Tag Archive for LGBTQ

Love is where the rubber meets the road …

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I recently received the following IM from one of my soldiers in the corps.

I can’t or don’t want to continue as a Soldier … I feel that I want to fall in love, love and feel loved back. Therefore I wan’t to become an adherent.

Personally this is one of the most heartbreaking messages I have ever received. What is wrong with our organisation, our membership form if one of our members feel they must step down and turn in the uniform so that they may be free to fall in love?

This person is gay, and loves the Salvation Army and respects the organisations rules and regulations. Choosing celibacy no longer feels like a viable option. Adherency, the other membership of the Salvation Army does not have rules and regulations attached to it and therefore functions as a compromise. And so I received this message.

This Soldier is on of the most devout, gentle, spirit filled, loving Christians we have in our corps. I am humbled and overjoyed to have such a beautiful role model of what it means to walk with god and seek god for ones life as a Soldier in my corps.

What would you do, if you where the corps leader? How would you reply?

This makes me feel stronger than ever that we must be able to council LGBTQ persons the same way we do any other member of our church. If another member of my corps would come and say that they longed to fall in love, I would simply say: Good for you, lets pray that you meet the right person. I can’t wait to bless the two of you together. No need to step down or resign. No need to feel bad about it, it is part of ordinary (albeit extraordinary, as it is fantastic to fall in love) life!

So, right or wrong that is what I said.

 

 

Jesus in drag

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Why are you doing this? Why do you take such an interest in the LGBTQ and sexuality? The question has been asked of me many times. By my leaders, by the people in my congregation and by my family. In fact I think it was my brother who asked the million dollar question one day just after I had come out with my LGBTQ and the church series: “How many LGBTQ people do you have in your church?”

The truth is that I somehow knew that this was an issue that we had to deal with. Already at our Officers training (like seminary but for Salvation Army Officers) I started asking the questions. How are we to deal with the LGBTQ community? It seemed no one was particularly interested in even broaching the subject and the ones that did either did so with a love the sinner hate the sin attitude and some even sneered at me “Why should we talk about this, it’s not like they will join your church, and why would they want to join a club where they are not welcome?”

After receiving my orders and moving to Malmö it took one week before I was caught like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming truck: “What if two men asks you to marry them what would you say?” This, asked by a group of teenagers hanging about outside during the Malmö festival. I had no coherent or thought through answer, I believe I stumbled through some kind of: It’s complicated kind of response.

I realised I had to get my theology straight I had to reconcile what I knew in my heart to be true and how I read the bible. It was fishing for help in these issues that I stumbled into Tim. We met in the chatroom connected to Doug Paggit’s radio show, I do not remember how the conversation started but I do remember how it ended. Tim asked me if I wanted to talk about this over Skype and I answered that I would love to, it seemed it was hard to get anyone to actually have a constructive conversation about this that wasn’t just regurgitating old evangelical sound bytes.

The conversation with Tim was great, the fact that he didn’t try to convince me of anything helped. Not once did he try to say: “This is how you should read scripture.” He simply directed me to some great resources (Andrew Marin: Love Is an Orientation among others). But then he shared story after story about how he had encountered deep spirituality and loving worship within the LGBTQ community, this I think was important for me to hear as a recovering pentecostal fundamentalist. But nothing could have really prepared me for the shocking turn the conversation took next.

After having to swear on the record that I wouldn’t be recording our conversation Timothy told me about his project. How he also had found himself on a lonely desert journey and had decided that he once and for all had to deal with the inner Pharisee. That he had done this by coming out as gay (even though he was straight) to his friends, family and church. Here are his words about it:

The thing that truly astonished me with Tim’s story was that he was willing to literally walk a mile/a year in the shoes of the other (please learn more about Tim’s experiment and support his indiegogo campaign) . It is this uncomfortable truth that seems to trip me up wherever I go in my spiritual walk like a pair of shoes carelessly kicked of on the hallway carpet (always tripping you up on the way to the restroom). I am committed to work day and night for the human rights of others but am I willing to walk in their shoes and more importantly am I willing to know their pain. Not just know of their pain but to actually feel it?

