fit for service

At the risk of becoming a prayer lecher, taking advantage of unsuspecting, innocent blog readers, I do have some things happening in the future for which I would appreciate some intercession.

A week ago on Tuesday I met with the pastoral staff of my church in which I am interning to give my full testimony (which the head pastor has known for a year) and open myself up for questions and wisdom. They were kind and receptive and I was encouraged by the meeting. However, I found out on Saturday that many of them actually had some pressing concerns that needed to be addressed before I did too much more in leadership.

More specifically, I wouldn’t be allowed to lead a co-ed high school Bible study session alone, and I probably wouldn’t get to preach as I was scheduled to do (and the congregation breathes a sigh of relief).

The underlying fears here are that my attractions are inherently sinful, that I’m not doing enough to change them, and that I might be at a greater risk of becoming a sexual predator. So this is all kind of a bummer, and something I was hoping wouldn’t happen. I love this church and have felt very known and loved during this past month.

Strangely enough, I’m not too upset about this development for a few reasons. The first is that these “decisions” are not final, at all. They are the initial reaction to encountering something that has not been publicly dealt with inside of this church, something that is fraught with confusion, misunderstanding, and tension. I am going to be meeting individually with each person, starting today, and working through the questions, hoping it will become clear that I’m not unfit for such kinds of service.

The second reason is that, well, I love these guys. They’ve known me for over a decade and have been a serious part of my Christian development. I’m sad, but not resentful, and I can see that they’re simply trying to be faithful to what they perceive Scripture teaches and  protect the kids. Yea, I’m not so happy that I could ever be seen as a threat to children’s ministry (see Welcome to the Family pt. 2), but, I don’t know… if this were happening to someone else at some other church, I’d be angry. But praise God, I think my relationship with these people is preventing feelings that would blast me off the path of humble grace and charity. This doesn’t mean I’m not going to do everything I can to show them how the witness of the Gospel is damaged by reactions like this, but the witness of the Gospel would also be damaged if I responded in anything less than a kind (but firm!) openness and vulnerability.

And lastly, if everything gets shot to heck, I’m only here for another month before I head off to spend the next eight months abroad (i.e. living in Africa, not in drag) and then move to another city.

I’m fairly positive, almost recklessly optimistic, that everything will turn out totally fine. The head pastor has been going to bat for me and has a good, though recently developed, grasp on the nature of things and was also saddened by the news of the staff’s response. And these aren’t unreasonable, hate-filled people. Not. At. All. I have been in awe this summer at the quality of their faith. I truly believe these conversations will prove helpful for all of us and that I’ll be allowed to do all the things about which they have apprehensions.

That’s all. I’ll let y’all know how it turns out.

Peace,

Jordan

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17 thoughts on “fit for service

  1. And these aren’t unreasonable, hate-filled people.

    Maybe not. But they are people who, despite knowing you on a personal level, are still willing to eye you warily as a potential sexual predator for no good reason. I wouldn’t exactly call that “nice,” either.

    …if this were happening to someone else at some other church, I’d be angry.

    Do you think you’d be right to get angry in that situation? If the answer to that question is yes, why don’t you feel being put in that same situation yourself deserves that same kind of rightful anger?

    At any rate, I wish you the best and I hope things work out they way you hope.

    • I think it’s similar to what happened with my mom. I’ve stopped assuming that just because people know me, they’ll never suspect me of bad things when I tell them I’m attracted to men, as silly as that is. When they have only been hearing negative and frightening stereotypes of people who are attracted to the same-sex (which I think they are partly responsible for not combating), and when there are distressingly numerous accounts of church leaders sexually abusing kids, it’s not inconceivable this would be a possible reaction. I think the test of their character is not so much in these initial responses but how they respond to further dialogue. And I’m confident it’ll resolve well.

      I think one of the good purposes of righteous anger is to motivate us and fortify us to combat something that is wrong. I don’t need that here. I’m already willing to have all of the conversations necessary to work through this, and I won’t be lacking in forceful conviction or firmness of speech. If I’m serious about trying to elevate the dialogue, and I totally am, I think anger would only hinder these particular conversations. Perhaps I’ll be able to tap into my inner temple-cleanser some other time. I certainly think it’s viable in certain circumstances.

      Thanks for the comment and the kind words.

