Friday, February 10, 2006

For the Kingdom and For the Baby

We all want to protect our children. At least, I would hope we all do. Our society values the life and safety of kids. If we don't have kids of our own, we are protective of our nieces and nephews. If none of those, then at least the grade school kids playing out during recess must be kept safe. Either way, we guard over our children.

I don't have any kids - yet! I'd sure like to have kids one day. In my immediate family, I've got five nieces and one nephew. I love 'em all! But I have to admit that, as a man, I do not fully comprehend the experience of being pregnant, giving birth, and raising my own children. I may not fully know 'maternal instinct', but I do have an 'uncle's instinct' and I'd die to protect the family's young ones.

However, I do have a kind of 'maternal instinct'. I do know what it's like to be pregnant with an idea, to see that idea birthed into a faith-based non-profit organization (the public ministry that i've referred to in the past), and nurtured it to see it grow and multiply. I know what it's like to clean up after it and change its diapers. I know what it's like to be proud of it. I know what it's like go broke to support it. I know what it's like to lose sleep over it. I know what it's like to love it. I know what it's like to feel like it's a gift from God. I know what it's like to want to protect it with my life when it's threatened. And protecting it is precisely what I was trying to do this week . . . .

My ministry partner and I have been friends for about eight to nine years. We've grown to appreciate a common heart and paradigm for the Church and His Kingdom in the city. About four years ago (this coming May), God began to give us a vision for ministry. We both continued to dialogue about these things that He was placing on both our hearts - God's heart for unity but the Church's current state of division; God's heart for mission but the Church's growing ineffectiveness and irrelevance in the city culture.

Who are we that God would do anything through us?

We were available. For Him. And it's an honor to serve Him in any way. So we began to live out these Kingdom values of unity and mission by building relationships throughout the city with church leaders, business leaders, community leaders, civic leaders, and city officials. And in these relationships, God granted us their favor. Our mission was to catalyze God's people to live out their faith.

God birthed this non-profit organization through my ministry partner and I. We were the co-founders and we treated it like it was our "baby". We are protective of the work we do because so much of it is relationally based. We're not about programs and numbers - rather, our measures of success are increased levels of trust within relationships. If trust can be established through relationship, then partnership can take place and people can begin to function in unity.

One of the reasons why our organization is so dear to my heart is because of what it symbolizes for me and my journey - the fact that God can use a guy like me (gay and all) to accomplish His purposes. It is truly humbling that God would do such things through us. I've made mistakes in my past but this organization symbolizes to me that I am not disqualified for His service - regardless of what the Church may think about me.

But that seemed to be the problem. The Church - at least the mainstream part of it - is primarily still Side X and would not approve of me. Personally, I have resolved that God does approve of me - and even further, qualifies me - but the mainstream Church still takes issue. Whole denominations across the country (and world) are dividing over this issue. As factions take sides, the Church is warring with itself and we're seeing the wreckage of these battles in our families, our communities, our churches, and our cities.

Early on in my journey, it was still pretty safe to be part of our organization because I was simply "wrestling" with the issue. But now that I have found resolution in myself being both gay and Christian and have even started "dating", it complicates things a bit for the organization. The purpose of our organization is to be a bridge builder. One of our hopes is to catalyze the Church in the "hot zone" - to stimulate the Church to dialogue about the issue of faith and homosexuality and answering the question . . . .

What do we do with those gay Christians?

In order to do this, our organization needs to be neutral and it needs to be strategic in the timing of these dialogues. My presence in the organization hinders this because of the Church's historical nature of responding with irrational hostility. About 75% of our relational networks - the relationships that we've invested in building for over three years - would disassociate from us simply knowing about me and my "lifestyle". Right or wrong, it's true.

My ministry partner is fully willing to go down this road with me. He'd be ready to "take the hits" in his relationships and in our organization. We trust each other and he honors me in his willingness to stand by my side through the fallout when people begin to discover that I'm openly gay (Side A).

He's willing. I'm not.

I'm not willing to have the organization take the hits of controversy. I'm not willing to trade my own sense of justice for myself in exchange for the organization's ability to continue its work towards unity and mission. I'm not willing to see my ministry partner have his relationships with the pastors of the city sacrificed.

The work of the Kingdom trumps my own personal justice. The dialogue within the Church about the issue of gay Christians is more important than what people think of me. And so, for the sake of the Kingdom and for our organization (our "baby"), I will be the one to "take the hit". I've decided to step away from the organization so that it can continue it's purpose without the controversy of me. The dialogue can happen more effectively if I'm not a part of the organization. It's a no-brainer.

How do I feel about all this? You can imagine. I was remembering an old post from way in the beginning . . . "I'm No Superman" - and I've cried this week thinking about the song. I've grieved this week thinking about the reality of not being able to directly be a part of our organization - this thing we did together.

Both my ministry partner and I are in mutual agreement that this is the best decision. I have a peace about it. We are not parting ways like Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41). Rather, he is continuing the work we started with the mainstream faith community while I continue the work with the GLBT faith community. We will continue to interact as we always have - we're friends! - and when the time is strategically right with the relationships we've both developed in each of our spheres, we'll bring them together for that dialogue - the mainstream Church with the GLBT Church - reintroducing siblings who were disowning each other. I believe that Christ will return again - and that He's coming for a Bride, not a harem. Helping the whole Church come together is what this is all about.

What does this mean for me practically? I won't have a job. I'll transition out until the end of March so that others can take over my responsibilities.

What's next? The formal establishment of Two World Collision.

It's a step of faith. But then again, this whole journey has been a walk of faith. Stay tuned!


Michael Dodd said...

Boldly go. It speaks volumes about your spiritual maturity that you can detach from this project so dear to your heart out of a concern for the project itself and for the larger goals. I have no doubt God will continue to bless your journey.

If you have not seen The Mission about the Jesuit missions in South America, do so. There is a wonderful scene where the bishop inspecting the missions, impressed by what the Jesuits are doing and yet quite aware of the political risks, talks with Fr. Gabriel about their work among the indigenous people. "What do you think is at stake here?" the bishop asks. Gabriel responds, "The will of God." [Maybe he says "the kingdom", I don't recall exactly.] When the bishop tells him the potential cost could be the suppression of the entire Jesuit Order, Gabriel replies, "But surely we wouldn't let that stand in the way." Let nothing stand in the way of the will of God and the gift of God's kingdom.

Anonymous said...

You are amazing ((((Eric))))) I am SO proud to be your sister in Christ.

Parents make sacrifices--and you just proved how much you care about your "baby".

Always praying for you!