I recently stumbled onto this disturbing quote from Jim Palmer‘s Divine Nobodies:

“I uncovered something unsettling about myself. I don’t really want a “relationship” with God. Here’s what I want. I want to share with God all I feel, all I need, all that grieves me, all that makes me happy, the puzzling things, the fun things, and the hard things, but I would prefer that God keep his stuff to himself. I don’t want to hear about his pain and share in his grief.”

That rings so true with me, I really want a shoulder to cry on but am I willing to bear the burden of the other, and am I willing to bear the burden of God?

Are you? Would you be willing to undergo persecution, ridicule just to know others? Would you walk the valley of death not for your own sake but just to know the other, to love them and maybe to realise that the other is not so different than yourself? If you won’t take it from me, please read more about Tim’s experiment and let it challenge you.

My conversation with Tim was, for me the first real step of this journey. I had been planning it for some time, checking out the catalogues, admiring the post cards, packing the bag but now I was ready to walk the walk inspired by Tim’s courage!

 

 

The centrality of sexuality

Why is this such a big deal? Why does it matter? It should be a non issue! This is what both right wing and left wing, conservatives and liberals are saying all over the place. In churches people are taught that their sexuality, while important, is not essential. Sexuality does not define you, or who you are.

This reasoning is the basis for the “Love the sinner, hate the sin” theology that is so prevalent, it is also the basis for all pushes for chastity and purity vows etc. Your sexuality whatever it is is a non-issue, seek first the kingdom.

Even in non church environments where liberalism reigns the sigh of ‘I have had enough’ together with the statement “why are we even talking about this” in regards to LGBTQ issues (all well meaning of course, taking for granted the equal rights for all people). I agree, equal rights for all people should be a non-issue, it should be something we could take for granted but it is not. As long as LGBTQ people are discriminated against in subtle and not so subtle ways it is an issue of importance. I also disagree, because our sexuality is an issue of centrality it is so entwined with whom we are and whom we are created to be, it is a central part of our creaturliness and therefore can never be a disregarded or relegated to a peripheral discourse.

We are so saturated in hetero-normative, sterelised thinking that we cannot see how a heteronorm reading of the bible narrative marginalises not only LGBTQ persons but also our sexuality.

It all starts in genesis where we have cleaned up the grand creation narrative with a clinical zen like ex-nihilo, purgating all messy chaotic double entendre within the narrative. In true platonistic fashion we pretend that the fall has negated gods declaration of ‘very good’ and fall into a gnostic reading where the spiritual still is good but matter is less than or even downright evil.

We continue our discourse by spiritualising our OT readings so as to forget about sexuality or at least put all the evil sex in the hands of the others (the others often being the LGBTQ community) scapegoating the dirty and disturbing onto those perverted others, safely ignoring the beams lodged in our own orifices.

The Song of Songs is read as a safe poetic allegory but we do not delve to deep lest we disturb the unsettling notion of gods passionate eros for us as gods beloved.

We continue sterilising the gospels by making sure Mary is a virgin and stays a virgin (making her a mythical creature and not a flesh and blood human). We keep our blinkers on so we can ignore the disturbing images of the god-spirit sexually (forcefully?) impregnating a teenage peasant girl.

Jesus is in our reading portrayed male but chaste to keep this serene gnosticism intact to the end. The passion of the resurrection is left unspoken as Jesus rises as an eternal resurrection body (without sex) and ascending to the sexless marriage-less heaven where we deftly ignore all sexual marriage symbolism used to describe the coming kingdom.

So here’s the problem, we have neutered the biblical narrative making it a-sexual, like a eunuch (which ironically is also sexually deviant). Since this is how we read scripture this is how we see god an a-sexual deity and therefore it must be how we treat our sexuality. Either as something embarrassing that should not be or something that will at least perish when we are made holy.

We need to recover a queer god. A gay god is not good enough, as a gay god simply reaffirms the false homo-hetero dichotomy. A Jesus who marries Mary Magdalene reinforces the heteronormative narrative while a gay Jesus reinforces it by reinforcing the “negative” pole. A queer god is a god who is neither male nor female but trans-gendered (not as in transitioning from one to another but as one who transcends both without ever becoming less of either or fully other). We need to recover a queer god that creates with erotic pleasure and then sets us free to do the same. We need to recover a queer Christ, who is not secretly longing to tap Mary Magdalene or Lazarus but passionately, erotically loves them both (that is, he is sexually attracted to them). Whatever Jesus does with his sexuality (as in: does he act it out?) is here irrelevant, the fact that it is there and central to his actions, fuelling his passionate love for all humanity, omni-amourous.

