Traditional Marriage, or Covenants of Love?

Over the last several years, the debate concerning “gay marriage” has risen to new heights of passion and meanness. I suspect the basic reason for this is centered around power and control issues. Those who have defined marriage as the exclusive right of heterosexuals want to continue to control the rules. It is a “Members (who meet the standard) Only Club”.

Marriage in today’s sense is less about two people who love each other deeply and commit to living in a way that will enhance that love. Rather, it is about 1,000+ tax breaks/exemptions, property, and “legitimate” sex – plus inheritance, hospital visitation and medical choices.

When my partner and I got together we could not claim any of those things. In fact we are denied all those things. All we have is our love for each other in the deepest sense of the word. I wonder which scenario God is more concerned about.

We live in a world where marriage vows are usually not worth the paper they are written on – a world where pre-marital counseling is as much about covenants of love as is wedding planning.

Yet the idea of a covenant is the total investment of those involved. I wonder if God is more concerned about broken promises or covenants that call on people to go deeper in their relationship than simple vows. Finally, I wonder from a spiritual perspective if a God who by biblical definition is both male and female is really concerned about the gender identity of a couple who are willing to live in covenant with each other.

After all, when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was – in other words, which commandment should be the basis of who and what we are – his reply was, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

So it seems to me that those who live in glass houses should not be throwing any stones. In my home state of Georgia we once had someone run for Governor who fired an employee because she was a lesbian in a committed relationship, which he claimed was against “moral law”. Of course he didn’t want people to know he had broke state law by committing adultery himself. This hypocrisy prompted a friend of mine to come up with a bumper sticker that read: “**** for Governor: Two first ladies are better than one.”

Making a covenant of love takes the total investment of the two people involved regardless of whether it is between a man and woman, woman and woman or man and man. I would think God is more concerned about covenants that call on all people to go deeper in their relationship than promises designed to get a tax break or make divorce lawyers rich.

My partner and I have been together 25 years and worked through every conceivable challenge to keep our vows to one another. As far as I can tell we have not caused any straight marriages to fail or the collapse of “family values”. We own a home, pay our taxes, contribute to the economy by working and buying products, go to church and to the best of our ability make contributions to the community in which we live.

As for those who might be concerned about what goes on in our bedrooms: We don’t go into your bedroom or concern ourselves with how you express your most intimate feelings. So stay out of ours, because you certainly don’t belong there!

St. Paul defined love in 1 Corinthians 13 by writing: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

If these commandments and definitions are where it begins and ends, then I believe that our God, the God of Jesus the Christ is far more interested in covenants of love regardless of gender identification.

To the morality police and the defenders of traditional marriage: How about you take care and honor the one you love, and we will do the same. Then we all can spend our time, energy and money doing things that really matter to our Creator: Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison. I dare say the world will have a better chance of survival if we do that, rather than getting so worked up over who is getting married.

WADING INTO THE CYBER POOL

I suppose the title of this blog will cause some controversy from more than a few folks…so I suppose I ought to write this blog explaining the title, which is actually my nickname.

That needs to wait as first I should say the reason I am writing this blog is because some people whom I would trust with my life said I should because I might have something to say which might be helpful to folks in the cyber world. I even tried to get out of writing this by stating the title of the blog would be too offensive. Yet, every person I shared the title with were more then happy to tell me it fit perfectly, that it was a perfect description of me and the ministry to which I have been called…so here we go “God help us all”!

Just maybe reading about some of my experiences and observations on this journey as an open, out and proud gay man who is a minister of the “gospel” and who is not politically correct or ashamed to say what is exactly on my mind will be helpful in some small way to others. For those who want to know more about me and the church I pastor you can go to:

Gentle Spirit Christian Church

and

Whosoever 

As an ordained minister with 20 years of pastoral work in the church and in a 25 year committed (read: marriage) relationship with my partner Bill, I have done what the Judeo-Christian church calls each of us to do; “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8). I am a simple pastor, who is not a psychologist, nor a great theological scholar. My posts will come to you from my heart and my experiences as an independent and progressive pastor, as well as one who has studied and tested the Bible for a number of years and who believes the Holy Spirit speaks today as loudly and forcefully as 2,000 years ago. I believe God is calling us to progress to the “Kingdom” rather then conserve the “status quo”.

