A grateful and mutually submitting church

FYI – How Pastor Ken Fong and Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles (EBCLA) are becoming a grateful and mutually submitting church to love LGBTQ Christians and seekers of Christ::

PDF of statement issued by church (March 30, 2014)

http://www.ebcla.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Evergreen-CDP-Combined-Statement-Final-March-30-2014.pdf

http://www.ebcla.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/ELifeVol17Issue1.pdf

http://www.slideshare.net/ebcla/all-included-in-gods-new-family

ebcla-gmsfv

cf. The Ken Fong Project documentary https://www.facebook.com/kenfongproject/posts/856982850981592

Two months ago I ‘stumbled’ on a brief blog and a longer magazine article that explained why majority of us never change our minds, even when presented with evidence that challenges what we think. That’s when the light bulb flashed in my mind: This not only explains my mounting frustration with the unyielding back-and-forth between the extreme positions as Christians battle about whether openly gay people can join our churches. But the researchers’ conclusions gave me a whole new way of framing this contentious issue with the Bible, but that had much greater potential to get folks moving beyond the current stalemate.

All of us have prevailing inner narratives, that are framed by our beliefs and also by identifying with certain groups. Being a Christian in general definitely impacts this inner narrative. And being an evangelical Christian is yet another source of beliefs and group-identity that clearly shapes our inner narratives.

All of us have ‘confirmation bias,’ whereby we only embrace stuff and folks that reinforce our prevailing inner narratives, and we spend a ton of energy on ‘disconfirmation bias,’ refuting and disparaging anything and anyone that offers info or perspectives that challenge our inner narratives. We fool ourselves into thinking that we all think like scientists; we actually think more like lawyers.
Only hope of anyone’s altering their opinions or positions is, first, get them to talk about their prevailing inner narratives. Then, if possible, offer them an alternate, coherent, more attractive narrative that doesn’t require them to chuck 100% of theirs.

Can you see how this needs to be applied to the “gays and the church” debate? If we can assume that all evangelicals have prevailing inner narratives that shape how they think about this issue, we can also assume that all evangelicals also believe that the Bible teaches a timeless Gospel-Narrative. Even if they believe that their narrative is a perfect match for the G-N, if and when shown where it doesn’t match, any evangelical–gay or straight–should at some point be willing to surrender whatever is off in their narrative and replace it with what is clearly more true in the G-N.

So looking, for instance, at the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, it’s clear that both sons thought their understanding of their dad was 100% accurate (“life-sucking”), but in fact both sons had grossly mischaracterized their dad and then based their entire lives on that mischaracterization. Their father loved both unconditionally, desired that both sons lived inside the house and shared the family table with him and each other. He wanted both sons, even with their current irreconcilable differences, to embrace one another as members of the same family. So the father in this story has unconditional love, unlimited forgiveness, and boundless compassion.

What if we apply this story to the “gays and the church” issue? Aren’t Gay Evangelicals like the Prodigal? They grew up in the church-family, but grew to view God as a life-sucking father. So they left for “a distant country” to live as they pleased. But some are growing homesick, but in order to return, they need to correct their view of God so that it more closely matches with how God describes himself in this parable.
From this parable (and others, like the Good Shepherd who hopes to save 100% of his lost sheep), we know that God doesn’t focus on whether the returning Prodigals are 100% repentant. God is just overjoyed that they’ve come back home to him. Doesn’t mean that there won’t be times for God to deal with any disobedience. But now is not the time for that.

Straight Evangelicals, on the other hand, don’t leave the church to pursue a different lifestyle. No, they stay ‘home,’ working night and day to appease and please their “life-sucking” father. They feel morally superior to their gay spiritual siblings, convinced that, even though God is hard to please, God should be much happier with them than with the Prodigals.

Like the older brother in the parable, many Straight Evangelicals don’t ever want to be part of a Christian ‘family’ that includes openly gay Christians. Not only do we not know if the Older one ever accepted his father’s invitation to come to the party for his returning little brother; more importantly, IMHO, we don’t know if he EVER rejoined his father’s family, whether he EVER chose to live under the same roof that sheltered his wayward brother. But if Straight Evangelicals are going to leave their churches over this, I think they need to focus on the real reason: that they completely disagree with how Abba-God is showing unconditional love to those who don’t deserve it. In other words, I think the bigger problem isn’t whether God wants gays to join our churches (God does, but that doesn’t mean God is also endorsing any and all choices–of ANY of us), but whether those of us who are much more like the Older Brother are willing to admit/confess that the characterization of Abba-God in our prevailing inner narratives doesn’t line up with the way Jesus describes his Father in the Gospel-Narrative.

I gave an hour-long workshop in mid-Sept at the INFUSE Conference in El Monte, CA, and I believe that the Inheritance Media arm will be posting the audio, maybe even the video (my doc film crew taped it). From what I’ve heard, this narrative reframing really got many folks to step back and reflect on their actual image of God.

Also spent 2 hours today over fish tacos with 3 pastors of a PCUSA church who wanted to learn from EBCLA’s journey so far, so I briefly also shared about this narrative reframing (and gave them my slides for further reflection) and they were quite supportive and enthusiastic.

I’m not sure if any of this will be deemed relevant for our doc film, but I’m convinced that this is a much more promising way to go than the back-and-forth about the “true meaning” of the ‘clobber passages.’

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