We are sexual beings, our eros is part of whom we are, not all that we are, but a significant part. When we ignore it or sterilise it, or try to tame it, make it clean acceptable we suppress who we are and therefore who god created us to be. It is time as Marcella Althaus-reid writes in her ‘Indecent theology’:

“Isn’t it time the Christian heterosexuals came out of their closets too?”

Let’s stop pretending that we are all the same, that our sexuality can be summarised with missionary vanilla sex. If we can allow the interpretative gap that Jesus leaves on these issues, the invitation to midrash, be a starting point for our continued discourse. Let’s stop pretending that this is not an important issue. Lets stop pretending that we can stop talking, wondering, experimenting, longing, masturbating, copulating and loving it!

 

How I became a queer theologian a desert journey

Last week my friend Samuel decided to reblog one of my posts on LGBTQ and the church. Promptly someone questioned if I really had written the piece as I had taught a very different gospel at said persons confirmation camp. I had to reply that I have been (am still) on a long theological pilgrimage.

Looking back I realise that it has been a long journey, not in a straight line but rather a rambling exodus in the christian desert of sexual mis/information.

When I was younger I had no opinions about sexuality. Sex was the mystical promised land of unending climactic pleasure. There was some testing the waters outside the boundaries of heteronorm conduct though I never wavered in my appreciation and attraction to the mythical female forms. I encountered gay men and lesbian women early as I lived at times in LGBTQ collectives with pink triangles painted on the walls and worn by the kind gentlemen who shared rooms in the oversized apartment. As I was not sexually active I did not understand what that meant or that it could be wrong.

It was not until I became a Christian in my late teens that I was told that certain sexualities where accepted by god (a man and a woman joined in holy matrimony) and all other sexualities (mine included) where tickets straight to a fiery lake with eternal torment on the side. I was taught to read the bible literally and would never have considered Christianity a real option had I not experienced pure authentic joy (in the small baptist church in Malmö) and the unconditional love of an older man (the token black man in the otherwise all white congregation i attended in the Ozarkian backwaters of the US bible belt) showcasing what a fathers love should really be like.

I was crushed to my knees by the awesome presence of the divine and repented my old ways. That is when I had to start reconciling my postmodern upbringing with the modern vestments of American churchianity. First I had to shed my love and fascination for science and replace it with a growing passion for the metaphysical secondly I had to reconcile the unconditional love I felt from god with the judgement of everyone not part of the church (the church being a very narrow description of people who believed exactly what I had been taught that the bible teaches).

This was hard work, it is not easy reconciling a loving god with eternal conscious torment. It lead to a lot of ‘closeting’ that is I had to hide the parts of me that where not compatible with this black and white world of conditional love and unconditional justice. I burnt and renounced my tarot cards, my roleplaying games and my Metallica albums. I listened only to approved Christian music and broke of with my girlfriend who was trying to lead me into sexual temptation by her very existence.

One day I was sitting at our local hangout when a punk girl my age came up to me and asked me if I thought she was going to hell if she died today. I asked her dutifully if she ‘believed in her heart’ and if she could ‘confess with her mouth’ that Jesus was lord. She said that she didn’t know what she believed and that she would confess no such thing. That settled it in my mind and I told her as much, she was going to hell unless she reconsidered. I remember walking out of there with confidence and feeling quite proud of myself the ‘little servant of the lord’ and an evangelist to boot. Hadn’t I in no uncertain terms explained that god was handing out a free bag of candy if she would just bow to his might, never mind the punch in the face that was the price of refusal. The next day I learned that she had killed herself that night. I think this was the first day of my real journey.

Surely Jesus would ave seen the need to be loved in this girls eyes and restored her self worth… Surely Jesus would have known what to say, how to love her. How to enter into her world, to penetrate her bubble and show how passionately relentlessly god loved her.