I hope in writing about my journey some of us will be able to re-claim the faith and individual spirituality that has been hi-jacked by those of whom Jesus said: “”Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when they become one, you make them twice as much a son of hell as you are.” (Matthew 23:15, New International Version) I believe people should be able to have a personal relationship with God that is not defined by traditional or mainline church since it seems they have forgotten about those whom God unconditionally loves in favor of an institution who’s goal is to stay in power through fear, intimidation and damnation. I hope as folks figure out they have been hi-jacked they will again re-claim the proclamation of the Christ which says; “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.” (John 3:16 The Message) I hope and pray that by renewing a personal relationship with God all people will begin to live in the way God will indeed observe in accordance to the words of our Savior: “When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Humanity will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:31-40 The Message)

We in the church have been battered; beaten and maligned by an institution that has found it’s power in being the authors of morality rather then the carriers of grace and redemption. I hope this blog will cause us once again to begin the journey where first and foremost we strive to be a community where all are viewed as a unique creation of God and where each of us is invested in bringing honor and glory to God. A community where we work to uplift each other and recognize and affirm those qualities in all of us that declare God’s creation as good. Of course this is the thought process which gave me the nick name “Reverend Bitch Sir” but that is a story that will need to wait for another day.

Advent: Its Genesis, Meaning, Mood and Message

The Genesis of Advent
Starting in about the 9th century in the Western Church, the season of Advent has been celebrated as a period of preparation for the birth of our Lord and the beginning of the ecclesiastical year (Church year).

In the early church words Advent, Epiphany, and Nativity were used interchangeably to denote the “feast of the Nativity”. Advent services first appeared in the 6th century in the church of Gaul. Epiphany was observed as a baptismal festival and the period preceding it was utilized as a period of preparation for baptism, much like the season of Lent. So Advent originated as a type of “little Lent”. From France the observance spread to England in the 7th and 8th centuries. In the 9th century, Advent was finally incorporated into the Roman Rite.

The Meaning of Advent
The word “Advent” means literally, “to come to”. It is a special season when we celebrate the bold claim that the Lord of the Universe has come among us in human form through Jesus the Christ. In him we have Immanuel, God with us. Not only do we celebrate that God has come to the world in human form from Galilee but also that God is come as a spiritual reality and will come again in triumph at the close of the age.

There is another sense to the definition of Advent, “to come to”. Since God has, is and will come to us, therefore we need “to come to”. Our task as people in full relationship with God is to become fully awake not only to the importance of indwelling but also to the many immersions of Christ in our lives. None of us is fully conscious of God’s presence; we need to come to, to wake up, and be vigilant for the visits of God within history and at the end of time when God’s realm is fully realized.

The Mood of Advent
If God is coming to us and we truly believe that to be true, our mood will be one of excitement, anticipation, and joyful preparation. Mood is conveyed through color and light. As the awareness of the celebrative nature of Advent has grown, many congregations have substituted blue for the older tradition of purple, as we have done in our church. The brighter color of blue, the color of infinite sky, conveys better the bright hope of change and eternal life in the Christ than the more somber and sacrificial purple.

The Message of Advent
As we look at God’s word, we need to understand how the Christ (as the word of God) comes to humankind now and how we can receive and carry the Christ’s presence today. This starts with our attitude… and the guides for which can be found all throughout scripture. I am calling them “Advent Attitudes” — alertness, attentiveness, watchfulness, readiness, joyful anticipation, patience and receptivity. The task then becomes to take a journey over the next 4 weeks to come into a full consciousness with God, who comes to us in Jesus the Christ and in fact be prepared.

“Some Are Welcome”: When the Church Gets it Spectacularly Wrong

Before I came to Gentle Spirit Christian Church, I spent a few months church shopping. My criterion for a good church was a place that I would feel totally comfortable. “I’ll know it when I see it,” I told myself. I visited many churches around this area, both mainstream and predominantly gay and lesbian. I never found a church that made me feel totally comfortable until I walked into this church. True, I already knew Paul very well and there were other people in the church that were already friends of mine. But, a large majority of you didn’t know me at all. But that didn’t stop any of you from giving me a big hug and welcoming me into this church. It’s the reason I’ve stayed. I saw what I was looking for a church that welcomed anyone who walked through the door and not just with a visitor’s packet of information. No, you welcomed me with a hug, a smile and a genuine concern for my well being.

This is what church is all about a welcome place for anyone who comes in. It’s a lesson many churches would do well to learn. It’s a lesson the church has had to relearn through the centuries. It’s a lesson we, as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians, are called to teach the church.

