The ministry of New Direction has positioned itself in the midst of the unenviable reality of differing Scriptural interpretations on the question of what faithful discipleship ought to look like for LGBTQ+ followers of Jesus. The truth is, of course, that no one can be neutral in these conversations at the intersection of faith and sexuality. A particular individual will hold one of three positions: holding the belief that Christian marriage may only be between one man and one woman; or holding the belief that the grace of Christ and the Christian church may affirm marriage between two consenting same-sex oriented individuals; or being uncertain of which of the first two is most faithful to the Scriptures. Now I realize that a lot of different experiences could be described other than these three categories – but I have used them for simplicity’s sake. A community, because it is made up of many members, might find itself at a fourth position: The response to the question is a disputable matter. In this case, the community recognizes that in light of our limitations in the interpretive task, there may be more than one faithful way to interpret Scripture on a given controversial question. Entire denominations have recognized this option in relation to topics like women in ministry.Details
On November 1st, my colleagues and I loaded into my family’s van and began the adventure of a 21 day road trip, visiting 15 cities, and speaking at 24 events. My colleague Wes made a short video, something he would try to do most mornings of the trip. I think we were all a mixture of excitement and trepidation. A lot of unknowns lay in front of us.
Our first event was that cold Saturday night at Sudbury First Baptist. I think only 4 or 5 people had rsvp’d and so we were a little unsure how the night would go. To our surprise, 25+ people showed up. Baptist, United, Lutheran, Mennonite and maybe a few others that I can’t remember. It seems our emails to churches in the area had actually borne some good fruit. An older woman disclosed that as a lesbian she felt hurt and alienated by the church. An aunt expressed concern for her niece’s friend who’d come out and was now couch surfing at various friends’ places due to a poor reaction by her parents. And the goal of encouraging unity in our diversity, prioritizing our public witness over polarizing debate, was demonstrated in small group conversations where people listened and shared and discovered common ground.Details
Good God host Kevin Makins interviews Wendy and they discuss grace, good questions, writing, queer Christians, and “smelling like Jesus.”
Listen to the episode (podcast) and find out more about Good God here.
It happened again. I was watching an episode of the excellent new TV series “Transparent,” and Jeffrey Tambor’s character Maura was preparing to come out as a trans woman to her adult son, Josh. Maura stood on her balcony and watched Josh’s car pull up, and as she stepped back, anxiously considering what his reaction might be to seeing his dad as a woman for the first time, I suddenly noticed my own body reacting. My heart was pounding intensely. My palms glistened with sweat.
I remember the same thing happening this past Valentine’s Day when actress Ellen Page chose to tell the world she was gay near the end of her eight-minute speech at the Human Rights Campaign conference. By the time I watched it on YouTube, I had already heard she would be coming out during the speech, so I knew the reason for the tremor in her voice, the trembling in her hand, and the awkward posture of this usually composed and confident actress. And I felt it. For those agonizing few minutes, it was my quivering voice reading the words on the prompter, bringing me ever closer to that life-changing paragraph: “I am here… because I am gay.” And the elation and relief on her face after the audience gave her a standing ovation – those belonged to me, too.Details
I have loved you and served you for a long time. Like any love relationship, we’ve had our ups and downs. Along the way, I’ve gotten to know you pretty well. And truth be told, you’re complicated. I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to see and engage so many different sides of you. Although sometimes I’ve got to wonder if you’ve got dissociative identity disorder because of the many, many personalities I encounter.
I keep reminding myself that each part has a purpose. I keep thinking of that metaphor of a body and how Paul said that one part cannot say to another part, “I have no need of you.” It helps me when I want to ignore or complain about some of your parts.
