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Generous Spaciousness - Jamie Arpin-Rici's workshop notes 

November 30, 2012

Introduction - YWAM, Little Flowers, Chiara House & writer

  -I am not an expert on this topic, so please have grace & understanding in that.

  -This is a topic that requires a great deal of grace. Let's take a moment of quiet prayer.

A welcome & an invitation to generous spaciousness.

   -Generous spaciousness is not about belief, but about posture & relationship.

   -In other words, it is about HOW we choose to relate across the boundaries of different belief.

   -Therefore, I ask that everyone keep an open mind & heart, be slow to speak & quick to listen.

   -We will have a time of Q&A later, but there are certain questions I may not answer in the context of the group. This is not about me establishing my position on specifics.

(Talk about the I Am Sorry campaign. Tell about inviting other churches & their response. Tell about the response we received from people at the march).

What is a homosexual?

   -Is a man in prison for life who has sex with other men a homosexual?
   -Is a man who is sexually attracted to underage boys a homosexual?

   -Does what the men of Sodom wanted to do to the house guests make them homosexuals?

   -Are transexuals gay? Transvestites? (Note here that we MUST differentiate between sexual orientation and gender identity)

My purpose for asking these questions is to illustrate that the framework we use is not clear or specific enough.

   -For example, what if people didn't differentiate with "heterosexuality"? Rapists, child molesters, polygamists.

   -If we are going to be effective and honest, we must extend the same and commit to understand others as we would hope to receive ourselves.

   -My hope for this workshop is that it will help us as Christians to more appropriately & effectively understand, relate to & minister to our LGBTQ neighbours.

Homosexuality is attraction, both romantic and/or sexual, which may or may not include sexual contact between members of the same sex or gender.

   -As an orientation, homosexuality refers to an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience affectionate, romantic and/or sexual attractions primarily or exclusively to people of the same sex;

   -It also refers to an individual's sense of personal and social identity based on those attractions, behaviours expressing them, and (potentially) membership in a community of others who share them.
   -We see, then, that it is far more than simply about same-sex intercourse or even sexual attraction. It touches the fundamental aspects of their personal and social identity.

So much could be said on this topic, but today I want to focus on three core convictions that we need to embrace & embody as Christians engaging in this conversation:

First Conviction: We must approach this issue primarily as pastoral, not doctrinal.

   -Two things need to be cleared up here: First, what do I mean by pastorally? Second, am I diminishing the importance of doctrine?

   -To the first, by pastoral I mean that we must first & foremost recognize that we are dealing with real people created in God's image.

   -Therefore, we must be more measured and careful with our words and actions, especially in an age of social media. (Cite local police chief)

   -When making a clear, public stand on a moral or doctrinal issue becomes more important than effectively loving & reaching people, we're in trouble.

   -To the second, I am not diminishing the importance of doctrine, but recognizing that pulled apart from the human dynamic, it can become cold & harsh (i.e. Pharisees).

   -Jesus said "I am the truth". In other words, Jesus was the embodiment of doctrine. Thus, we need to look to his example for how to address these issues.

   -Jesus saved His harshest rebukes for His fellow Jews, yet was gentle, patient, forgiving, etc. to the "worst of sinners".

   So, again, we must approach this issue primarily as pastoral, not doctrinal.

Second Conviction: We must honestly examine the nature of our response to this topic, rejecting any aspects that are unhelpful or unChristian.

   -What do you feel when you think about two people of the same gender having sex? Especially two people of the same gender as you?

   -The most common answer from Christians is "disgust". While it often serves us very well, can we always trust our disgust impulse?

   -(Explain study with brownies & bedpans). Even those willing to eat/drink, almost everyone had a bodily reaction of disgust. This is understandable, but we also see inconsistencies.

   -What about with food? Imagine if we assigned moral value to our disgust of certain foods we see eaten on outreach in other cultures.

   -The point is this: we have to be careful not to always lend authority (or passion) to a belief out of the subjective place of disgust. (i.e. consider Communion as cannibalism)

   -Disgust is a boundary instinct. We limit access/exposure as a result. Also, if we mistakenly consume it, we spit it out. This makes sense in SOME aspects of life.

   -However, in the kingdom of God it is often contrary to what Jesus taught & lived.

   -The purity ethic of the Jews was premised on the assumption that exposure to something unclean made a person unclean. (No body/spirit separation)

   -Therefore, the response to the unclean was the same- distance. This included menstrating women, lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, Gentiles, even women in general.

   -This concept of purity is based on what is called negativity dominance. In other words, even a little sin can corrupt the whole good. And there is validity at times (1 Corinthians 5:6-7 re: leaven)

   -Yet consider this quote from Dr. Richard Beck:

“What is striking about the gospel accounts is how Jesus reverses negativity dominance. Jesus is, to coin a term, positivity dominant. Contact with Jesus purifies. A missional church embraces this reversal, following Jesus into the world without fear of contamination. But it is important to note that this is a deeply counterintuitive position to take. Nothing in our experience suggests that this should be the case. The missional church will always be swimming against the tide of disgust psychology, always tempted to separate, withdraw, and quarantine.” -Dr. Richard Beck

   -Therefore, as we relate to our LGBTQ neighbours, we must not let "contamination" or "disgust" dictate our behaviour, specifically:

   -We don't need to make sure our position on sexuality is known clearly in advance to LGTBQ people. (explain)

   -We shouldn't alter missional faithfulness out of fear of what other Christians might think of us. This WILL cost us, but it cost Jesus far more.

   Again, we must honestly examine the nature of our response to this topic, rejecting any aspects that are unhelpful or unChristian.

Third Conviction: Don't assume you understand all there is to know about the topic.

   -This is true on many fronts, but let's focus on two critical ones:

   -First, don't assume you know everything the BIble has to say on the topic. Even being right does not excuse shoddy theology. (i.e Sodom & Gomorrah)

   -We don't have the time to get into the details here, but know that even truth is weakened when it is defended with shallow answers.

   -Second, don't assume you know everything there is to know about "homosexuality". As I mentioned earlier, it is far more broad & complex than we often allow for.

For example:
   -Sexual orientation is not simply about sex. Gay people are attracted to the same-
sex beyond sexual desire/lust. They are socially, emotionally, etc. attracted.

   -The gay image portrayed by media & popular culture reflects a very small expression (often inaccurate) of what most LGBTQ people are like.

   -Lesbians aren't more likely to be butch or gay men effeminate. In other words, it isn't primarily about gender roles or gender identity.

   -The assumption of gay promiscuity is barely even a half truth (explain slavery parallel).

   -There is NO evidence linking homosexuality with pedophilia.

   -This is a missiological issue. The solidarity amongst the gay community means that they have formed genuine subcultures. How would we approach any other culture?

   -We would learn the language. For example, the term "homosexual" is considered derogatory to most gay people. I know this through conversation & friendship.

   -We would learn the culture. Exploring the gay community in my city revealed services & outreaches that rivalled many Christian ministries. They are borne from need & compassion. (NOT AGENDA)

   -We need to be committed to acknowledging our ignorance. And we need to go to the source for understanding (not other straight Christians). (Explain)

This is not theoretical. For me this is very personal. (Tell my story) 

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