I still had many years of soul searching and theological wrestling with the doctrinal dragons of organised religion ahead of me before I could answer these questions in a way that would be actual good news. In the meantime I compartmentalised the problem with the ever so handy phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin”. I represented a unholy, unholistic hermeneutic of separation between person and action as if we can be separated from what we do so easily.

I did peer training with “a world of difference institute” and CEJI two wonderful organisations working against antisemitism, bigotry and racism. I did so still asserting that god loves gay people, he just hate what they do. I honestly did not realise that what my friend Paul heard from me, the loving Christian, was god loves you but hates what you are. From my other fiends on the peer training course who where not Christians he got only love because he was just a lovely loving guy. To this day I wish I could find Paul and tell him how sorry I am.

Stumbling through life trying to find a way to be an honest Christian who will preach a message that rings true and can be considered good news to the poor and the not so poor, the normal and the weird, the straight and the queer.

So I came to college a raving fundamentalist who really wanted to believe the pre-formated cookie cutter christian platitudes I was spewing out.

Don’t get me wrong; I was an excellent speacher, I could motivate and capture young peoples hearts with a cunning accuracy. I could convert and convict, I got inspire and release. My prophetic gift kicked in just enough to scare the youth I spoke to enough to hang onto every word I spoke. If only I could have believed them as fully as they did. If only the beast in the closet could die and not cry out for release.

At college was where my ‘queering’ begun. As my understanding for bible history, hermeneutics and biblical exegesis grew I quickly lost grip of my fundamentalist ‘reality’. I honestly thought at times as I was loosing my faith.

“What do you mean Moses did not cross the red sea?”

It was well into the last quarter of the first year before I gave up pressing my old formulaic beliefs into academic language and capitulated to what my soul cried out for ‘a faith seeking understanding’ but doing so in the only way I known how to do anything ‘no holds barred’.

My first queer teacher (I am unsure how he would feel about the title but it is just as true) made this groundbreaking statement: Just because it didn’t happen, doesn’t mean it’s not true. That statement alone was worth the price of admission. It ‘queered’ my faith forever, in the same way that Jesus’ “You have heard it said …. But I say unto you ….” must have done for his followers. This together with the guidance of Brian McLaren (A new kind of Christian, the secret message of Jesus) and John Eldredge (Epic, Desire, Sacred Romance, Wild at heart) who taught me a narrative reading of scripture. A narrative framework to replace my rigid fundamentalism.

Still the question of sexuality was still in the closet. I tried to open the can at college but was not really encouraged to go there. So I did when I hit the ground at my first appointment. The first week on the appointment I was asked, hypothetically, if I would officiate a gay marriage. I had no answer, but at least this time I was mature, courageous enough to admit that I did not.

Many books, sermons and meetings with representatives of the LGBTQ community later, I am standing on a square literally around the corner from the restaurant where I met the punk girl all those years ago. I am watching a heated argument between a young american missionary standing with a six foot cross over his shoulder and a young punk rocker girl with pink hair and a nose ring. She is spewing sarcastic question at him like a spitfire and he is squirming under the pressure. He tries to be graceful. He says to her that god loves her and that she will get to heaven IF she will repent her actions. I feel a strange yet familiar tug in my heart and I intervene, literally, I step in between the two combatant and I try to intercede. God loves you I say to her. She blinks twice and says, sarcasm thick in her voice, “but …” But nothing, I say, “god loves you, no matter who you are, what you do and whom you love”. At first she gets angry accusing me of trying to steal the other guys convert, then she mellows and asks quietly, “do you really mean it?” Then hesitantly, “Would god love me even if I was born a man, I mean even if I am a man down here and woman up here” she gestures at her body parts. I re-emphasise, “god loves you just as you are right now, he loves every part of you both down there and up here” I say. She goes quiet for a while and I realise she is crying. “Thank you”, she says, “I did not know there where Christians like you. I don’t believe in god but maybe I could love a god like the one you know”.

It struck me then that this is why I am. My whole existence can be described with a purpose to this moment, to tell this girl that god loves her, her mess, her penis and breasts and all. and that is good news.

