Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hostile Takeover

Not all Christians behave like totalitarian maniacs bent on "transforming" the world into a Christianist society, with no room for diversity, no room for the other people who believe differently, or live differently. Not all Christians act like literal "God's gifts" to human kind. Not all Christians preach hatred and prejudice and hypocrisy in the name of a God who claims to be a creator-god of love. Not all of them behave like they are judge, jury and executioner - and as though blood could never stain their fair hands.

Some of them, I hope a large (and apparently silent) majority, are in fact good people - standing on the sidelines, while a more vocal minority with acid for blood, jump up and down - hijacking the wagon on the trail, like modern day criminals stealing from the poor to furnish themselves with the illusion of righteousness, authority and affirmation.

There comes a time when this large and silent minority stops being silent, and starts to make a noise, beginning with a low rumble, rising gradually to a roar of outrage and objections. I hope that this time has now finally come.

A time of objections against the injustices committed by those who have been running the show, outrage at the suffering caused by the hypocrisy of those who speak on their behalf - and on behalf of their religion - and their God, as if they have somehow come to own the entire franchise - as though the middle-men have now cut God out of the church and taken it over - and is running it like their own private exclusive club.

With the recent outcome of the Ecclesia de Lange trial, in which a Methodist minister was fired for marrying her long time girlfriend, I - like many others - felt a deep sense of betrayal at the hands of the Methodist Church of SA. As with most churches, and other organisations where the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, it seems that many parts of the body do not necessarily always agree with the head, and may indeed wonder what has got into it.

There are individual churches and congregations which are part of the MCSA and which disagree with the finding of the trial and appeal - and which feel that Ecclesia - and the rest of the pink community, have been wronged by the Church. There are churches in the MCSA group, which strongly feel the MCSA owes Ecclesia - and the pink community - an apology and a message of welcome.

There are churches in this group, which have reached resolutions to take this matter up with church leadership and the Bishop responsible for this injustice, and asked for a reversal of this decision and an apology from the MCSA. One I know of, recently sent a letter to this effect to the MCSA leadership about it, with overwhelming support - something like 455 in favor, with 2 abstentions and 3 against. That to me is indeed encouraging news.

For years I have heard many gay Christians whining about their churches rejecting them or expecting them to endure tirades and lectures about their "sinful lifestyle choices" or to crawl on all fours apologizing for how they were born. For years I have heard them crying for change to come to their churches - or for a welcoming friendly church in this city, where they can be themselves before their God as other people are - honestly and without shame or fear or favor. And for more than ten years, I have consistently referred them to this same Church.

And yet tonight, the church was all but empty - if there were 40 people there, it was a lot. Yes, there were about 5 gay people there, those that I recognized - the regulars - but where are all those others? There is at least one church in this city, amongst all the others, of all denominations, that cares about and welcomes GLBTI people among them - that does not expect them to be silent or invisible or to be lesser than straight people - nor tries to "cure" them by laying on of hands or delivering other insults. There is a minister who is trying so hard to support us and our cry for equality and equal treatment, and yet week after week, he stands there pouring out the affirmation and love they all seek, to a church full of half-empty pews.

It's true, a minister can make or break a church. And Rod may not be Barry. Barry was special, he was unique and he had a style of his own. Barry loved us all and included us all. He fought to include us, he faced censure and pressure from his superiors and from other churches in this city, from other ministers who excluded him and this church from their plans and activities in the city because he did so and because he refused to compromise or give in and exclude us. Barry's death was a tragic loss for us all in Port Elizabeth. Rod may not be Barry, in fact he isn't - he is Rod. He has a different style, and a different feel - but he cares about our community just as Barry did - and he is also fighting for our community. That church is fighting for us in its own way. That one church is a light for our community and others in this city.

Where I come from, when somebody shows you support or supports your cause, you return the favor and support them back. Where I come from, one good turn deserves another, and you live out this and other principles which these days are made out to be corny and inconsequential. In point of fact, what I am trying to say is - while I may not believe quite as other people believe, and call myself not even a Christian, but an agnostic - there are things I most definitely do believe in. You want to know what they are?

Love. Loyalty. Honor. Justice. Fairness. Equality.

I hope they stop being invisible. I hope they stop being silent.


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  1. Hi Christena,
    Your words reflect the situation very realistically. We hope and pray that this is a turning point and that change will come. People have their individual right of choice and the majority would rather choose to remain uninvolved. Most of us hate confrontation and fighting, but there are times that we can no longer remain silent.
    Yesterday our minister preached about the Good Samaritan and getting blood on our hands when we help the wounded. There are many brothers and sisters in the body of Christ who tend the wounded. Many of them have suffered wounds themselves and been healed by the grace of God. They in turn can then recognise the pain and hurt of others that are wounded. God calls them to serve as vessels so that others may be healed. So often we forget about those servants of Christ as we face the judgement that is cast upon us by society. You have met those servants of Christ and they have shown you the face and character of God. So on a more personal note: take another look. Christena Engela is definitely not agnostic. You have a beautiful name and it is written on the palm of His hand.

  2. Barry was a good friend of mine and I feel hi loss daily. We both ministered in the Methodist church and I walked away because I was gay.

    He promised to be the minister marrying me one day.

    I get married on the 1st of May and the Methodist Church i belong to and was a pastor at have barred the senior minister who was keen to officiate from doing the ceremony.

    They equated his approval and blessing of my marriage to a man as praying for a robber to be abundant before robbing a house.

    Boy, do I miss Barry...

    Thank you for remembering him in this context...

  3. Hi Brenda, thanks :)

    Rambler, thank you for your note :) Barry was special to us too - and I called him a mentor and a friend.

    Best wishes for the future!

    Chrissy :)