April 22, 2011 Gays, lesbians and me

That’s not an apt title for this blog, yet it’s a warning that I am going to spill gut.

I’ll begin by saying that this blog entry will not be an argument. I don’t intend to win anything or to lose anything. You, the reader, won’t either. However it is a deeply felt sharing, one I have long hesitated to do.

Simply stated: at this point in my life I do not have a clear conscience in being a member of an organization that excludes gays and lesbians and those who live in a committed relationship with a person of similar sex. This includes the church.

Before elaborating on that one-sentence paragraph let me declare myself. I am straight, that is, heterosexual. My extended family includes homosexuals. My neighborhood includes homosexuals. My college classrooms contained homosexuals. So what? Homosexuality is a non-issue for me. In my friendships with straights or gays, I don’t think about it …

except for one thing. I have heard about and have felt the life-long exclusion that gays and lesbians suffer. What we consider our rights, we simply take for granted. I’m talking about security, finances, jobs, affection … and worship. There is little they can take for granted except exclusion.

The church that is founded upon the teachings and examples of Jesus whose own attention was constantly called to the side of the road to a person in need today says, “Come unto me, excepting if you are gay or lesbian.”

For a moment I will take the other side. I fully understand that Biblical literalists can find in the Bible strong anti-gay sentiments. I understand equally the long, long tradition, based partly on the need to populate the earth, of enforcing procreation. I told my troubled father who was crushed upon learning of his gay nephew’s marriage that we gave him permission to feel bad. We understood where he came from. We knew that he was being faithful to a world and religious view.

That world and religious view are no longer mine. I am not a Biblical literalist. The Bible does not define for me biology or cosmology or physics or many other disciplines of knowledge. I value the Bible, nonetheless, as a holy narrative open for allegorical and metaphorical interpretation and nourishment.

I further understand an organization’s “right” to define who may or who may not be a member. Thus I have no interest in arguing with an individual about whether homosexuality is a sin or not. Nor do I have interest in arguing with the church on whether it should include gays. I have no interest in carrying a sign, on being an activist.

But I do care about being a friend, a non-discriminating friend, a person deeply committed to rid myself of prejudices against people different from me. I do care when they are hurt. I do care when they are excluded. Thus, how can I join hands in a communion circle that won’t allow my homosexual friends in?

In consequence I am contemplating a withdrawal from church membership. Of course I welcome your prayers.

25 Responses to “April 22, 2011 Gays, lesbians and me”

  1. Loren Lind says:

    I applaud your comments on tolerance among gays and straights. I don’t understand how a denomination that dares to take a stand on pacifism could be caught up in discriminating against those who prefer intimacy with people of the same sex. It doesn’t seem charitable or tolerant, and I don’t understand how it’s Christian either. I seem to remember from church history that Menno Simons favored the practice of shunning. Would that be where this comes from? If you don’t want to elaborate on the issue, that’s okay. I’ll just let my question stand.

  2. Mary Purves Liechty says:

    Amen on all your thoughts. I share them, except that I am concerned about people like you withdrawing membership, and therefore voting rights, leaving us with a greater inability to change.
    The church, as well as our church institutions respond to loud voices and….ahem….cash. Rather than withdrawing membership, should we consider withdrawing funds? I struggle with that one as well since many programs are excellent and need funding, but I think few things are heard as loudly as a loss of money. One person leaving and taking their dough is often a drop in the bucket. Many choosing not to give to churchwide programs might have a more significant impact.
    My daughter’s master’s thesis was on the topic of the complexities that exist when people identify as both GLBTQ and Mennonite. Both identifications go to the core of one’s being and yet there are numerous disconnects as people try to reconcile the two. I submit that disconnect exists (though with more acceptance) even for those of us Mennos who care about GLBTQ friends and family. My desire would be to continue to work with the church to encourage a merging of those identities, and failing that, to branch away in a reformed denomination of those who can do so. I should add that some individual Menno churches have created that blend already.

  3. haggeo romero says:

    Very well said Dan and I stand with you.

  4. Naomi says:

    I am speechless, but moved and blessed by your integrity and obvious love for your Creator…and mine. Blessings.

  5. Jane Halteman says:

    Applauding your stand, Dan! May we all have more courage to stand beside you in this declaration…

  6. Lois and Roy says:

    Dan, we welcome your statement and strongly concur. We too struggle for ways to help our congregation be assertively accepting of gays and lesbians. Perhaps you are showing us a way.

  7. Jim Taylor says:

    A church is a man-made creation. Faith resides in the individual.

  8. Ike glick says:

    A courageous declaration! Tough choice(s). Since the church is an assembly of imperfect creatures despite aspirations and sometimes pretense otherwise, it becomes a choice between “a voice in the wilderness” inside, or such a voice outside.

  9. Dwight Kauffman says:

    Separatists, whether liberal and conservative, are both guilty of the same wrong.
    There is no group so holy and pure that one cannot find a reason to not be part of it.

  10. Dwight Kauffman says:

    I meant “both” liberal and conservative are guilty…”

  11. jdanielhess says:

    I fully support you, Mary, in working from the inside. It is a wise choice. I hope many others join you. As for the $$$ option, I am rather cool, only in that I wish to respect those people who differ from me. I am not setting up an ultimate. Rather I hope simply to be a friend to loved ones who are prohibited from being members.

  12. jdanielhess says:

    Thank you, Jane.

  13. jdanielhess says:

    How good to hear from you, Haggeo. Thank you.

  14. jdanielhess says:

    It’s people like you who sustain me, Naomi.

  15. jdanielhess says:

    Lois and Roy, I doubt that I am showing the way for others. While I have posted this on my blog, I consider my decision to be a very personal commitment to excluded people.

  16. jdanielhess says:

    I don’t know who you are , Jim, but thank you for your sentiment.

  17. jdanielhess says:

    Ike, I agree with you. The inside voice are just as important as the outside voices.

  18. jdanielhess says:

    Thanks, Dr. Dwight. I don’t think of myself s a separatist, but rather the opposite — making a personal move closer to those I love. Indeed there is much that is holy and pure in the religious tradition that I have grown up in. I dearly love Mennonites.

  19. Laura Weaver says:

    I, too, applaud your stand, Dan. I wish you well in your decision-making.

  20. Jess says:

    I know this is a huge decision for you but also know you will find peace in your decision. Thanks for sharing

  21. jdanielhess says:

    Jess, it’s always good to connect with you. You are a model of good will and poise.

  22. […] And in another corner, a person with centuries of ancestry tied to the faith, has decided he cannot remain in an organization or church that prohibits membership based on sexual orientation. You can read his views and decision to withdraw membership in the April 22 posting  of his blog. […]

  23. Richard J Lichty says:

    Thanks, Dan, I am with you, whether you leave or stay in the church. That is a matter of individual conscience.

    For myself, I am out of MC-USA membership. It’s sad to be so, but nonetheless wonderful, a paradox only those who are in the situation may understand.

    Richard J Lichty

  24. Randy Spaulding says:

    Thank you, Daniel for your post and for simply caring. In your words I’m reminded of the of the Edwin Markham poem, with slight alteration:

    They drew a circle that shut us out —
    Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
    But Love and we had the wit to win:
    We drew a circle that took them in.

  25. jdanielhess says:

    Randy, I was hoping to meet you at Mennonite Arts Weekend in Cincinnati. Hal Hess, the organizer, is my brother. He is the one who introduced me to your name and experience. I appreciate your note and hope to stay in touch.

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