Gay Pagans Leading Worship
So today in class, we actually had an interesting (and true) case study:
Bob is not a Christian, but he's been hired by the church to play piano for Sunday worship - it's a small congregation and there are no resident pianists. Bob is an excellent musician, competant, and the people really like him. He has had a very positive influence on the singing and praise. Then, you hear rumblings through the grapevine - rumor has it that Bob is gay. What do you do?Needless to say, this made for some very interesting discussion. One of the things that interested me was how many folks could live with the fact that he was an unbeliever, but felt that his homosexuality disqualified him from this role. Maybe it's just the evangelistic church planter in me, but I actually see this as a tremendous opportunity for sharing the gospel, not just to Bob, but to others just like him and even to those who are already believers. Let me see if I can explain...
In Leadership Next, Eddie Gibbs makes a very interesting comment about the boundaries in the context of postmodern community:
Authentic community begins with the frank recognition that loose connections are not robust enough to provide cohesion. There must be strong bonds of mutual commitment that will endure times of strain and upheaval. Unconditional commitments are not made within alliances of convenience...
Until we find a home and establish a family identity, authentic community is unlikely to develop. The covenant community provides a context within which individuals can find affirmation and learn to truly forgive. It is an environment of giving as well as receiving. In community we also hold each other accountable, because affirmation that lacks discernment and integrity is destructive to the other person.
Authentic community has porous boundaries. Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers provide hepful insights into the way boundaries function in living systems. Rather than being self-protective walls, boundaries become the place of meeting and exchange. We usually think of these "edges" as the means of defining separateness: what's inside and what's outside. But in living systems, boundaries are something quote different. They are where new relationships take form, and important place of exchange and growth.-Leadership Next, p99
Contrary to most of those in our group in class, I can envision certain scenarios where I actually would seek out an unbeliever to help us in worship (probably not as a “leader” but certainly as an “instrumentalist”). To me, this presents a very natural entry point to conversation – about what we value, about what he values. I would want to meet regularly with Bob to help explain a Christian understanding of worship - "What are we trying to accomplish here anyway? Why?”
What I mean by this, is that I wouldn't overlook the fact that he is an unbeliever. Rather, that provides a convenient point of dialogue - he is a piano player (we are not), but we are Christians (and he is not). So he needs to help us understand what he can do, and we need to help him understand what we are trying to do - lead people in worship of God. Which means we need to talk about what worship is, about who God is, about what he values.
Now, taking this approach, the fact that he is gay simply provides one more avenue to discuss the differences in our value systems. The fact that we need him gives us a reason to work together. The fact that we believe very different things gives us a reason to discuss our differences.
So then, his homosexuality provides a great opportunity for me to say something like this:
“What do you think, Bob? Because we want to be faithful to Jesus and Paul, we believe that certain actions (like your homosexuality) are morally wrong. However, we also believe that God does not accept us because we are straight - heck, we are still struggling sinners in areas that are just as morally wrong (like my anger and pride).See how his unbelief and gayness creates opportunity for dialogue? Now, I'm not saying that I would necessarily do this in every case – I think there is a tremendous need for wisdom in these matters – but I think there may well be cases where this kind of thing might not only be permissible, it might well be the best way to contextualize our faith to a pluralistic unbelieving world.
So what makes the difference? Scripture tells us the only reason God accepts us is when we identify with Christ through repentance (acknowledging we are wrong) and faith (putting all our confidence in him to make us right). That's our identity as a community of Christ followers.
Of course, we recognize you may still be in process. Now, we want to emphasize in our worship that there are rights and wrongs. But we also want to emphasize that people in process just like you are welcome in our midst, even before they have it all figured out.
So your being gay does not preclude you from helping us worship by using your God given gifts of music. There are some things you probably can't do as an unbeliever (like lead us in prayer), but there are many things you can do. That is an important part of our message.
At the same time, we are concerned for you – not because you are gay and we want to change you, but of where you stand in your relationship with Christ.
Because we care, we want to encourage you to consider Christ, because he is the center of our identity, he is at the core of what makes us community, we would love to have you really belong. So we want you to feel welcome.
But because we care, we also want you to feel the tension that Christ brings against all of us as sinners, when we refuse to acknowledge his claims on our lives.
So that's what we want to model in our worship. How are we doing? What would your gay friends think? Would you be willing to invite them? Even if you never become a Christian, you might still be able to help us figure out how to articulate this message better...”
Ok, so that was my take. I'll put my flame retardent hazard suit on and let you fire away now...
(and I'd really love it if someone gay could chime in w/ their perspective on this)