Recently, the United Methodist Church reconfirmed its position on gays and lesbians in the church. At their General Conference in May they renewed their statement that, “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” They, along with most other major denominations, do not welcome us in their churches. Oh, we’re welcome to come and sit in the pew, give our money to the church, and support them in other ways. We are not, however, welcome in most denominations to become any part of the leadership, serve as deacons, or heaven forbid, be ordained into the ministry. Why? Because “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” One of the critics of Whosoever sums it up another way “there is no place in the church for gays and lesbians.” Think on that line for a minute. “There is NO place in the church for gays and lesbians.”

On the Whosoever mailing list, a reader brought up an excellent point. “Why stay?” Why should gays and lesbians even care if the church ever opens its doors to us? We have our own places to worship free from denominational condemnation. Why is it so important for the church to open its doors and ultimately accept gays and lesbians openly? Good question.

Martin Luther King Jr. in his book “Strength to Love” answers that question eloquently:

Many continue to knock on the door of the church at midnight, even after the church has so bitterly disappointed them, because they know the bread of life is there.

That’s why it’s so important to open the doors of the church to gays and lesbians. Because the bread of life is there! The church’s function has always been to give the bread of life to all that seek it.

The gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender believer understands what Karl Barth meant when he wrote that the church’s duty is “to bid people hope, and thus to mediate to them the promise that they need.” Barth further insists the church must “confess solidarity at every point with people” and “show ourselves to be their companions and friends without worrying about their garb or mask, and we make their cause our own.”

Instead, the church too often looks at the garb or the mask, and insists in a change of clothing or a removal of the mask before the doors will open. Barth counsels churches to remain open to all because “those who hunger and thirst after righteousness those who, however mistakenly or strangely or impotently, ask after and seek the right and dignity of humanity, have God on their side and will be satisfied ä we cannot separate this from them not matter what name they bear or what kind of people they are.”

In the case of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians, the church turns a deaf ear to Barth’s words. They are not interested in welcoming the gay, lesbian, bi or transgender believer, nor in giving them the right and dignity of humanity. They think such believers are mistaken, strange and not truly seeking righteousness. Instead, too many churches seek to separate the humanity from such believers, telling them they must abandon a large part of their identity, their sexuality, to share in the ultimate hope of glory with God.

The church is wrong when it treats people this way. That’s not just my take on it but it’s the Bible’s message as well. The Bible clearly shows God calling the church to be more inclusive even as far back as ancient Israel.

The Torah, or the Pentateuch as we know it, is very explicit about who and who cannot come into the temple to worship. Deuteronomy 23:1-4 makes it quite clear:

“He whose testicles are crushed or whose male member is cut off shall not enter the assembly of the LORD. No bastard shall enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD. No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none belonging to them shall enter the assembly of the LORD for ever because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came forth out of Egypt”

Seems pretty clear. No eunuchs, no sons of unwed mothers, and no foreigners, especially Ammonites or Moabites since they refused to help the Israelites on their flight from Egypt. Okay, so maybe the church can close its doors on some people. As my fundamentalist friends are wont to say, “it’s there in the Bible, so it must be true.” Fine then, the Bible says these people are excluded from the church ä so if exclusions can be made then, they can certainly be made now. The church has biblical justification for refusing certain people entrance into this sacred institution. The Bible is the final authority, so I suppose we should just give up our fight. The Bible has justified the exclusion of some people, and the Bible or God never changes its mind.

Or does it?

Let’s move forward a few hundred years in the history of the Israelites. In 586 Jerusalem was captured by the Babylonians and most of the Jews were exiled into Babylon. Many expected their exile to be short and planned for the day when they could soon return to Jerusalem. Several prophets, including Jeremiah, warned the people to settle in because the exile would be a long one. Jeremiah was right. It wasn’t until 70 years later, after the Persians had defeated the Babylonians, that the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem.

Now remember, I said “most” of the Jews were exiled to Babylon not everyone was sent away. Some Jews were left in Israel, mainly farmers and peasant workers, but some community leaders were allowed to remain. Now, they’ve got a problem. Exiles are returning, but since they’ve been gone 70 years, these are not the exiles that were sent away … these are the children of the exiles. These children were born in Babylon. They were not born in Israel. These children are ä foreigners! And as such they are NOT allowed in the temple! Deuteronomy is quite clear on this point no foreigners are allowed in the temple ä it’s for Israelites only! If the Jews had General Conferences every four years maybe they would have drafted a statement saying, “Foreigners and eunuchs are incompatible with the teachings of the Torah.” The more bellicose critics would have proclaimed, “Foreigners and eunuchs have no place in the temple.”

