Saturday, November 25, 2006

Labels


I have been lurking and posting the occasional "Yes!" "No!" to a discussion on evangelicalism on MadPriest's blog. (Note the "al", evangelicalism.) And it has got me thinking about labels.

I submit the following labels to you:


Christian

Progressive

Presbyterian

Clergy

Mother

Divorced

Liberal

Pro-Choice

Pro-GLBT rights (including ordination to all offices of the church)

Pro-Immigration

Pro-Union

Pro-Living Wage

I would submit to you that if I were to disclose one tenth of the ways in which I frankly label myself in private (not to mention some of the ways I decline to label myself even here) I would not stand a shot in hell of getting a call to a church in my denomination (Mother and Presbyterian are the safest; it all goes downhill from there).

All that said, I have forged good working relations with many of the folks in my judicatory who find themselves at the other end of the spectrum theologically. Recently I was speaking with a woman pastor whom I was urging to join a particular committee, possibly as chair. She is strongly evangelical, and she indicated to me that "certain folks" might not want her in that position because of it. I was torn. I told her the truth, which is that I trust her, even though I know we're not in sync in many of our positions. She smiled and said, "I trust you, too."

At the risk of sounding holier than thou, I am troubled by the labels and how limiting they are. "I am with Apollos." "I am with Paul." (In my case, I am with John Buchanan and Barbara Wheeler.) And I am, unapologetically, with these folks. One Presbyterian leader with whom I got to rub elbows at GA 213 said, "It's coming. It's just a matter of time. It can't be stopped." "It" being full inclusion of GLBT folks. If the gospel is a call to greater and greater freedom, I affirm this wholeheartedly: it's coming. Nothing can stop what God has set in motion. But how do we work together in the mean time?

1 comment:

steve westby said...

I think I know how you feel, to some extent, when you talked about the number of jobs that would no longer be open to you if people knew some of your political viewpoints.

Not that long ago, I read this letter to the editor by a very conservative local minister. He labeled another religious tradition as false and evil, basically.

So I wrote a response, questioning how he would like it if he were living as a minority religious tradition amidst a majority of others who believed differently -- and Christianity were labeled in such a way in a local paper by a local religious leader.

I'm sure my letter did little to convince him. But what struck me were the concerned reactions I received from some in the community -- people who worried that referrals to my practice would dry up because of my response. It didn't happen, but it really struck me when people thought that was even a possibility.