint as a missionary. However, unlike Scott my victory in personally finally overcoming that struggle hasn't led afterwards to such media glare when I later moved to a different job in the same 'industry'.
Caron in her post pointed out that Scott said that gay Christians could feel isolated from both communities -sometimes the Church couldn't handle people being gay, but also some elements of the gay community couldn't handle Christianity. This is not only true of the community but often of the inner struggle within the Christian themselves. I know I struggled with that issue myself from my mid teens through to my late 20s over a decade, so I don't expect the Church to totally come to terms with things overnight. Although they have had 2000 or so years to get to grips with these issues. Caron mentioned her friends in the Christian Union at University changing her attitudes because of their attitudes to her gay friends. Of the over 6 years I spent on committees in my first three years of University it was the CU I spent most time on committee, so you can imagine the struggle I was having.
All of these people saw a certain element of me. Each new committee had to write encouraging things they found about each other in a sort of Chinese whisper sheet, my were always very deeply thought out and far from twee or predictable and I hold a lot of their comments dear. But very few got to see or hear of the full struggle. Indeed I don't think I would have expressed it to them or other close Christian friends with quite this amount of candour back then. When I finally came out to my parents which I thought would be all the harder because of all the Christian faith and experience between the three of us I was dreading the day. In the end the words passed my lip in a matter of fact sort of way and after one maybe two questions there was acceptance, love and understanding in just the Christian way that Jesus himself would I'm certain have shown.
Those Christians who believe in predestination believe that our paths are mapped out by God before we are even born: whether we become a Christian and how we will live are predetermined. These people are possibly some of the most literal believers of the bible and most homophobic element of the church. Yet by their very adherence to that stance they are found wanting on the issue of gay Christians. They cannot judge on someone's personal confession and salvation through grace. Indeed the fact that it is grace by which we are saved is a whole other theological ball game.
On the other hand you have those who believe our salvation is through free will. Good sound liberal bunch. Yet even they acknowledge that someone cannot chose their sexuality. One of the churches I worked with employed an open gay, though celibate, man. Others have youth leaders who have had sex before marriage, elders who have cheated on their wives etc. One thing does hold dear, all Christians should be accepted as an sinner saved by grace. And who are we to judge which Levitican abomination is allowed to be done away with over another.
Pass me the prawn cocktail in your polyester/cotton Sunday best over your cotton and lycra underwear even if you and your wife haven't maintained your proscribed time apart sexually following her period and let Scott Rennie, his partner David, his ex-wife and daughter get on with their life.
Don't be Pharisees when it comes to ranking the laws as you see fit.
The only way for gay Christians to gain acceptance in the Church is to keep turning up and in the gay community to not deny our faith. Let's get one thing clear Scott Rennie is an excellent Pastor the people of Queen's Cross congregation don't care about anything much beyond that, just like his church in Brechin before that. People like him show that Christ accepts us as we are, time for the Church to be a little more Christ like.
My dear friend Caron called her post on this subject "Why I no longer go to church" I hope I have put out at least part of the counterpoint from an insider's perspective.
Update: There is now a Facebook group in Support of Scott Rennie, please join it.
Update 2: I have just read the comments about this story on the Pink News article. Sadly it confirms the paradox that gay Christian's face. I've posted this response there.
It was very said reading some of the comments on here as a gay community we have fought for inclusion for so long. However, someone from our community who is different in this case a Christian, and a minister to boot, who has come to terms with that position and is 'proud' to be both is getting knocked back by some.
For Scott, like myself, it is a paradox that as a gay Christian we are often not accepted by the Church and also not accepted by the gay community. Those who are out as gay Christians have if my experience is anything to go on come through a lot of hard times not just from the respective communities but from ourselves.
If anyone in any other profession was in danger of being dismissed because of his sexuality we would all be united and up in arms standing with them. But even though he is one of us in an organistaion that in many ways needs to change its view of us we don't give the same support. The church needs changing on its views on sexuality the best way for that to be done is from the inside.
*For the record all four were approved, though the one who now is seen as a little bit of new media expert in certain fields in the Scottish Party was told he needed a little bit more media training. (Best not tell Clifton Terrace or Cowley Street I might lose some street cred and/or access)