 

Meanwhile in another part of the Salvation Army

The conversation is still going on. Johnny Laird (who kindly posted a blogpost about my article series on LGBTQ) reminded me of this excellent video segment from Just Salvos featuring an interview with Jay Bakker:

I think the most important part of this video clip is the realigning of the LGBTQ issue from a sin issue to a social justice issue. The Salvation army needs to stand with the oppressed and marginalised and not work against human rights (as has been the case at times in the LGBTQ debate).

 

LGBTQ part 12 – coming out

Sitting here pondering and reflecting on some of the discussions that have come out of LGBT posts here on the blog. The first thing that strikes me is that there are so few persons leaving comments in relation to the high number of visitors.

I think that fear may be a large factor, both for those who disagree (who fear being labeled as bigoted fundamentalists) and those who agree (who are afraid of getting into trouble in their own congregations).

For a Christian, it can be difficult enough to “come out” and be LGBT-affirming. I recall that not so long ago I was with a number of my colleague officers present, seated there and I with a pounding heart and sweaty palms. Filled with anxiety I wondered what would happen when I began sharing with them my views on the LGBT issue. There were several persons present who tried to mediate; “what Patrik really means is that one must love the sinner and hate the sin …” Oh how easy it would be to just remain quiet and slide back down in that abyss, but no, that’s not what I mean.

What also strikes me is that it’s so difficult to have a discussion without getting bogged down in judgmental, polarized arguments. Even if on the positive affirmative side, how does one maintain an open-minded, unbiased posture toward people with pronounced biases.

But I realize once again how important this conversation is and that it is in the public light, “Only in the open, you have an opportunity. Locks you if you suffocate and wither you. In the open air, you should walk with the Lord. My power is made perfect in your weakness then. “

I believe that we must love all people regardless of their actions (whether we categorize the action as a sin or not) and that we must be allowed to affirm, and even rejoice that LGBT persons are in fellowship, and realize that they are God’s gift to us. Some were curious, others stunned, and a few glared judgmentally and commented harshly. I can and I do understand fear. It is not easy to “come out.”

But I realize once again how important this discussion is and that it take place in a public forum:

“In the arena of candidness (in the open) you have opportunity.
Lock yourself away and you will suffocate and wither.
Step out into freedom and walk with the Lord.
(for) My power is made perfect in your weakness.”

If we dare not (or aren’t allowed) to “come out” and discuss these difficult to handle issues in transparency and honesty, how are we ever going to find, understand, (and) love one another! So I continue blogging, Continue asking questions and highlight issues from as many perspectives as possible; maybe it attracts one more out of the closet where we can have the conversation, in the open.

Psalm 90 – Surely in the light

“Surely in the arena of candidness you have opportunity.
Lock yourself away and you will suffocate and wither.
Step out into freedom and walk with the Lord.
(for) My power is made perfect in your weakness.”
Live in a world converted to reality,
Turned toward God’s future, urged onward by His faithfulness.
You’ll never face darkness alone.
Only in the light will your possibilities be kindled.

Text: Britt G Hallqvist 1972 – J Kirkegaard 1971
Music: O Widestrand 1974, 19

Lt. Patrik Olterman
Commanding officer
TSA Malmo, Sweden

TRANSLATION: Dr. Sven Ljungholm

 

