Author Topic: Correspondence on homosexuality article  (Read 3099 times)

peter_speckhard

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Correspondence on homosexuality article
« on: January 23, 2007, 02:29:30 PM »
Below is the text of an email I received concerning the article mentioned on another thread, first published in the Forum Letter and reprinted (without permission) in a newsletter called Affirm. The return email address seemed to be a group of some sort. I removed the names. In the next post I'll put the response I sent. I'm wondering if anyone has any thoughts or takes on any aspect of the debate.


On Page 7 of the December 2006 publication Affirm, an article you authored was printed titled, Why Valparaiso Is Out of Step. Who, please, benefits from that kind of writing ?  Is not publishing your article in Affirm somewhat akin to preaching to the choir?  Who but predominantly LCMS readers are even likely to be aware of the article?  Perhaps your intended target audience included only the decision makers at Valparaiso University?

The one group you seem not to have engaged was the GLBT community.  Perhaps you were not trying to target them.  It appears you are comfortable with your position in this matter.   While I respect and acknowledge your right to hold whatever position you wish in this matter, I do not feel that you did a particularly remarkable job of making your case.

I get it that you likely will never volunteer to be on the Board of Directors for the Valporaiso GLBT community, but just maybe you should.  What do you say to the hundreds of thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people in your community and in this country?  Does the LCMS simply write them off, label them as misguided queers and disengage from them?  Or, does the church seek out that community and find ways to minister to it?  The extended GLBT community includes parents, brothers, sisters, children, nieces, nephews, the organists in our churches, Sunday school teachers, fellow parishioners, politicians, doctors, and, yes, even members of the clergy.

I did sense a certain level of arrogance in your writing with a distinct tone of "it's not us, it's them" mentality.  Was your article intended to be a form of public hand washing or ritual clensing as though to say how thankful you are that LCMS is not playing "that" role ?  Do you see any possible echo of Luke 18:11 in your writing? 

Your article referred to "that" role which you labeled as a "quirky,militant and rigidly dogmatic brand of Christianity out of step with the larger Church."  Jesus was criticized by the "in group" of his day for eating with "publicans and sinners".  I feel confident that Jesus would in no way be put off by the little sign or the GLBT community it addressed.  And given our Lord's frequent tendency to say and do the unexpected, I would not be surprised to find him joining with the GLBT community for a meal and some dialog.

One wonders if you were simply trying to fortify your own fears, prejudices, biases and conclusions?  It seems to me that you have tried to use the words of the little sign in the window to conclude that in order to be welcomed, one had to "support and/or be aligned with the GLBT community."  The language of the little sign appears clear on its face.  The words of the little sign seem to suggest not that you were required to support, but an assurance that you are supported if you wished to enter the designated space or safe zone.

Is it possible for you to understand the sacred texts condemning particular aberations of same gender behavior rampant in the ancient world culture as acts of violence and humiliation, then is it possible for you to see something the Bible never explicitly forbids: loving, faithful, monogamous, same gender relationships?  When I read Jesus' words "Come unto me . . ." in Matthew 11:28, I dod not find any exceptions or exclusions included in his invitation. 

For you to conclude that all same gender relationships are immoral places you in a position of speaking out where Jesus was silent.  Unless I missed it in my study of scripture, I do not find one instance where Jesus had anything at all to say about same gender relationships.  He had a great deal to say about mercy, justice, love and adultery however. Even though same gender behavior was an accepted part of the prevailing Greek and Roman culture of his day, Jesus apparenlty never targeted that issue for condemnation. 

I pray that one day you will be able to move by grace from fear to love, from conditional to unconditional, from judgment to mercy.

"Father of all, we give you thanks and praise that when we were still far off you met us in your Son and brought us home.  Dying and living, he declared your love, gave us grace, and opened the gates of glory.  May we who share Christ's body, live his risen life; we who drink his cup bring life to others; we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world."  Thank you, Lord, for love, forgiveness and guidance through Jesus Christ your son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

 


peter_speckhard

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Re: Correspondence on homosexuality article
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2007, 02:32:45 PM »
Thanks for writing. Allow me to respond to your various points and questions more or less in order.

