Collect for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity

Lord of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all good things: graft in our hearts the love of thy Name; increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of thy great mercy keep us in the same; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Monday, July 24, 2017

GCNow What?

It has been claimed here that forgiveness is a mutual act, but a disposition towards forgiveness is a necessary preliminary towards that act. The mutual act depends on two (or more) single dispositions; we are not excused from our disposition because our enemies refuse to participate, nor is theirs less holy because we will not admit it. He who will claim the supernatural must claim it wholly; its validity cannot be divided; like the Blessed Trinity Itself it lives according to its proper complex method, but it altogether lives as a unity … But if one of us does not wish to be? if we refuse coinherence? ‘Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone.’ If a man will be separate from the love which is man’s substance, he can; the ancient promise holds: ‘I will choose their delusions.’

… The labor towards our enemy, individual or national, is a continual duty—all Christians say so. Christian publicists indeed, in that as in so many other things, are apt to sound as if they thought they performed their moral duty merely by teaching it; it is easier to write a book repeating that God is love than to think it; it is easier, that is, to say it publicly than to think it privately. Unfortunately, to be of any use, it has to be thought very privately, and thought very hard.

—Charles Williams, The Forgiveness of Sins

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I’m pausing my series for a moment to address some news. The Gay Christian Network and its founder Justin Lee recently parted ways, citing ‘irreconcilable differences’ between him and the rest of the board.

GCN is one of the few Christian groups that doesn’t take a specific stance on the morality of same-sex behavior. There  are progressivist groups in plenty, like the Reformation Project or New Ways Ministries; there are also a large number of traditionalist groups, like Courage and Spiritual Friendship. The only ones I know of that do not devote themselves to one side rather than the other are the Marin Foundation, which deliberately avoids all discussion of the issue, and GCN, which has sought to provide space for both sides.1 The effort to unite people of explicitly differing views in mutual respect, charity, and co√∂peration is a rare thing, and I’ve long been glad of GCN’s presence and especially of Lee’s work: regardless of his own firm Side A convictions, he has been an outspoken advocate for the Side B community, and especially insistent that we should have a home in the Gay Christian Network.

Now, I don’t claim to know what the irreconcilable differences between Lee and the GCN board are. I will go as far as to say that the decision not to disclose what those differences are, and the (I’ll be blunt) rather boilerplate statement of ongoing friendliness to Side B from the board, have me … less than reassured. Side B has been a minority at GCN for a long time; the bulk of the speakers and resources GCN offers are distinctly Side A; and a lot of Side B folks who used to frequent the community have withdrawn on account of hostility shown us by some Side A members, both online and in person. The fact that Lee is setting up a new project (Nuance Ministries, which, I love the man but, not gonna lie, I hate the name) is really exciting, but the fact that it seems to be doing exactly what I’d understood GCN was for is again worrisome to me for Side B’s future at GCN.

So, here, I’d like to do three things. First, to thank Justin Lee for the years of hard work that he has devoted, and is continuing to devote, to respectful conversation among Christians of differing beliefs. The integrity, kindness, and courtesy he’s displayed are hard to rival. I admire him.

Secondly, please pray for GCN: the board, the Side A members, the Side B members and ex-members. I don’t know what the future holds. I’m by no means ready to give up on an organization that has done me personally and many other LGBT people so much good; but I am concerned, even skeptical; and the mutual distrust, wounding, and bitterness between B and A is not going to go away quickly even if everything goes as well as it possibly can. Time, nerve, brains, and charity will all be needed if that rift is to be healed, and human beings have a knack for not spending those things wisely.

Lastly, I’d like to share something that Sarah of A Queer Calling wrote on the subject.

I don't have much to say about the recent goings on with GCN other than what I've already said, but I do want to point out something troubling I've noticed in conversations about the situation. It seems that within the social media discussions, people within one minority group have been more than willing to suggest that other minority groups should be excluded for the sake of greater inclusivity. I've also noticed a tendency to suggest that one group's concerns are real safety issues but another group's concerns are just discomfort, and that comfort should be secondary to safety. I'm concerned that we've reached a point where people believe that other people with different perspectives should come with trigger warnings, and that further marginalizing one minority to lift the voices of another minority is acceptable. That's a scary place for the conversation to be. A Friedrich Nietzsche quote comes to mind: "Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." All of us ought to take care when advocating for our own inclusion that we do not at the same time promote the oppression of those who are different from us.2

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1Though it originated at the (now defunct) site Bridges Across the Divide, the very terms ‘Side A’ and ‘Side B’ were originally popularized by GCN. I mean, to the extent that they are popular.
2It may be worth noting that Sarah has more particular, and more negative, views of the GCN-Justin Lee situation than I do (at least for now); what she wrote is, and was meant to be, of much wider application.


  1. "People coming with trigger warnings!" LOL, for one group to never feel challenged or never encounter another person who might have a contrary perspective on life requires the deliberate repression of all other groups. This sort of gay fundamentalism is as narrow, exclave an irrational as any other form of fundamentalism. I'm Side A, but I stand with my Side B brothers and sisters on this issue.

  2. I also stand by my Side Bi siblings, and have shared the concern about their place in GCN. I honestly believe that the Board has no intention of giving up on Side B. Obviously, that isn't likely to make you feel better. Justin was the face of GCN, and he was a fierce advocate for the Side B community. But I've never known the Board to be otherwise, they've just been less vocal because it was never in their job description to be the face of GCN (neither will it be in the future). I think your concern is absolutely justified, but I think your open-mindedness and soberness about the matter is wise. In speaking with folks from GCN, I've been assured that the "powers that be" understand that they have to earn the trust of Side B people, and they are willing to put in that work. I do hope and pray that their follow-through matches their intention.