Thursday, September 29, 2011

Gay in America: Gays can't pray?

"When I came out in 1988 as a gay man, then married with two children, I was emphatically told not to return to my Southern Baptist church; there was no place for my kind of Christian there. So I found a church where they would allow gays to be members.

Gay congregants weren't allowed to teach, pray, or preach; they could only attend, listen, sing, and of course contribute to the offering each Sunday. For a while that token involvement seemed enough, but I sensed inwardly that my calling to preach was still there -- alive, vital, and insistent."

-Mark, Ferndale, MI

from GAY IN AMERICA by Scott Pasfield 

A new book came out Tuesday, Gay in America, and I got a little sample from an AOL article yesterday. Yes, I still look at AOL, shoot me. I was reading some of the captions concerning the gay men featured and a little Google search led me to find this man quoted above. Naturally, he caught my interest because of his attire. I am presuming him to be Mark Bidwell, the pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Detroit. He's an activist and minister on the issue of gay rights, especially gay marriage. 
Mark Bidwell and a child
Gay rights is one of the hottest civil rights issues of the day. It creates lines of acrimony in almost every strata of our society, and will get hotter as times go on. In our Church, we have to walk the line between fidelity to God's plan for us and the flexibility that allows wide-room in our nets for all people, regardless of their gender, class, color, or orientation.

But taking things a step back, to address the Reverend Bidwell's concerns with the church (I am not sure which church he's speaking of):

Gay congregants weren't allowed to teach:
In many mainline churches, openly gay men and women aren't allowed to teach Scripture and tradition. Especially if the person is living a sexually active homosexual lifestyle which is inconsistent with most churches' teachings on family life. 

Gay congregants weren't allowed to pray:
I have never, in my experience, heard of any church that would not allow gay members (or anyone) to pray.If that is true, then that's an awful church. Unless it wasn't praying but rather "multiplying words". I don't know. I am not sure if he meant that statement. ADDENDUM FROM BRAD:
In the format for most Southern Baptist worship services (they would bristle at the term "liturgy"), there are times for a member of the congregation to come to the pulpit and give a prayer. Given the context of his comments (talking about being allowed to "teach" and "preach"), I'm pretty sure that's what he was referring to.

Gay congregants weren't allowed to preach:
Again many churches, the Catholic church in particular, do not allow just anyone to preach. And most times, the preacher must be trained or ordained to do so. An openly gay man or woman living an openly gay lifestlye is, again, inconsistent with traditional Christianity and thus, not fodder for preaching.

Gay congregants could only attend, listen, sing, and of course contribute to the offering each Sunday:The second part of his sentence is one of those classic lines older church members use against their traditions: "We can only PAY, PRAY AND OBEY" which leads to some sort of revolutionary thought that is tinged with civil rights era language. Unfortunately, this type of language is used by clergy, even bishops, at times to show some sort of underclass struggle with the POWERS THAT BE. Strangely, this language is used by the powerful to convince others of their lowliness. It's an odd twist.

The relationship between church and state has always been tenuous. The church, most times, has been on the side of good when the state wouldn't house the orphan and widow, feed the poor or tend to the sick. But the church has also defended the basic rights to life, which includes the natural agent for life: marriage between a man and woman. In the same vein, our Church, the Catholic Church, never promotes hostility toward those who, through no fault of their own, have defects of mind, body or spirit. These are those that we should do good for and to. For we do the same to Christ.