One of the key reasons that we are still in a love relationship is because of Jesus’ prayer. You remember right? Where he prayed that all the parts of the church would be one – would be unified. Jesus said that would impact what the world would see. The unity of the church is directly tied to the witness of the church. Now clearly, Jesus realized that with so many different and complicated parts, such unity wouldn’t be sameness. I’m quite sure that he wasn’t praying for uniformity. It seems that Jesus, in his Jewish tradition, was quite comfortable with questioning and grappling and struggle to seek truth as a vital part of faith.Details
This past summer, my wife Beth and I packed everything we own into a uhaul van, loaded up an ipod with playlists and audiobooks, equipped the cab with a cooler full of snacks, and said goodbye to our friends and family in Vancouver before heading east across the country to start a new life in Toronto. Having never spent significant time in Toronto, and leaving an incredible community of friends and family on the west coast, this move was one of the hardest decisions either Beth or I had ever had to make. But an opportunity was knocking that was impossible to ignore.
When I had left youth ministry in my denomination in order to marry the woman I love, I knew that someday I would work with teenagers again, but I had no idea when or in what capacity. My education really only qualified me to pastor, and I had yet to feel at home in another denominational context. Maybe I could care for youth as a school teacher or social worker, but either would require more schooling, and neither felt like quite the right fit for me.
In the wake of my coming out and attempts at sorting through my vocational options, both Beth and I were offered work with New Direction Ministries. Even before deciding to take the jobs, we felt they were signs of hope that there was exciting work out there for us.Details
Check out Jane Halton’s interview with Wendy for YALT here. The Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT) of the CRC creates space for the conversation between young adults, local churches and our denominations about where we go from here. YALT operates primarily in the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC)and the Reformed Church in America (RCA).…Details
Yesterday brought out some strong opinions about whether or not the church can forge a third way. This idea of third way is a way of acknowledging that Christians differ in their conclusions about particular matters and seeks to move forward together despite the tensions that arise from such disagreement. Ken Wilson, a Vineyard pastor in Ann Arbor, Michigan, speaks about a third way in his recent book, “A Letter to My Congregation: an evangelical pastor’s path to embracing people who are gay, lesbian, and transgender in the company of Jesus.” In our neck of the woods, The Meeting House speaks of embracing a third way on the matter of same-sex relationships.Details
Yesterday was an exciting day! Two packages came in the mail. Both from publishers. I was pretty sure they were both books. And, I love books.
The first one came from Baker Publishing Group, the parent company for my publisher Brazos. So, I must admit I opened that package first. And sure enough – there it was. Something I’d been dreaming of for a long time – my book in tangible, turn-pageable form. The title, “Generous Spaciousness” all in lower case (an intentional choice) and my favorite colour green (a happy surprise). Super cool!Details
This past weekend, we had our second annual Generous Spaciousness Retreat. We had several people offer sessions on engaging scripture. Shane Bauman, a member of New Direction’s board of directors gave this session talking about his journey with scripture beyond the 6-7 texts that are typically raised in conversations about homosexuality. While Shane comes from a particular perspective, his session was intended to catalyze conversation among the participants. The beauty of generous spaciousness is that it gives us the chance to have robust conversations, without argument or persuasion, where we seek to truly understand where the other person is coming from. I hope that sharing it here on the blog will launch a robust conversation right here in the comment section – and we’ll be sure to invite Shane to come and participate too.Details
In stark public detail where social media blurs geographical boundaries and the world congregates, we have had a drama played out with disappointing, frustrating, and far-reaching consequences.
Act 1: On Monday, World Vision US made public their decision to honour churches who affirm marriage equality by indicating that committed gay Christians who were married would be welcome to join them in Jesus’ mission to eradicate global poverty.Details
It’s funny sometimes how connections happen. With the world of social media, a friend of a friend of a friend can become a new contact and sometimes the sense of resonance is powerful and exciting. This is a gift to celebrate in what has often become a fragmented and individualized reality. But let me back up…..
Fuller Seminary is in Pasadena, California. It’s an Evangelical Seminary with a reputation for engagement with matters of culture and the arts with a certain openness. Richar Mouw, recently retired president, wrote extensively on the need for Christians to engage in a winsome manner in our pluralistic contexts in his book, “Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World.”Details