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Enabling Conversations




----- Original Message ----- 
From: **** ******
To: <lcrew@andromeda.rutgers.edu>
Sent: Tuesday, November 30, 2004 12:50 AM


> Dear Louie,
> No I am not offering you a special deal from a small third world 
> dictatorship! I am in Professor ******'s Anglican Spirituality course at
> ***. I asked ****  for advice on setting up a forum to discuss same sex 
> unions in my town of *******, **. My parish is currently small, polarized, 
> and struggling with this issue. I was asked to think of a structure for 
> the conversation about same sex unions that would allow my fellow 
> congregants to overcome their fear of speaking about sex and about facing 
> people of seriously opposing views. *****  said that he couldn't help me, 
> but if there was one person in the world who could it would be you. He 
> kinda respects you, ya' think? I would appreciate some practical advice.


Since the parish is already polarized, your first task is to get them  to 
recognize the altar as their center.   Everyone -- absolutely everyone -- is 
safe at the altar.  It is dangerous to pray 'forgive me my sins as I forgive 
others theirs' if we don't really mean it.   Safe conversations can begin 
only when all understand that we have all already been forgiven, -- sins 
known and unknown -- and in that forgiveness, have the capacity, even the 
obligation, to forgive others.

>From there you can explore why gays and lesbians seem so terribly wrong to 
some.  When folks name their objections, they often find they are talking 
not about gay and lesbian Christians but about stereotypes, especially those 
of gays as sexual predators in the church, so much in the news through 
scandals.  Sometimes they have themselves been victims of wounding personal 
experience.  Sometimes they are responding to unwanted sexual aggression 
towards them or towards someone they care about. They need to be safe in
talking about these experiences.

It is also important to explore why others welcome gays and lesbians.  Is 
theirs a knee jerk response?  Would they be enthusiastic about having an 
lbgt child, an lbgt sibling, or an lbgt parent?

Be sure that some out lbgt persons are present and part of the conversation, 
even if you have to go outside the parish to find them.

Be sure that the objectors are loved regardless of whether they 'come 
round.'  Be just as sure that the lbgt's are loved regardless of
whether they offend others.

Conversations work best if not framed as arguments.   Enable the sharing of 
sacred stories.

Have some time to talk about sexual specifics, but don't stay there. 
They're often the stumbling block for straights. Lbgts are much more likely 
to want to talk about justice and the fuller range of their experience.  For 
anyone who is healthy, sex is integral to wholeness, but it does not define 
who we are.

Make sure that everyone is equally vulnerable.  It is too easy for sexual 
conversations to become spiritually voyeuristic.

And lighten up!  Ticklebox repair is a major spiritual need of our times. 
Encourage humor.  You might even collect cartoons as a starting point for a 
conversation.  I love the one that shows the little boy beside his bed 
praying, "God bless Mommy, Daddy, Grandpa, Susan.....Uncle Harry and his 
friend Jim whom we're not supposed to talk about."  I also like the one of 
the two psychiatrists talking.  One says, "Most of my gay patients are 
sick."  "That's strange," the other replies; "ALL of my patients are sick."

As soon as possible explore ways that lbgts and straights can do ministry 
together.

And don't forget the more stereotypical lbgts, who usually don't go anywhere 
near a church, and those whose families have rejected them.  I suspect Jesus 
finds their company more enjoyable than the company of people who want to 
keep him on a pedestal where we won't allow him to do a damn thing that is 
new.   How can we join Jesus in enjoying the company of those we deem the 
least among us?  I have it on biblical authority that that is a Judgment Day 
criterion.

I hope this is helpful.   Since my husband is a flight attendant,  
for only $25 I can fly roundtrip to anywhere his airline flies.  If 
ever you'd like me to drop in for one of these conversations,  I'd need 
roundtrip transportation from the airport to you,  a meal or two, and a 
place to lay my head.  Have faith; will travel.

Joy to all through your ministry.

Give my best wishes to Professor *****.  I wish I could kibitz on the 
course.

L.






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