What were the people to do? These exiles were returning with the explicit purpose of rebuilding the temple that was destroyed by the Babylonians! But, how could they rebuild a temple they couldn’t worship in? The Torah was plain there was no mistaking its edict against foreigners.

It falls to the prophet Isaiah to settle the dispute. What does Isaiah say?

3 Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, “Behold, I am a dry tree.” 4 For thus says the LORD: “To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant, 5 I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which shall not be cut off. 6 “And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, every one who keeps the sabbath, and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant– 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. 8 Thus says the Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.”

Oh, my God! I’m amazed Isaiah wasn’t stoned on the spot. How dare he open the temple not only to foreigners ä but to eunuchs as well! Hasn’t he read the Torah? Doesn’t he know God expressly forbids these people from entering the church? What happened to the infallibility of the law? Has it been tossed out just for the convenience of the returning exiles?

No, I believe what is happening here is that God is reminding the people that the bread of life is for everyone! “My house shall be called a house of prayer for ALL peoples.” No law can separate people from God even if that law is perceived as being a divine edict.

Moving even further ahead in history, we find Jesus’ disciples faced with a similar dilemma. After Jesus has been crucified, the disciples go about the work of spreading Jesus’ message. This has been their edict. They’ve been told to “make disciples of all the nations.” [Matthew 27:19]

However, in Acts, we see the disciples discriminating somewhat in who will receive the message. Instead of teaching to “all the nations” they take their message to Jews only. But one night, Peter has a dream. God shows him food that is ritually unclean and tells him to eat it. Peter refuses. Peter is a good Jew. He could never eat unclean foods. Peter is so stubborn, in fact, that God has to show him this dream three times. Each time Peter refuses to eat the food, calling it unclean or common, until finally God tells Peter, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.”

What did Peter do after this dream? He did the unthinkable. He did an act so shocking it brought a sharp rebuke from the other apostles. What did he do? He preached the gospel to the Gentiles. Gentiles! These were the people most hated by the Jews. Telling a Gentile back then about God’s love was almost as horrible as giving God’s word of hope to a queer today! How could Peter do that? Didn’t he know that God hated the Gentiles? Didn’t he know they were filthy pagans who cared not one whit for the law? How could he so blatantly disregard the word of God on this? How could he just go out and change how things are done? How dare he! Didn’t Peter know that “being a Gentile is not compatible with Christian teaching?” Didn’t he know that “Gentiles have no place in the church?” Peter must have missed the General Conference edict.

Instead, Peter listened to God, who gave him a new revelation preach to the Gentiles they, too, are God’s children. The bread of life is in the church, and it’s for everyone! There are no exceptions. There is a place in the church for everyone.

Theologian Fred Craddock states, “Wherever and whenever, for whatever the reason, anyone is not welcome to sit at table with you, to eat with you, then you do not have church.”

My friends, we are sorely missing churches today. I can name many churches in this city alone where we would not be welcome to sit at a table and eat with other people who call themselves Christians. They would deny the bread of life to us both literally and figuratively. Why? Simply because of who we love.

But for my friends who cling so desperately to the Bible as the infallible word of God, this is a tough lesson! The church has changed over the centuries. A once exclusive church has changed to welcome eunuchs, foreigners and even Gentiles! For those who cling to the Bible as the word of God, the precedent has been set ä the church must change. Indeed, the church is called to change! The church must be open to new revelations new ways of seeing itself. It must ever be reminded of its sacred commission, to give the bread of life to everyone, without exception. That’s not my message ä that’s the Bible’s message, and it seems fairly clear to me.

Jesus makes this message of inclusion clear when he talks to the Pharisees in Matthew. They too had closed their churches and had become stingy with the bread of life. Jesus condemns these exclusionary practices and even says, “Look, I’m not coming back until you bless anyone who comes to you in my name!” How much clearer can Jesus be?

Indeed, God had sent prophets telling the Pharisees to open their doors. The prophets, the people who brought a new word, a new revelation, to the Pharisees were murdered and persecuted! It’s a scene we see replayed today as Soulforce protestors were persecuted and spiritually murdered at the UMC General Conference. These were the prophets who stood outside the assembly, and those who stood on the floor of that gathering and proclaimed the message that the church must open its doors to everyone! Jesus predicted what would and did happen! The church leaders persecuted the prophets. They were arrested and taken from the assembly. This is nothing more than spiritual murder.

