Today, in conjunction with the "Bridging the Gap" project, a group of Christians and gays are getting together to produce a "synchroblog". Numerous blogs are all posting related to the Bridging the Gap theme today and can be accessed at the blog Bridging the Gap. Please, go, now! Read what others have to say. I've read about 10 of them so far and have loved the diverse stories which all center around the same theme: mutual respect through our disagreements. Below is my contribution.
To be upfront, I was not always an evangelical. In fact, evangelicalism was quite foreign to me when I first encountered it upon entering college. But what was at first something so strange quickly drew me in. Maybe it was the fellowship of other Christians. Maybe it was learning passages straight from the Bible. Maybe it was the release of sin from my shoulders. But above all, I believe it was the reach of God into my life through the people of the church.
Upon graduation and moving to a new university for graduate studies, I searched for a church exactly like the church where I found that faith, that reach of God. I did not find such a church. I spent weekend after weekend going to two churches that seemed best, trying in vain to discern which to attend. The one with lively services and strong preaching? Or the one with people with open arms who cared about the personal relationships? Finally, one day I heard God speak clearly: go to those who care about relationships.
And go I did. They became my family away from home. They were my brothers and sisters, my mentors and my support. Our small group of 10 graduate students grew to 20, we had trouble fitting in our meeting space, we dominated the seating area of any restaurant we descended upon, and we prompted remarks of admiration from the pastors as to a "sweetness of the spirit" coursing through the group. Of course, this was all before the "gay issue".
Ah, the gay issue. How threatening it is! What fear is induced in even the most forgiving of souls! Only to be replaced with stares. Hard glances. Systematic theologies. Bible concordances. Pastoral guidance. Pastoral disapproval. Pastoral rejection.
Today I am no longer an evangelical. A Christian, yes, but not an evangelical. It was not a "phase", as though something one experiments with before moving on to the next attention-grabbing item. It was a movement with which I identified the very core of my spirit, in the belief that it was the good working of God, from which I could drink and for which I could bear fruit. And it was my church, my family away from home -- a group of the very people of God -- who determined that I would no longer be able to relax in their presence, nor contribute my labor. How can one thrive in a community of God which refuses to share their community?
This is my story, but this is not about me. This is about God, and the church. Bridging the Gap attempts to build a bridge over the gap to connect the two groups of people separated by beliefs on the morality of homosexuality. But there is another gap which is equally troubling, the gap between the respect and love of God for all people and the lack of respect and love of God's people for those who disagree with them. This is the gap that we must ultimately pray will close, for it will not only allow for respectful disagreement between Christians on this topic, but also bring Christians into closer communion with God.
Bridging the Gap is sorely needed to speak these truths aloud to the people of God. Something is drastically wrong when a church acknowledges a gay person is indeed a Christian, yet treats them with less love bestowed upon the Heathen. Christians are to share God to the world through their love to one another. Bridging the Gap aims to realize this restoration of not only love to one another - in spite of our disagreements - but through doing so, restoring God's shining presence in this world. As Jesus prayed for unity of the church, may we pray for the same. Amen.