      Jordan

    • That can’t be undone in a night and it’s not something that I’m willing to blame people for.

      Why not? It was people who spread that fundamentalist propaganda. It was people who are willing to isolate themselves and listen only to that fundamentalist propaganda. I say people need to own their prejudices and how they’ve contributed to the formation of those prejudices. (Indeed, I find it strange that fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity can preach “personal responsibility” so much, and yet not own their its problematic behavior in matters like this.)

      As gay men in the church, we have to have a certain level of patience and grace.

      You’re certainly allowed to show all the patience and grace you wish. Personally, I grew tired of extending plenty of patience and grace and receiving little to none in return. I feel the evangelical and fundamentalist churches have a long history of taking an inch and demanding another mile., and I have reached a point where I feel enough is enough.

    • But aren’t Christians supposed to be better than that? Aren’t Christians supposed to be concerned for “the least of these”? How can a Christian be concerned for “the least of these” if they don’t take the onus upon themselves to make sure they actually understand “the least of these” rather than simply accept conventional wisdom?

      After all, “Love thy neighbor.” And Jesus made some pretty powerful statements when he chose the Samaritan — a class of people loathed in his day almost as much as LGBT people have been loathed in recent history — as the model of neighborliness.

      I say call on them to apply their religious standards to themselves more critically.

    • And by the way, the standard configuration for WordPress blogs is to only allow nested replies to go three levels deep. That’s why you couldn’t reply to my other comment. We’d hit the limit.

  2. Bless you for your gracious response. I am amazed at how Jesus enables you to face this courageously and with love.

    I am angry on your behalf…but I hope and pray it’s just the misinformed reaction of people who truly are ignorant, and who are willing to learn. To say you’re any more likely than anyone else to victimise children is simply a falsehood, and one I hope they learn the truth of quite quickly.

    May God bless you and continue to fill you and give you grace by his Spirit to respond humbly, courageously, and boldly. Whatever happens and however they respond, you will have won.

    • Thanks Susanna!

      When I told Tony I wasn’t really upset at all he said, “That’s probably because people are praying for you.” While I was hoping to attribute it to my own moral awesomeness, his statement rings a bit more true, I think. 🙂

      Jordan

  3. A pastor is confronted with a large number of passionate problems to discuss with his parishioners, leading to more stress on your same-sex attractions. Witness the number of Catholic priests, (perforce unmarried) whom Satan leads in the wrong direction.

  4. Awesome blog post! So, just wondering, where are you going in Africa and for what purpose? And what is the goal in moving to a new city?

    • I’ll be interning in a hospice center for AIDS in southern Africa for two months and then going to central America for five months to work with children who have been abused. Then I go down to Pasadena, CA to attend Fuller Seminary for an MA in Theology! Really excited.

      • Dang, that’s cool. I just drove by the exit for Fuller Seminary in Pasadena today (I’m in Cali on a 2-week visit). All the best with that!

  5. I’m definitely praying for you as you continue with these conversations, Yep, my initial response was anger. I’ve known too many guys cast out of church or youth leadership positions simply because someone was told of their attraction to the same sex, and a good friend has been estranged and accused of being a pedophile by his own Bible Church attending mother and brother. It makes me sick to even consider them also Christian. So yeah, I’m being angry a bit for you, but I know that grace is called for here, just as I have had to apply myself in many conversations in recent years.

  6. Hey, I just wanted to say that this really saddens me, your church’s hesitation. I also think that it’s because you have such a peace with yourself and the theological conclusions you’ve made that you don’t hold it against them. Something that my time at Wheaton really impressed upon me was the reality that sometimes the nicest, most caring, moral, loving and genuine people can do horribly hurtful things out their own ignorance. I’m glad that you’re dealing with this well.

      • Kendall, what you say about good people doing the most hurtful things is true. I also think it hurts more when the good people do painful things because they should know better.

        Jordan, I’m so sorry for your churches reaction. People should realize what a strong message it sends when they say you can’t be around kids. I am amazed at your patience and hope and pray for these people to act truly Christ-like.

  7. I don’t understand why, just because you like men instead of women, people think you are a threat of being a “predator.” You are at just as much risk of this as any other straight man is. They should think, oh, that’s cool, we don’t have to worry about him hurting women, so he can work with them more effectively. Obviously I don’t know about these things, but I think there are positives.

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