For the record, I had never heard of Affirm until somebody pointed out that my article had been reprinted in it, so if you took it as preaching to the choir, I am not to blame for that-- I didn’t choose that particular choir. I would point out, however, that you read it, so it apparently found a wider readership. (Also for the record, the choir is a part of the church, too, and needs preaching just as much as anybody else, so the analogy isn’t very apt.) As for “who benefits from that kind of writing”, if you’re referring to the more tongue-in-cheek style, that is typical of Forum Letter (where I submitted the article) so the style of my article was in keeping with what they are looking for, as several people on the editorial board told me. If you’re referring to the content-- the upholding the of the traditional Christian teaching concerning homosexuality-- then I can only say that many people took the time to write or call to say they benefited from and appreciated the article very much, including some fairly well-known names in the ELCA. I did not target the decision-makers at Valpo particularly, though they did contact me once the article was published and concluded that the sign was inappropriate and had it taken down. 

You are simply wrong to say that the one group I did not engage was the GLBT community. In fact, the article was the impetus for a series of formal discussions on the topic at the dorm in question. I did not know who put the sign up, but as it happened, that person was a part of the resulting conversation. I took as ironic your comment that I did an unremarkable job of making my case, coming as it did as part of several pages of your remarks on that effort.

You are correct that I will not likely be found on the BOD of the Valpo GLBT community any time soon, but probably because I’ll never be asked-- such choirs tend to be very particular about who preaches to them. As for what I say to homosexuals, as a pastor I say to them (as I pointed out in the article) the same things I preach to everyone else-- Law and Gospel, which is Christ crucified. Furthermore, I have started a group at my church on this specific topic, part Bible study, part support group, both for those struggling with homosexuality and their families, based on the 1999 LCMS publication “A Plan for Ministering to Homosexuals and Their Families”. Several members of my congregation have already expressed great appreciation for it. You’ve probably never read that document, so I’ll excuse as pure ignorance your offensive questions about whether the LCMS simply writes people off as queer.

Concerning the arrogance you sense in my writing, your senses on such matters don’t seem very reliable to me, but whether or not I am guilty of arrogance in this instance (I certainly am guilty of it sometimes), I would never respond by asking you to affirm and celebrate my arrogance, no matter how naturally it comes to me. Sin is, after all, sin.

Do you think Jesus being against the “in group” established a principle for Christians, such that the “in-group” is always wrong?  In the Episcopal church, for example, it is the “in group” and the power-brokers who are very pro-gay, and the outsiders who are the conservative. Is Jesus on the side of the outsiders against the in- group?  But even despite that, do you really see today’s homosexuals as parallel to the “sinners” Jesus ate with? Did Jesus thereby affirm them in their sin? There is a big difference between something celebrated and something forgiven; which rubric in your mind covers homosexual relationships?

Your attempt to psychoanalyze my theological position as an attempt to fortify my fears and biases is too tedious to address at any length, other than to say that people who resort to such reasoning are rarely worth engaging. I write in the hopes that you are an exception. I read the sign for what it was, a declaration of a “safe zone”, which implies un-safety elsewhere. It made sense to me to assume that what they wanted to be safe from was the Christian church’s traditional teaching on homosexuality, a suspicion your response to my article merely confirms.

Space does not permit us to argue the general point about the morality of homosexual behavior. I take as somewhat condescending your asking whether it is possible for me to understand something that you apparently think you understand about the Scriptures. Do you write off the LCMS, the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox communions, and various conservative protestant groups as too lazy to look into the matter? Too stupid to follow your reasoning? Too bigoted to agree with your conclusions? Many arguments on both sides of this issue can be found on the online forum of the alpb website (the folks who publish Forum Letter).

Thanks for the prayers. As I said, I have no fears on this matter, nor is the LCMS view of homosexuality unloving. In fact, it is really the only truly loving approach. Unconditional is God’s love, to be sure, but His love is also a call for repentance and faith. Are there no sins you disapprove of? If so, do you see your disapproval as a rejection of the Gospel and a condition attached to God’s love? As to moving from judgment to mercy, I’ll keep preaching and living (as God enables me) the truth of God’s Word of Law and Gospel.