LGBTQ part 11 – Continued conversation

Following many words and much wrestling with the scriptures, doctrines, and my own faith, I have come to find, that no matter how I read the biblical text, I can never escape from my commission to love the Lord with all my soul, with all my heart and with all my strength. And to love my neighbor as myself.  Unless Jesus came into the world to condemn it but rather to save it, then it’s not my role to judge the world, or any other person.
When I then delve down into the depths of the Bible, I understand that I do not have much ground under my feet to speak soundly either for or against GLBT (issues). The only thing that I can deduce with all possible clarity is that I am called to love all people regardless of gender, sexuality, nationality, social status and political opinion. Yes, I am even to love my enemies and pray that God will bless them.
How then shall I be able to move forward to, in a sensible and dignified manner, continue to discuss these issues? Can I do other than to tolerate (simply allow) GLBT persons to be who they are and to actually love them? How can I learn more (in order) to live near to and in Christian fellowship with these my fellow human beings and siblings –  joined by faith?
RFSL & EKHO
For my part, I am now a card-carrying member of RFSL and have been part of the startup team of EKHO, the Province of  Scania. EKHO is a special interest organization that works to create a safe place where LGBT people can have freedom and encouragement in their Christian faith.
Here in Malmö EKHO will host an open cafe for conversation and fellowship once a month with the first meeting taking place on January 26 Please contact us if you want to join with us.
Ekho works therefore to:
·      Provide a living and liberating community for GLBT persons
·      an environment that provides care and social security
·      liberation and justice for GLBT persons in Christian churches and denominations
·      to actively carry out and in collaboration with others, further awareness of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans support available through members’ active work in their own church
·      ensure that every individual be able to feel the strength of being a whole person, created in God’s image
·      that every individual must be able to accept, respect and rejoice in their ability to fall in love with someone of the same sex and feel that it is a gift from God, reflecting God’s love
·      to respond to ignorance and fear of GLBT issues with the insight of GLBT persons.
addendums
RFSL—The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights is a non-profit organization that works with and for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT). It is non-partisan and not affiliated with any religious organization. 

RFSL was founded in 1950 and is one of the world’s oldest LGBT organizations. It currently has approximately 4,000 members.)
EKHO – The Swedish Ecumenical Group for LGBTQ Christians
We believe that LGBT and Christianity are fully compatible; you can be Christian and have a same-sex relationship.
Click here for more information
Worship and EventsWe organise discussions and social events once a month)
Here is an excerpt from the Ekho folder:
EKHO has since the early 80′s been a driving force to make Sweden an open country where Christian GLBT persons can live and work in their churches and communities.
Ekho seeks to move forward socially by providing enlightening work through various hosted programs, services, information activities, camps, youth work, telephone and personal counseling.
FROM THE UK SITE
Anti-discrimination

Discrimination on the basis on sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited in the areas of employment, and provision of goods and services.
In Gibraltar discrimination on the basis on sexual orientation is prohibited only in employment.
Legal gender recognition of trans people

The United Kingdom has administrative procedures to obtain legal gender recognition compulsory genital surgery, however with compulsory divorce.
Partnership recognition

In the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) same-sex couples are able to enter into a registered partnership. It also provides registered cohabiting same-sex couples with a set of limited rights. 
The UK civil partnership law does not apply to Gibraltar and Guernsey.
Parenting rights

Same-sex couples are eligible to jointly apply for a child adoption and each other’s biological children. 
Medically assisted insemination is available to lesbian couples.
The UK legislation on these issues does not apply to Gibratar, Guernsey, Isle of Man and Jersey.
Criminal law on hate speech/ crime

Sexual orientation and gender identity (only in Scotland) are included in the law on hate and violence, and are recognised as aggravating factor. The UK legislation on law on hate and violence does not apply to Gibraltar, Guernsey, Isle of Man and Jersey.
Freedom of assembly/Pride events
Pride events have taken place with authorisation.
Criminal law on age of consent

The age of consent is equal for all sexual acts.
Asylum
Translation: Dr. Sven Ljungholm

LGBTQ part 10 – Recommended reading

Recommended reading

Andrew Marin – Love as an Orientation – Elevating the conversation with the gay community. (Paperback – Amazon UKKindle International)

Jay Bakker – Fall to grace – A Revolution of God, Self & Society (Hardcover – Amazon UKKindle international)

Walter Wink – Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of conscience for the churches  (Paperback – Amzon UKKindle International)

Jesper Svartvik – Bibeltolkningens bakgator – Synen på judar, slavar och homosexuella i historia och nutid. Swedish (Adlibris)

Bibliografi

Caputo, John D.
2007 What would Jesus deconstruct – The good news of post-modernism to the church.
Baker Academic: Grand Rapids

Childress, James & Macquarrie, John (Eds.)
1967 A New Dictionary of Christian Ethics.
SCM: London

Manning, Brennan
2008 A Ragamuffin gospel  (Kindle edition)
Multnomah Books: Colorado Springs

Marin, Andrew
2009 Love as an Orientation – Elevating the conversation with the gay community.
IVP:Downers Grove