How many more spiritual murders do today’s churches commit? Every time a fundamentalist preacher, a modern day Pharisee, stands in the pulpit and condemns homosexuals, he kills us! Churches that routinely exclude us, churches that close their doors on us, churches that refuse to give the bread of life to gays and lesbians are committing spiritual murder.

It was with great sadness that I read this week that the Southern Baptists the denomination of my childhood voted to ban women from the pulpit and renewed their exclusion of homosexuals from their churches. The Convention said scripture is clear that only men can be pastors. The new SBC president went so far as to say that women who felt called to ministry were “mistaken.” I suppose the prophetess Deborah was mistaken when she prophesied in the Old Testament. I guess Esther was mistaken when she saved the Jews from certain death. I suppose Mother Theresa was mistaken when she heard her call to take care of the sick and poor in India. Hear again the words of Karl Barth, “those who, however mistakenly or strangely or impotently, ask after and seek the right and dignity of humanity, have God on their side and will be satisfied.” Deborah, Esther and Mother Theresa may have, in the Baptist opinion, sought their right or dignity of humanity mistakenly, but God was on their side and they were satisfied! We too, are dismissed as “mistakenly” seeking after the right and dignity of humanity. I tell you today, God is on our side and we will be satisfied. Isaiah, in an assurance from God, answers the Baptists loud and clear:

“my house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.”

All people that means women, that means gays and lesbians and bisexuals and transgender people and straight people of every race of every heritage. It begs the question: What part of “whosoever” don’t the Southern Baptists and the Methodists and other churches that practice exclusion, understand?

Brothers and sisters, the church must change. Soulforce protestors are not the only ones called to prophesy to the church. We, too, are the prophets Jesus talks about. We have been sent to the churches with a message of inclusion! So many of our brothers and sisters die spiritually because they believe God does not love them. We’ve got to be on the front lines of the battle to stop that kind of spiritual violence! We’ve got get out the new revelation we must spread the word the bread of life is here and it’s for everyone! This is a house of prayer for all the people! Let our resolution be: “Excluding anyone from the church is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Or more simply: “Everyone has a place in the church.”

After the Methodist vote to reconfirm it’s position that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” a Methodist minister talked with her church board about the possibility of becoming a reconciling congregation and formally welcoming gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The board’s response was typical. They were not ready to do that right now it wouldn’t be good for the church at this time. So, the measure was voted down.

The next Sunday when the congregation gathered they noticed the signboard had been changed from the usual, “All are welcome” to “Some are welcome.”

This, my friends, is why we at Gentle Spirit Christian Church and others like us continue to knock on the door of the church at midnight. It is not because we are masochists staying in a club that does not want us and has been clear that our presence is unwelcome. Instead, we knock at the door of a church that has so bitterly disappointed us because we know deep within our souls, we know that the church doors must be open to everyone, without exception because the bread of life is within the church! That bread belongs to everyone who seeks to et of it. Who are they indeed, who are we to deny anyone who comes in the name of the Lord?

Better Heresy of Doctrine Than Heresy of Heart

Better heresy of doctrine than heresy of heart.

— John Greenleaf Whittier

Thomas Carlyle said, “A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge.” On this point I believe Jesus and Carlyle are in agreement. Jesus told his disciples that “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.” If our hearts are not loving, if we are not following the path of love that our hearts desire, then the utterances of our mouth will be nothing but pure evil, pure hate, pure deceit. When we cultivate a loving heart we find knowledge — not just knowledge of the world but, more importantly, knowledge of ourselves.

I had a revelation of this fact about a year ago as I was lying, quite naked and vulnerable, on a massage therapist’s table. The therapist was massaging an area of my upper chest when she remarked about how tight I was in that region. She then explained to me the concept in Chinese medicine that the body is divided into seven chakras or power points. The point she was massaging is called the Heart Chakra. Since it was tight she said, “That means you’re not following your heart.” I immediately burst into tears. Those simple words, said in passing by my massage therapist, hit home with me. It made me realize that more than anything else I need to honor what’s in my heart. I cannot live in any way that is contrary to what I know in my heart to be God’s will for my life.

