Pope Francis, according to a news report I heard last night, has suddenly changed the Vatican’s view of homosexuality. When I heard the report, I knew the reporters had it wrong. The GetReligion blog makes fun of the press once again.
These reporters had not listened to him. There is a lot of that going around.
He has said that homosexuality is not a sin. That is what the church has been saying for a long time. But homosexual behavior is a sin. I know that condemning or refusing to affirm the behavior is considered hateful or homophobic. (By the way, homophobia is Greek that should mean something like fear of having the same fear all over again. Neither homo nor phobia has anything to do with sex.)
But as long as people misunderstand the position of the church, no rational discussion seems possible. And by the position of the church, I mean not just the Catholic Church but also the Eastern Orthodox, most Evangelicals, most Pentecostals, and even the United Methodists. The liberal churches in the West are a tiny minority among world Christianity. There are many enclaves even within liberal or progressive churches–I am thinking ethnic and rural congregations–that still hold the position of the larger church. Also, most of the churches in Africa, South America, and Asia that were spawned by progressive Western churches, disagree with their founding bodies on this issue.
When people from mainline churches who agree with the Pope are called haters or are said to be suffering from a phobia, they do not feel like their denominations are listening to them. This is a hot issue in my own denomination right now. See here. And, from a different perspective, here.
Some families from former parishes of mine have let me know they are leaving our denomination to become, of all things, Methodists. (I find this ironic, because I used to think the Methodists, among whom I have had many good friends, were more liberal than us.)
Now I am not much of a denominational loyalist, so I am not upset about this church hopping. But I want to affirm that these people, like the Pope, are not haters. They do not engage in ugly rhetoric. They have no problem associating with or worshiping with gay people. They are more “progressive” than I am on some other issues. They just can’t affirm homosexual behavior. By not understanding them and classing them with racists and sexists the denomination, which thinks of itself as highly inclusive, has disincluded them.
Sometimes I think our slogan should be: “Everybody should be like us, diverse.” Yet denominations like ours are not very diverse, but are small and seem to be getting smaller.
I stay with my denomination because of the people, because of the freedom, because I don’t really have anyplace else to go, and because, if I wanted to leave, I would have left long ago over issues far more important to me than homosexuality, an issue on which I am personally a live-and-let-live kind of guy. Still, I am willing to listen to the Pope and the larger church on this issue. It seems to me anti-ecumenical not to.
As I think about what to blog about next, I am considering a book having something to do with the Bible and sexuality–not the thou-shalt-not aspect, but the positive side. Do I dare or should I remind myself of that “no rational discussion” thing I mentioned above?