Svartvik, Jesper
2006 Bibeltolkningens bakgator – Synen på judar, slavar och homosexuella i historia och nutid.
Verbum: Stockholm

Wink, Walter
1999 Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of conscience for the churches  (Kindle Edition) Fortress Press: Mineapolis

LGBTQ part 9 – The Salvation Army

The problem persists in the Salvation Army, of today. In which way can we include LGBT persons in our fellowship without creating groupings; an A team and a B team? How can the Corps offer (church) membership in the Salvation Army in a positive manner that allows GLBT persons to feel valued, appreciated and loved by both the corps fellowship (soldiers/adherents) and also by the God to Whom the fellowship is showing (leading) the way.

Somewhere in this discussion one must remember that the Salvation Army has traditionally been the spokesperson for the marginalized. GLBT persons with Christian beliefs are often ‘doubly marginalized’. They are both excluded from the Christian community because of their sexual orientation, but often also excluded from the LGBTQ community due their grounding in the Christian faith.
In the Salvation Army soldiership is in itself problematic; we apply vague/weak and double morality standards concerning the various ‘offenses’ that exclude one from soldiership status. It appears that as it concern this there are several different options from which to choose.
Firstly, we can say that the soldiership is open to all regardless of lifestyle and it is up to each one who enters in to soldiership will to their best ability seek to interpret God’s will and live a pure and holy life. This solution makes it possible for LGBTQ persons to become soldiers and makes civilians membership (adherents) quite unnecessary. This solution (interpretation/ reading) on the other hand, allows for alcoholics, smokers, gamblers, people who abuse pornography, to become soldiers as well. Then it falls on the local pastor (an officer with the gift of pastoring or BOS – Board of Spiritual Care) to guide each one, in good faith, to a whole life (integrity) before God.
Secondly, we insist that the soldiership is a lifestyle choice, (as it’s defined and appears today) one not compatible with LGBTQ persons who choose to live out their sexuality. If one chooses this path one must also ensure that soldiership is also observed in all other respects. Adherent membership is offered today (as an alternative) to others seeking a corps community membership. (But then one should probably review the wording of the description of Adherency, see below)
Thirdly, one can select to remove the soldiership status and instead simply have a membership status where holiness is not a requirement but rather (a fellowship) wherein faith in Jesus is what unites us and binds us together. In common with the first solution this places responsibility on the local pastor who will engage with each member working out what this means individually in every person’s life.
With regard to Adherency membership, (Existing civilian membership) this is already problematic. The (Swedish) leaflet explaing Adherence membership reads; “Civilian membership is full membership in the Salvation Army as a Christian community.” It further states; “Being a member means you are offered corps’ ceremonies (are freely available) such as baby blessings/dedications, confirmations, weddings and funerals.” This means that a LGBTQ person as a civilian member is promised the offer of both a marriage ceremony and baby dedication.
Of course one can argue that according to the SA a marriage not a marriage unless it is between a man and a woman but do we not then do exactly what the SA was accused of in the TV show Cold Facts: come with empty words; everyone is treated equally. This especially given the fact that the marriage ceremony is not instituted explicitly in the Bible but is rather, a tradition we have added to the Bible through methodical exegesis and our normal hetero interpretation of the scriptures
In addition, marriage is enshrined as one of our inalienable human rights in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (Http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml # A16)
Without any exaggeration it can be said that the Salvation Army is facing a huge assignment regardless of the route one choose to take in the future relative to LGBTQ issues. If we as a denomination want to take a more positive inclusive approach it requires repentance and thorough, in-depth, strategic Bible teaching at all levels.
If we choose to go in the other direction it requires ransacking, repentance and a culling of the current soldiers and officers in order to resolve what we in our Orders and Regulations say that we stand for.

What is clear is that we as a denomination have to initiate a debate and bring this discussion to all levels, both in public and within the corps walls, both on the local level and the cabinet (SA leadership council).

If we as the Salvation Army want to be both open to embrace the oppressed and continue to be a holiness movement, we must engage in lengthy and giving discussions about how we should live in and manage the tension between these concepts.
Lt. Patrik Olterman
Malmo, Sweden
Translation: Dr. Sven Ljungholm

LGBTQ part 8 – Four possible approaches

There are probably as many ways to approach LGBTQ issues as there are people with opinions. What follows is a summary of the second half of “One family’s story” written by Bishop Paul Wenner Egertson and found in Walter Wink’s book: Homosexuality and the Christian Faith (pages 28-30).

