Archive for March, 2011


 

Protecting God’s Creation.

Embracing Gospel Justice.

Nurturing Spiritual Fulfillment.


During Lent, our church has been participating in a wonderfully challenging program, Lent 4.5.  The  program is aimed at cultivating hearts and lifestyles of Christian simplicity.   Over the course of the Sundays in Lent, we have (and will) explore topics such as simplicity, consumption, food, water, energy, transportation, and giving and generosity.

We’re asking questions such as: How do we faithfully live in God’s creation?  How do we view and use our limited resources?  Are we being consumed by marketers and advertisers?

The congregation’s response have been beautifully mixed.  Some folks are really digging all the ways we’ve explored caring for creation.  Others aren’t quite on board…yet.  But God is moving in powerful ways…challenging the skeptics and motivating the passionate!

Over the next few days I’ll share some of the videos I’ve made that highlight the weekly themes.

Lent 4.5 is produced by the Passionist Earth and Spirit Center in Louisville, KY.

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A recent article in The New York Times tells the story of an educated, qualified, and experienced man unable to land a job as a pastor.  The problematic note in his resume: Mr. Almlie is single, never married with no children.

Mr. Almlie wrote a few months ago, “Prejudice against single pastors abounds.”  The Times article highlights all the usual arguments for Mr. Almlie’s lack of job offers.  Churches may believe that only a married man can counsel married congregants.  Others may lament the absence of free labor from the (in)voluntary pastoral sidekick (aka. a spouse).  (This is also known as the pastoral “two-for one” deal.)  Some churches may fear the eligible bachelor may run off with a church member, or worse yet, a high school youth.

Some of these fear may be worthwhile, if not a little over the top.  My own youth group experience tells me that single youth leaders may  run off to Florida with 16 year-old sophomores.  (We should have known better when he asked us one youth gathering evening to spend 2 hours in “a private place” in “quiet time with God.”  I obliged…or at least I did for a few minutes.  He, on the other hand, remained quiet by locking his lips with his soon-to-be eloping bride.)  But this is likely the one unusual situation in the midst of all the other single pastors who are faithful in their calling, covenant, and trust with their congregation.

However, might not something else be at the core of Mr. Almlie’s dilemma and church fears?  Could it be that churches know all too well their hiring practices, but are less comfortable with discussions on sexuality?

What if sexuality…or the church’s inability to talk openly about it…or the churches’ fear of talking about it….is at the heart of the matter?

Mr. Almlie admits that he’s heard all the clouded fears and apprehensions with regards to sexuality.  Churches say, sometimes indirectly, “What if he is gay?  There must be something wrong with him if he’s single, right?  He’ll spend all of his time looking for a bride, and may even steal a married one from a congregant.”

If he’s gay…so what?  I have many gay friends, some of whom are church leaders whose spirituality and faith are far deeper than mine.

Is there something sociologically, psychologically, or physiologically wrong with single men and women…of course not.

Can a single man still speak truth into marital problems or circumstances?  Well, can a married man do the same for singles?  Obviously yes.

When will the church be able to have an honest conversation about sexuality?  Heterosexuality.  Homosexuality.  Singleness.  Divorce.  Married life.  Widows.  We must find ways to speak into the “marital” statues of all people.  Does not our call to Christian love demand that we affirm and love people regardless of whether or not there is a ring of their finger or a signed slip of paper at the county clerk’s office?

Even more, what would it take for us to accept a leader who has checked a different box on the marital status application than we check?  Could we not be enriched and shepherded by those whose relationship preference is “different?”

Lauren Winner captures the church’s attitude and problem surrounding sexuality aptly when she writes in her book, Real Sex:  “[In matters of sexuality] I have learned the importance of the church as much by the church’s absence as by its presence.  Sometimes I have been bowled over by the harm the church has done – in my life and others’ – by speaking thoughtlessly, or not speaking at all, about sex.”

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