Whose cross...

Yesterday, I found myself with a few more friend requests on Facebook. One of the individuals told me he heard of my story on Towleroad. Out of curiosity, I decided to Google myself and see what showed up. One result was a post from a contributor at the Institute on Religion and Democracy. It took reading over it several times before I could fully make sense of what was being said, or more importantly, in this case, what was not being said.

The article, in addition to being, well, a grammar Nazi's nightmare, reeked of subtext. There was more being unsaid than said. In any case, speaking to a friend who shared more with me about the organization, her words when picking up the phone were, "Congratulations on getting quoted by the IRD." Apparently, among my circle of friends, to be quoted (or more importantly, attacked, albeit in a very subtle fashion) by the IRD is a sign that you're doing something right. It's the good kind of scarlet letter. And so I felt a certain sense of pride.

I also felt a sense of angst. There was this tone of manipulation and coercion that was present, and I don't fare well with either of those. This is my response to the article:

I did not pass to move on to full ordination. I was certified as a candidate. The United Methodist ordination process is a long one, usually taking 5-7 years. I'm still in seminary and have taken more time than most to get to this most recent stage of ordination.

"This concern that somehow we won’t be “true to ourselves” or “authentic” when we become Christian puzzles me. As Psalm 51 one says, “Behold, I was shaped in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” We all have baggage as we step into Church. If being Christian required us to be perfect before our baptism, no one would get baptized."

I understand that from your perspective, my sexual orientation should be construed as "baggage." But I feel you missed the point. As a person called to ministry, I believe that authenticity and integrity are vital to effective ministry. The reality is I'm a gay man (not homosexual... if you want real dialogue, don't be so condescending), partnered who has wrestled with my sexuality for most of my life and, after much thought, prayer, and discernment, has come to the conclusion that I am neither called to celibacy nor any attempt at changing my sexual orientation.

You say you're not here to offer reasons as to why homosexuality is sinful. I'm glad for this, and here's why: if we want to be honest about it, scripture never addresses homosexuality as an orientation. In fact, it doesn't address the idea of sexual orientation at all. The concept was foreign up until the last couple of centuries. Also, as for holy scripture and Christian tradition serving as foundational reasons for why homosexual practice is sinful, let's not forget that both scripture and tradition rationalized the subjugation and dehumanization of women as well as the rightness of slavery in North America. When we look back on those issues today, scripture was not right... at least human interpretation of scripture was incorrect.

Throwing in buzzwords like "lifestyle" and insinuating that any sexual orientation other than a heterosexual one is not an inborn part of a person doesn't prove your point or make you right... it shows your fear (not you necessarily as an individual, but the systemic you). Fear of losing power. Fear of change. Fear of being wrong. Fear of being in true relationship with anyone whom you might categorize as "other" or separate. Fear of abandoning yourselves to the real message of the gospel, the one that challenges the status quo, that makes the first last and the last first.

It's been said that perfect love casts out all fear. I pray that you and many others might experience this perfect love in a way that forces all fear out of you, allowing your hearts to be filled with true grace and your lives to be overflowing with abundant relationships with *all* people.

Peace, Michael

When I think about the cross that we are called to bear, I believe we must all wrestle with the ways in which we are to "crucify" ourselves or allow ourselves to be crucified. Denying who I am and who I love is not the cross I am called to bear. My cross, as I've understood it recently, is vulnerability—being someone who experiences the broken, fallen nature of the world to a deeper extent than most, and to do so while embracing a call to love and show grace to all, including those who would vilify and ostracize me. God's love is extended to all, and as a person who has experienced that love, I feel called to spread it outwards, to bring to light those places and actions that are shadowed by the absence or rejection of that love.