Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Letter to Jim Wallis

May 10, 2011
Dear Jim,
As a long-time Sojo reader, subscriber, and fan, and as a friend who has worked with your interns and worshipped with your community, I write with deep respect and great fondness, but also with deep disappointment in calling you on Sojourners’ rejection of the “Believe Out Loud” ad. More than calling you on this decision, I feel that I am calling you back to your own organizational commitment to “confront and dismantle discriminatory behavior wherever it may be manifest.”
It is a grace-filled coincidence that I write you on this May 10, the date when my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) will finally affirm its own welcome to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community by lifting our long-standing ban on ordaining otherwise qualified, called queer folk.
I know you have a deep, long-standing commitment to justice. I have heard you speak eloquently about your own crystallization of consciousness concerning racial justice in America and, in particular, in the evangelic branch of the church. I know also of your evangelical commitment to scriptural authority.
I have heard you speak powerfully about economic justice, and know that your convictions there are rooted and grounded in scripture. I have heard you tell the story of the Bible from which your seminary classmate cut out all references to the poor to underscore God’s abiding concern for economic justice. You called it, “a Bible full of holes.”
It occurs to me that if you took from the Bible every reference to the word “homosexual” you would still have an intact Bible. Indeed, the word “homosexual” did not exist when scripture was written. Even if you removed all of the verses that conservatives use to condemn same-gender relationships you would have to search pretty carefully to find the handful of holes.
But if you tried the same experiment with reference to welcome to the outcast, love for the stranger, compassion for the least of these you would have another Bible full of holes.
In a week that may also see final passage in Uganda of a bill that could impose the death penalty on those found “guilty” of being gay or lesbian, who is the outcast, the stranger, the least of these in whose lives we are called to see Christ?
As Christians we share an incarnational theology. We understand that in Jesus the truth was made flesh in the world, and thus we understand truth through a relationship with Christ. If we take Matthew 25 seriously, we also understand that part of our relationship with Christ is bound up in our relationships with one another, and, in particular, in our relationships with those who are hungry, who are imprisoned, who are marginalized by systems and cultures and institutions, even and especially the church.
Toward that end, all I can do is offer testimony. I am a witness here, and my understanding of what it means to try to be a faithful follower of Jesus has been shaped in part by my relationships with people of faith who happen to have a different sexual orientation than I have – people in whom I have seen Christ.
Thus I invite you, for the sake of your own faith journey, to come and worship with us at Clarendon. The trip over on a Sunday morning won’t take you more than 25 minutes. Don’t let the Potomac stand in your way; at Clarendon we are dedicated to bridging every divide. You’ll find a gracious welcome from this community where we truly believe that each and every one of us is a creature made in the image and likeness of a loving Creator.
Yours in Christ,

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