by Greg Gray
As I have made my way through seminary I have found that there are many topics in the church which we discuss believing that we all share a common definition, but this could not be further from the truth. When I hear someone speaking of sin, salvation, atonement, etc, I have to ask if they are talking about the same thing I am. I have had entire conversations on atonement where they may be discussing penal substitution, but I am referring to Christus Victor. When I refer to homosexuality, I mean who I am as a beloved child of God. When someone else refers to homosexuality, they mean a theological position. We clearly are using the same words with different meanings.
The topic that is the most frustrating to me is marriage. I have seen individuals including our clergy with signs and shirts stating, “I support traditional marriage.” When I see this, I think that I too support traditional marriage. I think that the marriage of my mother and father is wonderful, and I will support it with everything that I and the church have to offer. However, this is clearly not what others mean with their shirts and signs. They are using a sentence with which I agree against me as a weapon. They mean that they support “traditional” marriage and nothing else. I support marriage between one man and one woman just as they do, but I also support marriage between one man and one man, and between one woman and one woman.
So, the question becomes if we are using the same words to discuss a variety of issues facing the church today but our words have different meanings, how are we to ever move the conversation forward? The answer is found central to our Reconciling movement. Through the process of “graceful engagement” we must continue to hear the stories of those who do not speak, think, and act like us. We must hear their stories, value them for what they are, and love them just as they are as beloved children of God. Also, we must continue to share our stories of who we are and the relationships we share with God and each other. We can share how we too support “traditional marriage” just as we wish for our marriages to be supported by the communities of believers of which we are members.
I have great hope for The United Methodist Church. Our stories are being heard, and people are seeing and hearing LGBTQ individuals for who we truly are. We are beloved children of God who love other beloved children of God. As we build relationships with others in our sphere of influence through conversation, our words begin to share meaning because we care for each other and the communication we have fostered. Do not lose heart as we continue our work in telling our stories to others in order to make God’s church be the church God would have it to be. Through this graceful engagement, “they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love.”
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Greg Gray was born into Union Chapel UMC on a small 2-point circuit, is now a member of Monroe First UMC, and serves as the Director of Music at Haygood Memorial UMC. He graduated from the University of Georgia in 2008 with an AB in Speech Communication and in 2011 with an AB in Music (Voice), and recently graduated with a Master of Divinity at Candler School of Theology. He will begin work on a Master of Sacred Theology at Boston University in the Fall. He also enjoys working for the United Methodist Church as the North Georgia Conference vice-chair of Lay Revitalization Ministry.