Richard Johnson

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Re: Correspondence on homosexuality article
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2007, 04:04:25 PM »
Ah, and now HERE'S a question: The person in question, why did he or she read this article in Affirm rather than in Forum Letter? Does this imply that there's someone in the conservative wing of LCMS who is out of step with orthodoxy? ::)
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

janielou13

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Re: Correspondence on homosexuality article
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2007, 06:28:25 PM »
Naughty moderator.

scott3

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Re: Correspondence on homosexuality article
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2007, 06:33:15 PM »
Great letter, Peter.  I hope someone takes you up on your offer of conversation, if the folks really desire such dialog.  You should have included a link to this site!  If you do get a letter back, please share it.  When did you send them your response, anyway?

Dave_Poedel

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Re: Correspondence on homosexuality article
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2007, 07:33:04 PM »
I'm confused:  there is a far-right pseudo LCMS group called "Affirm", but this appears to be a different group, no?  Will someone please clarify, as I routinely throw away unopened anything from the "conservative" Affirm, "Christian News", "Concensus" and the like.

peter_speckhard

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Re: Correspondence on homosexuality article
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2007, 07:41:50 PM »
I'm confused:  there is a far-right pseudo LCMS group called "Affirm", but this appears to be a different group, no?  Will someone please clarify, as I routinely throw away unopened anything from the "conservative" Affirm, "Christian News", "Concensus" and the like.
I just had the email exchange a few days ago. The "Affirm" group is the same far-right group you're talking about, Dave, (at least as far as I know) and this person read it there, though he does not subscribe to the views of the newsletter.

revjagow

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Re: Correspondence on homosexuality article
« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2007, 03:44:15 PM »

Thanks for the prayers. As I said, I have no fears on this matter, nor is the LCMS view of homosexuality unloving. In fact, it is really the only truly loving approach. Unconditional is God’s love, to be sure, but His love is also a call for repentance and faith. Are there no sins you disapprove of? If so, do you see your disapproval as a rejection of the Gospel and a condition attached to God’s love? As to moving from judgment to mercy, I’ll keep preaching and living (as God enables me) the truth of God’s Word of Law and Gospel.


An excellent response.  I'm glad the LC-MS has such a good spokesman on this.  This bit above is especially good.  It challenges the writer to say where his boundary lines are, if he does not share your view of what God has said.  Also well done was what you shared about the current Bible study/ support group at your church.  You are obviously ready to practice what you preach.  Well done!
Soli Deo Gloria!

peter_speckhard

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Re: Correspondence on homosexuality article
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2007, 10:14:10 AM »
I would encourage those of you who have the traditional/conservative take homosexuality to consider starting such groups as we're talking about above. We had a dozen people come to informational meeting, and a lot more who plan on coming in the future. The variety of challenges faced by people who do not want to accept/affirm/celebrate sinfulness but who also are called as Christians to be in relationship with people who define themselves according to their sexual attractions is simply staggering. The easy answers-- "get over it" or else cut off the relationship-- are not the Christian answers, at least not most of the time, but people need help. It will be part Bible study, but not on the issue of whether homosexual activity is sinful-- the group takes it as read that it is. Those who want more of an exegetical "proof" of the traditional morality on this will not find what they are looking for in this group, but will simply be directed to other materials and Bible studies. Rather, the Bible study will focus on being in relationship, family and Christian fellowship, what constitutes approval of sin and what constitutes patience and forgiveness, etc. It will also serve as a sort of discussion/support group. The basic outline is from A Plan for Ministry to Homosexuals and Their Families, which claims in the inside cover is available online at the LCMS website, but I couldn't find it there, so you may have to ask around.

Mel Harris

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Re: Correspondence on homosexuality article
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2007, 12:48:59 PM »
The basic outline is from A Plan for Ministry to Homosexuals and Their Families, which claims in the inside cover is available online at the LCMS website, but I couldn't find it there, so you may have to ask around.

