Matthew 18

A nod of appreciation to A, who if not coming to my rescue has come to my defense, and to the defense of all of us who continue to work for inclusion of LGBTQ voices and people in the RCA, today on #WeAretheRCA.

Dear General Synod 2016,

Rev. Stacey Midge does not need anyone to defend her, least of all me, so please don’t see this letter as any sort of “coming to her rescue”. That is not my intention here.

I do want to talk to you about Matthew 18. I’ve heard, indirectly, that this blog has been called a violation of Matthew 18. I’m going to assume that the exact portion of that chapter that is being referred to is verses 15-17.

Here Jesus speaks to his disciples: If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

So what I assume the Matthew 18 kerfuffle to be is that this sort of public airing of grievances is not the model of conflict resolution that Jesus taught us. If Rev. Midge, or any of us who have written here, have a problem with you, General Synod 2016, we should address you one-on-one, then with a couple witnesses, and then in from of the whole church. Out of your hurt feelings and the assumption that you are being publicly victimized and targeted, you have sprung the best defense you know how: calling someone a bad Christian and finding a Bible passage to back you up. I’m sure Christ always wanted to be used as justification for whiners and bullies.

I know that calling you, General Synod 2016, “whiners and bullies” is not fair. I know that you are a body and not all the individual members are worthy of those names. I also know that name-calling is not very becoming, particularly for a minister of word and sacrament. But I’m a little fed up with you right now and my niceness filter is getting a little worn out.

See, we’ve tried the Matthew 18 model. Some of us who identify as LGBTQ have been reaching out using a method called “graceful engagement”. We’ve sought to welcome you into gentle conversations, one-on-one, seeking out common ground, and inviting relationship. And we have been turned down. We have been called an “issue” over and over again. If you understand us as an “issue”, I supposed you can justify not wanting to have a conversation with an “issue”.

So we used the second step in the Matthew 18, bringing other witnesses with us. We have a special name for these folks: allies. These are people who have sound theology and brave voices and can speak on our behalf. They are invited into places and up to microphones where we have been denied. Did you know that there was an effort to invite LGBTQ individuals to be guests of your advisory committees? We were seen as such an asset at the Special Council, but there were plenty of reasons that our request was denied for General Synod. I’m sure these where all justifiable reasons, but it sure felt like a smoke screen to keep us out of the room. We understand that it’s much easier for you to talk about us rather than to us.

But you didn’t listen to our allies either. Watching on the live stream while deliberations where happening on the plenary floor, I witnessed smart, articulate, and compassionate voices ignored. Then to add injury to insult, the hard work of commissions were tossed out, their overtures steamrolled by substitutions intended as work-arounds for a particular faction to finally have their way with the RCA. All of this happened before our eyes, regardless of Matthew 18, our polity, our history, and our vows as elders and ministers.

Now we bring you in front of the whole church, and to anyone else who would read this blog, to tell you that you have sinned. You have sinned by the words that have come out of your mouth (Matthew 15). You have sinned by the judgment that you have passed on LGBTQ people (Matthew 7). You have sinned by hating LGBTQ people (Matthew 5). You have sinned in your hubris and self-righteousness (Matthew 23). You have sinned by keeping God’s LGBTQ children from being accepted by Christ’s church (Matthew 18).

If you still refuse to listen to us, we are to regard you as pagans and tax collectors.

According to Matthew 9, it is exactly tax collectors and sinners like yourselves who Christ calls. So we will not give up on trying to have a relationship with you. We will not give up on talking to you. We will not stop inviting you to hear us and be accountable for your actions. We’ve read the Bible too, and we’re not going anywhere.

Dear General Synod 2016, stay tuned.

A, Reverend

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