This is something I’ve thought about for a while. Over the last year and a half, I have drifted back to a life of faith. It began with listening to a couple of Christmas sermons in early January 2014. That led to more sermons; the re-discovery of a TV series I had seen years before (Don Cupitt’s The Sea of Faith); watching a whole bunch of stuff on YouTube; discovering other strains of Christian expression I was not previously aware of (Christian Universalism and Progressive Christianity); a brief re-visit to a tradition I have a great love for (Anglicanism) but which I had trouble truly feeling at home in again; and a visit on a Sunday morning in April 2014 to a congregation meeting in the basement studio of the choir I was singing in.
As part of this process, I had to deal with whether I wanted to become a church leader again. My parents had me baptized and took me and my siblings – all six of us – to church when we were young. After a period of being away, we started going back to Sunday school, and church, and (some of us) to Choir – and I was the one who persisted after all my other siblings generally faded away. After a year out of education after high school, I decided I had a call to ministry and entered university. This led to a summer mission in a rural parish; a BA in Religious Studies; an attempt at year-round ministry in another rural parish that ended disastrously; a move from my original home (Newfoundland, Canada) to the ‘big city’ (Toronto); a period of work followed by an MDiv, four more years of student ministry, and two summer internships; followed by a heart-crushing decision by a committee, and eventually a church court, to end the ministry candidacy process for me.
During that time, I began to encounter the reality of sexual minorities in the church, for I was a member of a denomination (the United Church of Canada) which wrestled with these areas of sexuality, faith, and church life before anyone else. I was a spectator and a participant in all these proceedings. I also met gay and lesbian persons; of course I’d met GLBT persons before, I just hadn’t been aware of it! In the process of meeting them, I decided that they were (and could be) Christians, just like me; and that they could experience the call to ministry, just like I had. After the ending of my candidacy process, I felt the need to leave the United Church and eventually became an Anglican. In the process, I ended up being part of a parish which had a gay priest (in the closet at that time).
I drifted around Eastern Canada for three years and eventually decided to take up a career as an English teacher in South Korea (my current home). By that time, I had grown disenchanted with things churchly and felt I couldn’t give much to it. And when I got to Asia, I definitely did not the like the church scene I was encountering. In the eighteen years I’ve been in Asia, I’ve seen the church as Empire (South Korea) and as an entity controlled by the State (mainland China). In my time in Hong Kong, I didn’t really pay much attention to the church because I was in a head space which really didn’t have much room for it.
Now that I’m back in South Korea, I still see a church (broadly speaking) which is very much in ‘Christendom’ mode, firmly seeking to be in partnership with the Powers that Be here (intentional capitalisation – thanks, Walter Wink), and seeking to impose its views of the world on life here. No clearer is that attempt to influence society seen than in the realm of sexuality. Much of the church here is vocally and virulently opposed to the increased participation and protection of sexual minorities in this society.
So, what have I done? I’ve joined a pro-LGBT church! Now you may be asking, Gentle Reader, ‘What the #@$! have you, a straight white married male, done that for?’ Well, it’s because…it just fits where I am. I have the room to embrace my progressive beliefs, I am accepted for who I am, and I’ve been given room to lead, and to explore the possibilities of leadership again. Moreover, I find that in being with, supporting, and acting with this group of people who are working for greater acceptance in this society, I am in more direct contact with what the Gospel is about – about standing with the ‘least of these’, seeking justice for the marginalised, experiencing the joy of life in the Spirit. I realise that, for some of you, what I am writing is anathema, heresy. If it is, this blog is not for you – go find a blog which is more in line with your thinking. But if what you’re reading makes the least bit of sense…
Please join me in my reflections about what I’ve done and what I’m doing, what I think, and how I feel about being a straight, white, male leader in a church which is predominately LGBTQ. There’ll be more to come – watch this space…