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Disciples enter discernment process on gays and lesbians

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    CALLED OUT INFORMATION SERVICE From the Disciple s News Service Disciples enter discernment process on gays and lesbians By Curt Miller
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 19, 2001

      From the Disciple's News Service

      Disciples enter discernment process on gays and lesbians
      By Curt Miller

      There is pain among gay and lesbian people, pain among those who feel
      that further discussion may compromise their faith, pain among
      congregations divided over the issue of homosexuality.

      "Because of this pain and the attendant confusion and fear, I believe
      we as a faith community, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),
      are called to respond by seeking the light of Scripture and yielding
      to the Holy Spirit," said the Rev. Dick Hamm, General Minister and
      President, during the presentation on the Process of Discernment on
      the Participation of Gays and Lesbians in the Life of the Christian
      Church (Disciples of Christ).

      The process of discernment steering committee sponsored a 90-minute
      presentation that included the introduction of a seven-stage process
      for use by congregations reflecting on the participation of gays and

      The presentation included the stories of gays and lesbians who feel
      rejected by the church. It also included stories of heterosexuals
      convinced that homosexuality is plainly sinful and others who
      struggle with what position to take.

      The 1997 General Assembly asked the church to reflect on the
      participation of gays and lesbians in the life of the church. The
      following year, the Administrative Committee called for the
      development of a discernment process that congregations could use to
      engage the question.

      Tuesday's presentation was the most comprehensive accounting of the
      discernment committee's work to date.

      "Our meetings always began with worship," said the Rev. Dana
      Bainbridge, Omaha, Neb. That "reminded us that this kind of spiritual
      reflection is not about winning and losing, it is about listening to

      Assembly did not vote on the issue of participation of gays and
      lesbians. In fact, the process is not designed to move the church
      toward a vote, but to help all expressions of the church discern
      God's will.

      "My position is that homosexuality is a sin," said steering committee
      member Mary Smith, "but one that will be forgiven in light of
      confession and repentance." She said she believes people can choose
      "to change from the homosexual lifestyle" to "serve the Lord as
      husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, in heterosexual

      The Rev. Alvin O. Jackson, pastor, National City Christian Church,
      Washington, D.C., explained that for most of his life it was clear to
      him that homosexuality was "abomination in the nostrils of God."
      Under his leadership, Mississippi Boulveard Christian Church,
      Memphis, Tenn., had one of the largest ex-gay ministries in the city.
      Counselors and therapists worked with persons who wanted to change
      their sexual orientations. "It was done out of love and concern, but
      I have since concluded that those efforts were largely misdirected,"
      Jackson said. "If we have to err, isn't it better to err on the side
      of being too inclusive rather than being too exclusive?"

      "To be honest, I'm tired of it. I'm tired of having my faith and my
      ministry questioned because I'm gay," said the Rev. Mark Johnston, a
      Boston, Mass., pastoral psychiatric counselor. "I have learned that
      the support offered by the church is not trustworthy. I have learned
      to make sure I place my faith in God, not in the church."

      The committee offered a seven-part process for use in congregations
      and other expressions of the church. The steps include an
      introduction, spiritual preparation, listening to stories, Bible
      study, telling personal stories, next steps in relating to gays and
      lesbians, and consecration.

      Detailed printed and video resources on the seven-step process will
      be available to congregations this fall.

      Curt Miller is the Executive Director of the Disciples office of
      Communication Ministries.

      Curt Miller
      Communication Ministries
      Disciples of Christ

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