John Greenleaf Whittier gives us the title of this sermon. “Better heresy of doctrine than heresy of heart.” Each of us here tonight knows this saying to be true. Each of us, because we are sitting in a church as openly GLBT people, alongside our straight allies, knows that we are doctrinal heretics. But we also know that being doctrinal heretics is better than hiding, denying our true selves, and living a lie that doctrine would have us to live.

We’ve heard all the doctrines before. There are doctrines that tell us we are “intrinsically disordered.” There are doctrines that tell us we are “abominations.” There are doctrines telling us we are unloved by God unless we change our sexuality. All these doctrines are a heresy of our hearts, because, in our hearts we know better. We know the doctrines are wrong. In our hearts, we know there is no disorder in our sexuality. In our hearts, we know we are blessings to God. In our hearts, we know God loves us no matter what. To choose heresy of doctrine over heresy of heart is what we do when we realize that we are God’s children, beloved and blessed, just as we are as GLBT people ä no matter what the doctrines might say to the contrary.

Just as we have so honestly rejected doctrine in the face of our God-given andGod-blessed sexuality, so should we also be honest about other doctrines that do not speak to our heart. Don’t be afraid to examine your faith or your beliefs. If doctrines do not speak to your heart, do not hesitate to discard them. Doctrines were developed centuries ago to assist people in learning more about God and how to worship God. Just because doctrines are old does not make them true for all eternity. If doctrines of yesterday cause your heart to stumble today take Whittier’s advice and commit a heresy of doctrine before you commit a heresy of heart.

But, maybe that begs the question how do we know what is in our hearts? How do we cultivate that heart of love that will express itself in the words that we speak? How do we discover what path our hearts should tread?

Buddhist monk, Jack Kornfield, in his book “A Path with Heart” gives us a starting place in answering that question. Above all, he advises, any path we choose should “have heart.” Think deeply about the path your life is on right now. Is it a path that fills your heart with joy and anticipation of each new day? Or is it a path that fills your heart with dread as each new day begins? If your heart feels heavy as you go through each day ä then the path you’ve chosen isn’t one with heart. My massage therapist would probably find your heart chakra very tight.

Jesus tells us that where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also. That sounds wonderful, but there’s a warning there, too. Think carefully. What do you treasure? Do you treasure your partner, your job, your house, your car ä money? Wherever our treasure is our hearts will be there. But are we treasuring the right things? If we treasure relationships over God, or money over God, or any material thing over God, our hearts are treasuring the wrong things. Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:37 that we must “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment.” Listen to that verse carefully. We’re told that we must love God not only with our minds and our souls but also with our hearts! If our treasure is God there will our hearts be also.

This is the key to finding that path with heart. First we must discover what it is our heart treasures. If our heart treasures anything above God then we are in danger of being on a path without heart. The path worth pursuing is a path with heart. A path with heart has God as its center as its ultimate treasure where our hearts “sanctify Christ as Lord.”

Don’t worry that your path may seem very different from someone else’s path. We are not all called to walk the same path. Even if we all keep God as the center of that path, our paths may look very different, even contradictory to someone else’s path. That doesn’t matter let no one tell you you’re on the wrong path if you know in your heart that you are where God has led you to be! No one can map out your path but you and God. If your heart treasures God above all else then your path will be made clear.

So we must then begin a process of letting go. This is our first step on our spiritual path. We must let go of false treasures. Let go of our heart’s desire for relationships, money, cars, houses and jobs. I say this is a process ä and often it is a long process a daily process of reorienting ourselves to God. But we must dedicate ourselves to walking this path with heart.

It’s difficult in our busy lives to even think about beginning a process of letting go. With so many activities filling our daily calendars, how can we even think of letting go of the material stuff that consumes us? How do we find the time in our busyness to stop and consider whether we’re even on the right path to begin with? And do we really want to let go at all? Isn’t it, after all, the things around us that make us important, that fill us with a sense of self?

Yes, often it is the things around us that make us important, but that’s the point it shouldn’t be like that. What makes us important is our heart and what it treasures. If it treasures things, our spiritual path is empty, heartless. If it treasures God above everything, then and only then, can our paths full of heart.

I have very recently begun the practice of meditation. I am still a novice at this practice easily distracted by the daily chores of living but so far it’s been interesting to spend 10 or 20 minutes each morning simply sitting and breathing ä realizing the fullness of life and contemplating my heart and its path.

