Friday, July 06, 2012

One day ... one glorious day:

This is Blake.

Reverend Blake Spencer, the pastor and minister at The Presbyterian Church in Pleasantville New Jersey.

In addition to being a Pastor, a father, a son, a friend and a fabulous person, Blake is also known as The Laughing Pastor, and blogs his reflections and thoughts about his life, his ministry and his journey of Grace and discovery ... AND, I am honoured to be able to count him amongst my friends!!

I wanted to offer this post today because I think Blake is an amazing person who has dared to stand up and speak out about his life and his experience in the Church. In the last few days Blake has lamented on Facebook about the bullying he is witnessing as our Presbyterian sisters and brothers meet in their General Assembly in the US ... Blake is being very open and honest about his struggle with the role and place of Gays and Lesbians in his home denomination, and the agony they are experiencing as they wrestle with this issue.

I see so many parallels to what my home denomination - The United Church of Canada went through over 30 years ago ... Congregations were torn apart ... friendships were ended ... angry words were spoken ... tempers flared ... and people repeatedly invovked the name of God to justify their ponts of view, and in some case to justify anger, hatred and non-faithful exclusion ... I remember well what I saw myself ... and I serve a Church that was devestated by the decision by the United Church to welcome self-proclaimed Gay and Lesbian candidates to ordination. The exact words were "Homosexuality in and of itself is not a barrier to ministry in the United Church of Canada."

Looking back over the last 30 years I can only offer a grateful "AMEN!!" to that decision and those bold enough to support it.

Our church hasn't been overrun with 'those kind of people' as some cried out ... but instead, our Church has become a place that is more aware and more sensitive to the bullying and the exclusion that we too often invoke in the defense of our faith. We have many wonderful and talented ministry personnel who HAPPEN to be Gay (or Lesbian), and who are able to be true to themselves, and no longer have to hide away in fear.

The United Church still has work to do, and despite our official policies as a Denomination to be open, welcoming and inclusive, we are still struggling to make that a reality in ALL corners of this Church we call home.

But from an official point of view, we've opened the door to including and celebrating the full spectrum of the human family by removing the barriers of colour, race, gender and sexuality from the dogma of faith - we recognize and celebrate and LIVE the fullness of being human!!

And for that I am thankful ...

I am also thankful for the courageous and faithful witness of people like Blake who have boldly stood up and openly shared their sexual orientation, and who have continued to share their gifts and calling of ministry!!

Our world, and the Church Universal and Catholic is a much better place because of the ministry and witness of folks like Blake ... and I am a better person for having folks like him in my circle of friends.

It's funny ... I would never introduce Blake as a Gay Pastor or a Gay Minister. Instead, I would introduce him as a Minister who happens to be Gay ... and I pray that one day I will live in a world and serve in a Church where we no longer have to make that designation.

I long for a day when we no longer speak of gay or straight ... but simply celebrate our commonality as the Children of God. With the leadership and guidance of folks like Blake, I truly believe it WILL happen before I retire!!!

And for that, I say a hearty and faithful: AMEN!!!!!


Tim said...

Honest question: how does the United church regard homosexual activity:
- as a sin that must be confessed at some point (like pornography or premarital sex)
- as a neutral activity, much like enjoying the outdoors or going to the movies

Reverend Shawn said...

Tim - thank you for your question. In the United Church confession is offered collectively for our sins - we don't get hung up on the specifics, but leave that between the person and God. Homosexuality is viewed as an orientation sexually, not a sin. The 'act' between two committed same sex partners is no more sinful than the 'act' between two committed different sex partners.

In the UCC, the view of sexual orientation is that it is akin to one's gender, racial background, ethnic background, or height and weight. It is not a sin per se, it is simply part of who we are as children of God.

In the case of multiple partners, or a 'player lifestyle' the assumption would be a confession for the sin of misusing the gift of sexuality is due whether the person is straight, gay or bi. A committed relationship is the goal - promiscuity would be the sin.

laughing pastor said...

Oh my word! I'm behind on reading my favorite bloggers. You have humbled me and honored me. Thank you Shawn. I never thought I was that clever or courageous....until I came out of the closet. I suppose all that time in the closet gave me time to think, reflect! I've come out of the closet ready to speak. I also know how to put together an outfit with good shoes! I didn't waste my time in that dark room after all! I do have to admit....that my life in the closet was filled with blessings. Out of the closet all those blessings have been amplified! Life is in 3D now! Thank you my friend.