A Prayer to Heal Brokenness and Division
by Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar
by Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar
Oh, God, we lift your name on high as the God of all peoples and all nations. Your love reaches out to every human being and for that we give you thanks and praise. We remember with sadness and repentance the hurtful exchange of words and actions at our recent General Conference when we discussed issues relative to our Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender brothers and sisters. The memory of the hurt of General Conference stings. We seek healing for our community and a way forward together. We confess that we have sinned by the words we have spoken and the actions we have taken.
Gracious God, help us to treat one another with respect and love, regardless of how our opinions differ. By your spirit help us to seek and to promote an active spirit of healing and an open mind of discernment in the face of division. Help us to help one another to reflect the love of Jesus in our relationships with all people.
Speak to us a word of forgiveness. Speak to us a word of healing. We ask all of this in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
I was not at General Conference, but I have no doubt there were hurtful conversations. I am sure they were the same hurtful conversations that happen in our school, in homes of families divided on the issue, and in the political realm.
I have learned in pastoral ministry that when there is brokenness and division, when there is disagreement, that it is not only one side that hurts, it is always both sides that hurt. This can be said of marriage relationships--you can rest assured that if you are hurting in your marriage, so is your spouse; if you are hurting in your relationship with a child or a parent, so too your child or your parent is hurting. I am fond of something I learned in my Clinical Pastoral Education studies: "Hurting people hurt people."
Those seeking full affirmation of homosexuality, including full clergy rights for people engaged in same-sex partnerships do so with great ferver, in part because they simply believe it is right, and in part because they are angry with the history of maltreatment they have recieved at the hands of a homophobic society where bullying, name-calling, and sometimes much worse cases of hatefulness have been directed at them. Any Christian, regardless of their stance on whether or not same-gender sexuality is sinful, should be able to affirm that the hateful mistreatment of any people is also sinful.
There was a time when I believed homosexuality was not necessarily sinful, but as I have developed in my study of theolgoy and scripture, I have returned to the "orthodox" position that sex between people of the same gender is one of many expressions of sin. I however do not believe that means homosexuals should be excluded from church any more than we should exclude people who struggle with other sins from the church. I believe the church is a place where we all gather together and grow in our love for one another as we struggle together. Unfortunately I know that this statement would not be recieved well among my homosexual brothers and sisters in Christ. Because of the history of hurt and pain, I suspect there would be little difference percieved between my position and the position of many who have spoken deliberately hurtful words over the years.
This arises in me certain struggles and pain. On the one hand, I am not opposed to people in long-term same-gender relationships having certain basic rights taken for granted by heterosexual couples--like hospital visitation, tax-breaks, etc. That is more a mater of justice and equality in a democratic (not theocratic) society. It is not the government's job to determine what is or is not sinful--that is the job of the church, and we should embrace that at the church level. At the same time, I know that if same-sex marriage becomes the law of our society, and it is an equally viable option, my kids will learn this in school. Moreover, when I teach them that their mother and I, and our church does not believe sex between people of the same gender is God's design, we will be labled as bigots by the new "inclusive" society. That is a source of great hurt to me.
So I say all this to acknowledge--there is plenty of hurt and pain with this issue. It goes both ways, and I believe the ultimate reason for the tone that too often drowns out voices of love is that everyone is hurting. I don't propose a solution, but do pray for healing in the midst of this division. Healing for those of us on both sides of the debate. It isn't going away, and we can't ignore it--but we must find the voice of love and righteousness. We must find the balance between inclusion and our call to holiness.
And to my gay and lesbian friends, and their political supporter (and yes I consider you all friends, loving and appreciating each of you for your unique gifts): please join with me in understanding that the pain and the hurt will not go away with a vote. Every four years we vote and currently the discipline language has remained unchanged. Every four years it is disappointment for one group and rejoicing/relief for another. But regardless of who "wins" the vote--the pain and the division is not going anywhere soon, so it is definately time that we learn how to talk with each other in peace; that we hold one another in loving account to the end that we might find the nature of holiness and meet in the arms of Christ.