Bishop Paul Wenner Egertson depicts four different approaches to LGBTQ people who may be able to help congregations to find both clarity and perspective, but perhaps also assist it in its own move forward on these issues. It would, of course,  be better to read the article in its entirety in Walter Wink’s book but here is an abbreviated version (a translation to Swedish) and half as a paraphrase interspersed  with the author’s own opinions.

SIN?

The first way one can choose to approach the matter is as a moral problem. One chooses to read a handful of scripture verses with a literal interpretation and conclude that GLBT behavior is a sin, that is, a (conscious) choice to rebel against God and God’s will, like prostitution, promiscuous sex or violent acts.

In this case, the only way to deal with the issue as a breaking (conscious dismissal) of a law, that ought to be corrected (reprimanded) and the response we want to witness is remorse /repentance and a complete change/turnaround. But the question must be posed, is homosexuality a choice to rebel; can it really be likened to ‘prostitution’?

ILLNESS?

A second method is to liken LGBTQ behavior to an illness (or condition) or resulting in certain behaviors that stem from abuse  (from an addiction) that can only be treated with complete abstinence, similar to alcoholism. The disease is treated solely in apart from the external behavior: alcohol consumption. If this is the case, a life of celibacy is the solution to the GLBT issue. But can LGBTQ really be likened to alcoholism?

In both cases above we are forced to solve the problem through abstinence (which often leads to clandestine promiscuity), However, can we force someone or something to act against their nature? And more importantly, can one force someone to live out a Charisma, a spiritual gift?

And as long as we treat homosexuality as something sinful, we force homosexuals in our community to live “outside/beyond” that which we would normally suggest to anyone else. Only if we let go of the stigma, sinfulness, can we bless and encourage, tenderness, fidelity, and long-term commitments.

DISABILITY?

A third option is to liken LGBTQ to a tragedy of nature, where nature has been misconstrued; the effect of the “fall” in the world.  Something not planned by God or a part of God’s plan or will, but something that happens regularly in our world nonetheless. An unfortunate phenomenon that we could hardly call good. However, it is a fact that we do everything we can to help disabled people to a valued and decent life. Should we not then, in such cases make special rules for them so they (too) can live as rewarding a life as possible within the limits of their disability?

When someone’s legs are paralyzed we do not draw the conclusion that God does not want them to walk (be mobile), but we solve the problem with prosthetics or wheelchairs. If a couple cannot have children (conceive) do we not conclude that it is God’s will that they shall be childless, but we assist/arrange an adoption.

Should we not in the same manner arrange a parallel structure providing marriage for gay people; to live out a full life to the best of their ability? But the question remains, can GLBT issues really be compared to a disability?

NATURAL VARIATION?

The last possibility is to see LGBTQ persons as a natural variation in creation, one of the wonderful differences that regularly occur in opposition to the norm. In this case, GLBT can be compared to left-handedness. One must remember that left-handed persons have been persecuted, punished and forced to live against their nature throughout history. Man eventually learned that it turns out to resemble issue of GLBT persons; you cannot make left-handed into right- handed persons, it only creates problems. When society relinquished their views on left-handedness one was free to discover the positive rewards assumed by, for example, the sports’ world. But can LGBTQ be likened to left-handedness?

If it can be, can’t we simply include LGBTQ persons in our congregations with joy, and also celebrate these persons as God’s gift to our churches.

The latter two subversives allows us to include LGBT people in a positive way in our corps (church fellowship) and also provide meaningful information, opportunities, pastoral care and above all, we can encourage a sexual morality which is the same as we teach all the other members of the Corps without distinction. That is, we can encourage abstinence outside of marriage, we can teach gentle, loving and committed relationships. And we can help LGBTQ couples to manage their relationships; build them strong and sustainable in a world where promiscuity is otherwise elevated to a virtue.

Lt. Patrik Olterman

Malmo, Sweden

Translation: Dr. Sven Ljungholm

 

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