Finding time to be still in our busy lives is important if we are to truly locate that path that our heart longs to be on. Many may feel that even taking the time to do so is a waste of time time that could be spent doing something more outwardly productive. Maybe but I’ve found that those outwardly productive things still get done even if I spend time in meditation. As the old saying goes, rarely do people come to the end of their lives and wish they had spent more time at work. Instead, we tend to ask — Did we live well? Did we spend enough time with our friends and family? Did we love well?

Our spiritual practice our goal of finding that path with a heart begins when we stop to take inventory of how precious our lives are, and whether we’re spending our time wisely. Kornfield recommends a simple meditation for this that I’d like us all to take a minute to do.

If we want to discover how to live well, we must reflect on our lives. I’d like everyone to close their eyes and just reflect on this moment in their lives and then think back. Cast your memory back across your whole life and bring to mind two good deeds that you have done, two things that you did that were good. They need not be grandiose; let whatever wants to arise show itself. In picturing and remembering these good deeds, also become aware of how these memories affect your consciousness, how they transform the feelings and state of the heart and mind, as you see them.

“In Buddhist practice, one is urged to consider how to live well by reflecting on one’s death. The traditional meditation for this purpose is to sit quietly and sense the tentativeness of life. After reading this paragraph, close your eyes and feel the mortality of this human body that you have been given. Death is certain for all of us — only the time of death is yet to be discovered. Imagine yourself to be at the end of your life — next week or next year or next decade, some time in the future. Now cast your memory back across your whole life and bring to mind two good deeds that you have done, two things that you did that were good. They need not be grandiose; let whatever wants to arise show itself. In picturing and remembering these good deeds, also become aware of how these memories affect your consciousness, how they transform the feelings and state of the heart and mind, as you see them.”

Let’s take some time now to do this meditation. I’ll admit this exercise was rather hard for me when I first read it. Of course, Whosoever immediately comes to mind. The magazine, by all accounts, has been a good deed and has helped hundreds of people that I know about and probably thousands that I don’t know about. But, my other good deed that came to mind was very small ä it was the times I have lent money to friends in need without the expectation of ever having it paid back. In truth, I’ve been paid back many times over by God’s blessings on my life. The money isn’t important.

What were some of your deeds that arose? Would anyone like to quickly share just some of their thoughts? Just tell us a phrase that came to mind like mine would be “loaning money.”

What this meditation shows us, Kornfield says is that, “the things that matter most in our lives are not fantastic or grand. They are the moments when we touch one another, when we are there in the most attentive or caring way. These moments of touching and being touched can become a foundation for a path with heart ”

When we do these good deeds when we reach out to those around us without thought for our own good, our own comfort these are the moments when we have made God our treasure. These are the moments in which we have loved God with our hearts, not just our minds and our souls. These are the moments we should meditate on the moments we should seek to multiply as we continue on our spiritual journey.

You will find this spiritual path difficult because along the way there will be so many people who will try to dissuade you from following this path. More often than not I’ve found such people to be those of a more right-wing thinking who believe there is only one path that the heart must tread theirs of course. A path that strictly adheres to doctrines, no matter what the heart may say.

Those on the religious right tell us that by following our hearts we will end up in hell sentenced to eternal damnation. They’ve made up doctrines saying it’s so! They’ve convinced a good many [too many!] of our GLBT brothers and sisters that it’s true! They’ve held many of our brothers and sisters hostage with outdated doctrines and dogma.

They’ve made these people so afraid of God’s wrath that they willingly commit heresy of heart to avoid any appearance of heresy of doctrine. We in the GLBT community are not innocent of these charges either. Even within many GLBT congregations, doctrines can become so strong that people will commit heresy of heart easily before they’ll go against any doctrine the church or congregation teaches.

But, it is our hearts that God desires not our adherence to doctrines! The Psalmist invites God to “search me and know my heart.” God knows our hearts God knows our paths [And, remember, not all of our paths are the same. We must respect each other’s path for if it is a path with heart, they all lead to God.] Since God knows our hearts and our paths then we cannot find a place where God is not. We can run from the path with heart we can choose a life of trying to hide from God or we can stop now, and listen to what our hearts are telling us. Our hearts long for God ä for that path where God walks with us. Let no one tell you that you have no right to walk that path as the person you are. God knows your heart! God knows your path! If a doctrine of the church or a doctrine of society stands between you and your heart’s path, remember “better heresy of doctrine than heresy of heart.”

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