A link to download this booklet in pdf format can be found near the top of this page:

http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=2724

The actual link for the download is:

http://www.lcms.org/minhomfam

The Google created page to read this booklet in html (with the associated problems) is at:

http://72.14.253.104/search?q=cache:3HNzeE1G0ysJ:www.lcms.org/minhomfam+A+Plan+for+Ministry+to+Homosexuals+and+Their+Families&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1&client=safari

(Scroll down a ways to see the contents of the booklet.)

« Last Edit: January 30, 2007, 03:59:26 PM by Mel Harris »

peter_speckhard

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Re: Correspondence on homosexuality article
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2007, 02:53:38 PM »

It was not that difficult to find. 

Why are you so insensitive to incompetent people? It was really, really difficult, to the point of impossible for me to find. And the sociology/psychology is nothing I would swear by. I tend to prefer the RC idea of disordered desires to the rather simplistic distinction between orientation and behavior. But the six point outline/approach to dealing with the situation makes sense to me (though two of them seem a little redundant).

Michael_Rothaar

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Re: Correspondence on homosexuality article
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2007, 03:56:35 PM »
I tend to prefer the RC idea of disordered desires to the rather simplistic distinction between orientation and behavior. But the six point outline/approach to dealing with the situation makes sense to me (though two of them seem a little redundant).

A quick reading of the document leads me to agree that it highlights a number of appropriate themes, as you suggest. From about page 12 on (beginning with an explication of the 6th commandment) it might be as helpful in other situations, such as the parents (or in one instance I'm dealing with here, the grandparent) of an adult "living with" (and procreating with) someone outside marriage. Parts could also have been helpful with an astute and committed teen girl who asked for counsel in how to relate to a guy friend who's starting to identify himself as gay. (She didn't remember covering this in confirmation class.) As a congregation, we are open to membership and participation by gay people -- and have a few we can identify -- but not RIC. I found the LCMS piece a good enough job that I saved a copy (thanks to Mel Harris' navigation skills) for some possible future use in some form.

Thinking about this makes me wonder about how other ELCA pastors (among those who uphold the historic interpretation of Scripture) nonetheless navigate the social dynamics of the present culture in a pastoral way.

Subsequent modification: I just noticed the online article about talking to teens about sex. That might be a more appropriate forum for the discussion I'm proposing. I'm also going to post this there.
« Last Edit: January 30, 2007, 04:16:48 PM by Michael_Rothaar »
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Mel Harris

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Re: Correspondence on homosexuality article
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2007, 04:16:34 PM »

Why are you so insensitive to incompetent people?

I apologize for my blatant insensitivity.  (I have removed the offensive sentence that was in my last post.)  My only intent was to provide a couple of ways for those who are half as lazy as I am to read the booklet that Pastor Speckhard was recommending.  I will attempt in the future not to brag about my skills at copying a title out of the posting of another and pasting it into a search box.

The Rightfully Chastened Lutheran Bishop of Baker County
« Last Edit: January 30, 2007, 08:11:47 PM by Mel Harris »

Mel Harris

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Re: Correspondence on homosexuality article
« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2007, 04:45:54 PM »

Thinking about this makes me wonder about how other ELCA pastors (among those who uphold the historic interpretation of Scripture) nonetheless navigate the social dynamics of the present culture in a pastoral way.

I have found the wonderful tracts published by the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau very useful.  I have used some of them in confirmation classes, some in preparing couples for marriage, and keep copies of all of them on hand in my office.

To see the titles and for a link to 3 easy options for purchasing these tracts go to:

http://www.alpb.org/tracts.htm

[I actually count 4 options listed, (you can place an order directly from the web site, by telephone, by email or by U. S. Mail), but then, what do I know.  On second thought, it could be that they consider one of these options more difficult than the others.  It may just be me, but I have not yet figured out how to order tracts directly from the ALPB web site.]

« Last Edit: January 30, 2007, 06:12:51 PM by Mel Harris »