Reply to Jonathan Stone on the Possibility of Dialogue between Pentecostals and the LGBT Community

Jonathan Stone knows how to select a hot topic in his post my struggle with homosexuality.  For you Anglicans that visit regularly, you know I deal with this on a regular basis, and many of the Anglican/Episcopal blogs and websites do so even more.  The premier Anglican (IMHO) blog, Titusonenine, does so regularly, but will generally close comments on a post dealing with the subject.  In fact, it’s gotten so bad with churches seceding and what not (they hold the property the same way we do in the Church of God, which only fuels the slugfest) that Kendall Harmon, whose blog Titusonenine is, actually shut off comments on everything during Holy Week, the tone had degenerated so badly!  And these are the Episcopalians and Anglicans, previously “God’s frozen people!”  Just think about what we could do if we ever got started!

In any case, I felt compelled to respond to his posting, and he’s come back with one question in particular that I think needs some detailed treatment:

I want to know if there is any room to have some constructive dialogue between Pentecostals and the LGBT community. I am therefore interested what the ‘conditions’ might have to be for such a conversation to take place, as well as what the potential fruit might be. I would think that such a conversation would only be possible on the Pentecostal side if it was clear that there was, and would continue to be, a firm commitment to the stance that the practice of homosexuality was a sin. What I do not know is whether anyone from the LGBT would be interested in a conversation with that particular condition.

Based on what I’ve seen with the Episcopalians and Anglicans, I’m not optimistic, but I need to explain this in more detail.

Let’s start with the LGBT (I guess I’ll have to rearrange my use of those initials) community first: they’re definitely interested in conversation.  Frank Griswold, TEC’s (The Episcopal Church’s) former Presiding Bishop (isn’t is amazing we’ve adopted that title,) used to love to engage in “deep conversation” but the results were still the same: the consecration of V. Gene Robinson in 2003 and the continued fights over the property of seceding parishes, something which his successor, Katherine Jefferts-Schori, has only ratcheted up.  The problem for them is that they (especially their leadership) are very one-sided in the way they see the issue.  Whether they are inside or outside a church, their idea is not a libertarian “live and let live” paradigm but a “you must accept and love us and what we do” paradigm.  (There are a few exceptions, but most of them don’t have the visibility and get trashed by others in the LGBT community.)  And they will use whatever resources they have at their disposal to force the issue.

Put simply, I don’t see them accepting a dialogue based on your precondition of “a firm commitment to the stance that the practice of homosexuality was a sin.”

Turning to the Pentecostals, one reason why we’ve avoided having this dialogue at all is because of the income distribution of the two sides.  TEC and other “Main Line” churches have faced this issue first is because, traditionally, they have attracted people in the upper income levels, and as a group the LGBT community is an economically advantaged one.  For our part we have done the opposite.  To my way of thinking, this is a sure sign that Pentecost is from God, but the humble roots have instilled an (undeserved) inferiority complex in many of our people.  (Why people in a movement who have swept Christianity the way modern Pentecostalism has would have an inferiority complex is beyond me.  Everybody else is busy taking lessons from us!)  This manifests itself, among other places, in the highly unbudgetary way we do many of our building projects, as I pointed out in my reply to the posting of Rickie Moore’s prophecy on MissionalCOG.    Going into a dialogue with this idea is dangerous; it’s one reason why, for instance, Tony Richie’s visit to the World Council of Churches last summer bothered me so much.  Our traditional isolation has bred into us a hunger for acceptance, and it’s one that the LGBT community could well exploit.

That leads me to make another point: we need to quit spending so much time over going over where we’ve (well, many of us, this blogger excluded) come from and start thinking about where we’re going.

Let me touch on three other things.

  1. The first is “homospirituality.”  I’m not completely sure what you’re referring to, but back in September I posted an article entitled The Paradox of GLBT People and the Church, which featured a scholarly article on the relationship between the development of Anglo-Catholicism in England and homosexuals in the church.  Anglo-Catholicism and Pentecostalism have one thing in common: a strong emphasis on the aesthetic and emotional appeal of worship forms, albeit the aesthetic and emotions are completely opposite one from another.
  2. The whole movement to accept homosexuality needs to be understood as an adjunct to the breakdown of the Christian sexual ethic in our society and, to an extent most don’t want to admit, in our churches.  This is an important issue; it’s one I explore most fully in, of all places, my novel The Ten Weeks.   To specifically demonise homosexuality without including fornication is simply not correct.
  3. I try to reflect my Saviour as much as I can on this site and the others I comment on.  I don’t always succeed; I have definite positions on many topics, and in a society that is as paranoid as ours is on people being “judgemental” I don’t always come across as pleasing.  But I think that Christians should avoid being rude to the greatest extent possible, and be a little more “pastoral” in the way they deal with others.

2 thoughts on “Reply to Jonathan Stone on the Possibility of Dialogue between Pentecostals and the LGBT Community”

  1. Don, thanks for the response. I have at least ‘a feel’ for the context and history from which you make your points. And I can see why there would be a lack of optimism there. In fact, my personal optimism, even without the history of involvement with the Anglican discussion, might not be much higher than your own. Stanley Hauerwas confessed his own frustrations with the discussion in the UMC. According to Hauerwas, the UMC asked him to help in their conversation over the acceptance and affirmation of homosexuals in the ’90’s. What frustrated him was that his unwillingness to choose a side, but rather to attempt to take one small constructive step in dialogue, caused him to be suspected and then rejected by both sides. (You can find this in his book “A Better Hope: Resources for a Church Confronting Capitalism, Democracy, and Postmodernity”). He lost hope in the conversation all together. Still, I guess I am holding out a little hope, though a ‘fool’s hope’ it may be.

    I have been conversing with a member of the LGBT about my post. He is also a very competent biblical scholar who grew up CoG. So, he perhaps has unique insight into both worlds. Anyway, he immediately recognized that I was, as he put it, “trying to occupy a complex middle ground.” He shared that the extreme ends of both communities (both Pentecostal and LGBT) would denounce such a middle ground. As you have given bits and pieces of your history I sense that this is what you have experienced as well. And that that personal history gives you little optimism. However, the indication that I got from this particular individual is that the LGBT is much more diverse than its most extreme members (who also tend to be its most outspoken members). I desire to give this at least a little more time before I settle it in my mind. I desire to see if there is more to both the Pentecostal and the LGBT communities than its respective extremes. I think that extreme prejudice (like you find in true racism) is rooted in one basic pattern–the characterization of an entire group based on its most extreme elements. I do not want to do that. So, I’m determined, for now, to search this out a little further. And I’m still curious–and at least a small part hopeful–about what I may find.

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