(watch a local news interview of Rev. Stephen Heiss here)
To Bishop Mark Webb, my brother in Christ!
In the spirit of the One who said the truth will set us free, and emboldened by the freedom given by grace for which Jesus lived and died, I want and need to share with you how God has led me (and many of our colleagues) in ministries to help set at liberty those who have been held captive by the tyranny against people who are gay.
In the last few years I have officiated at several weddings for brothers and sisters who are lesbian or gay. One of those weddings—the highlight of my ministry—was for my own daughter and the woman who is now her wife. They are so happy!
Further, much to my delight, I have plans to officiate in the near future at yet another wedding for two women, that their joy may also be complete.
Bishop Webb—the long bitter era of scorn and hatred against gay people is dissolving before our very eyes. Christ has broken down the walls.
Those who have lived within the law and those who have lived outside the law are sitting down together at the table of grace.
The parable of the Kingdom of God as a wedding banquet has become an event in real time for hundreds of gay couples across our state. Finally, like the guest list in Jesus’ parable, those on the outside are invited to the inside of God’s grace. They must come!
Nevertheless, some yet refuse the invitation.
They make excuses.
They cite Scriptures, yet offer no interpretive principle by which their claims are validated.
They prefer the “tradition of the elders” to Jesus’ teachings about “not judging the other.”
They screen for the gnats of sexual correctness while the elephants of consumer materialism, environmental degradation, and global starvation pass right by, completely unnoticed.
We cannot judge them, of course, for they too are given grace.
Who among us can say we have always accepted every invitation toward grace and away from judgment?
And so, grace abounds!
Further, the harvest of that grace is found everywhere—even in the church!
With regard to homosexuality, we who count ourselves as United Methodists have been wandering in the wilderness of uncertainty about all things gay for 40 long years. Now the Promised Land is coming into view.
During those 40 years we have attempted to trap gay folks in nets of shame.
We stalked them with bible verses.
We legislated against them – whereas this, and whereas that.
We sent them to trials.
In righteous rage we lifted stones against them.
Now, in our own time, we are dropping those stones, one by one -
at first - mothers, dads, sisters, brothers, school mates, talk show hosts, the neighbor next door.
We were learning.
Then—psychologists, pediatricians, sociologists, school teachers, neuro-scientists, biologists, counselors.
We were learning.
Then—Anglicans, Episcopalians, Lutherans, United Churches of Christ, Presbyterians, Reformed Jews.
We were learning.
And now – baseball players, bible scholars, theologians, professional ethicists, Sunday school teachers, pastors . . .
We are learning.
We are finally learning that
being gay harms no one.
We are learning it is not a sin to be gay nor was it ever “incompatible with Christian teaching”.
We are learning that it is really OK with God if one is gay -
(just as eating shrimp is OK, regardless stern biblical injunctions to the contrary!)
And so a new circle is forming.
A new circle is being created,
and it is being drawn wide.
A circle of understanding.
A circle of compassion.
A circle of truth.
The complex name for that circle might be:
“the fellowship of those who are no longer
throwing stones at people just because
they happen to be gay, lesbian,
bisexual or transgender”
A simpler name for that circle might be:
“those who are trying to live in the light of God’s grace”
But the name of the circle I most hope for, is this one:
The United Methodist Church
Your brother on the journey,
Tabernacle United Methodist Church