proud to be part of a church that’s not afraid to struggle honestly

pcusa_stainedglassI love my flawed but beautiful church!

What can I say, I’m a Presbyterian! Say what you like, but we’re not a denomination that tends to duck difficult issues. We don’t always get things right, but we are willing to engage. In consequence, sometimes we lose people who evidently wish we weren’t quite so Presbyterian after all.

Seriously, folks, that’s the big conundrum; people join the PC(USA) because they meet Jesus here; they appreciate the life, the thoughtfulness, the social conscience, the compassion, the willingness to talk about hard things, and the honesty. Then sometimes they leave because they have a hard time with exactly what makes us Presbyterian to begin with!

Anyway, this conversation isn’t going away; so I thought it would be helpful if I shared a more personal perspective.

Remember, I don’t blog to provide tidy, water-tight answers; instead I’m here to testify that God is so much greater than the limits of my understanding (and probably yours too), and that – always – if I’m going to make a mistake it’s going to be in the direction of grace.

MY LETTER: The balance of this post is a hybrid of several letters I’ve written in response to various people who have expressed concern that I am straying from the path of “true truth”. One suggested I’ve invented a “Gospel according to Derek Maul”; another said, “You’re too soft on sin”; yet another argued that my gay friends aren’t actually gay (they just choose to sin), and “they are most certainly not authentic Christians.”

Here is a combination of several of my responses:

Dear Reader:

One nugget of wisdom that continues to help me as I process all of the stories I’ve heard recently (and there have been literally dozens) comes from William Barclay: “Sin is not so much breaking God’s law as it is breaking God’s heart.”

I do understand the roots of your questions, I can hear your passionate heart for God, and I respect where these thoughts are coming from.

STRUGGLE: For me, this struggle is ongoing – it has to be. It’s nowhere near over; but my struggle is being informed by scripture (the Narrative of Covenant), by prayer, by my personal relationship with Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, by the lives of many friends (gay and straight), and by conversations like this.

What gives me hope is my knowledge that we are all “works in progress;” Me, you, my gay friends, the critical friends and readers too.

At the moment, however, this is where I am on my journey: I understand that gay people are God’s children, created by God; I understand that they have endured centuries of rejection and oppression for not being “normal;” and I understand that religion has long been used as a tool for rejection and oppression.

My reading of the Bible is that it is the story of God reaching toward people, the story of people failing miserably in their response (time and again), and the story of God creating the only opportunity for reconciliation that makes sense – in and through Jesus. At the moment, I see gay men and women as one more community of people who God wants included in the Covenant, and I am increasingly open to that.

My intention in writing is to encourage people to consider the following ideas: A) The gay population comprises a legitimate minority; that is a fact we can neither ignore nor wish away, B) Gay people can and do love Jesus too, C) The Gospel allows for more diversity than many of us tend to be comfortable with.

Peace and blessings on the journey – DEREK

Still loving the Presbyterian Church!
Still loving the Presbyterian Church!

NOT DONE BY A LONG SHOT! As I said, I really am a work in progress. And, as Rebekah said in worship this week (you can listen to her sermon if you like), “God has not finished with the Presbyterian Church yet.”

God has not finished with me, either; nor you, I pray; nor the church you attend. Love and blessings to you, grace and peace, and the assurance of my prayers – DEREK

The Church

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Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.

Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.

Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.

11 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I understand and share your compassion for the gay community. Rejection is the most powerful form of hurt. With holding the truth is not love. It is the opposite. We are to be as Jesus…Walk in love, but speak the truth in love. Gods heart does break when we sin. I believe it breaks even more so by not loving people on truth. We will be held accountable for leading others into deception. I hurt for those with the struggle of homosexuality. But because it is a struggle, does not make it any less of a sin. The Bible states it is a sin among many others. We have to love the people but walk in truth. Not easy but possible. We see that in Jesus’s example. Christianity is about love and truth. Not love and breaking the truth for comfort. Gods word stands and you are leading many into deception. You will be held accountable. And I say that not in a mean way or a way to invoke fear. I say that in love and truth. Honestly. We will all give an account. I believe the worst thing, the thing that breaks Gods heart the most is the twisting of a his words written specifically for us. Tom
    To show us and guide us and to help us to show love to others. Satan works in false truths and we are under his deception in this area. compassion is what God is all abou but misguided and false truths hurts everyone in the end, especially the people it was supposed to help to begin with.
    Thanks you for your time,
    Erica.

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    • Erica – thanks for your contribution to the conversation.
      But I’m interested in the “you are leading many into deception” statement. As someone who is guided by God’s word, the promptings of the Spirit, and my ongoing relationship with Jesus, I’m committed to leading people into new life in Christ. Jesus came to restore our relationship with God. It’s possible for faithful Christians to disagree on exactly what the practice of the Christian life looks like, and I know I get it wrong sometimes – as I’m sure you do too.
      You mention the way Satan specializes in false truth that keeps people away from the God – I think that’s one of the problems with much of the legalism, literalism, and proof-texting that serves to obscure the real purpose of the Bible from too many hungry souls.
      Peace and blessings as you continue your journey – DEREK

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  2. KJV Dictionary Definition: proud

    Derek, I used this word, “proud” in a post yesterday, in regards to my child. Maybe I should find another word to use, huh? I said I was a proud father, but after reading this definition, I will change it to Happy Father or Blessed Dad.

    PROUD, a.

    1. Having inordinate self-esteem; possessing a high or unreasonable conceit of one’s own excellence, either of body or mind. A man may be proud of his person, of his talents,of his accomplishments or of his achievements. He may be proud of any thing to which he bears some relation. He may be proud of his country, his government, his equipage, or of whatever may, by association, gratify his esteem of himself. He may even be proud of his religion or of his church. He conceives that any thing excellent or valuable, in which he has a share, or to which he stands related, contributes to his own importance, and this conception exalts his opinion of himself. Proud is followed by of, before the object, supra.

    2. Arrogant; haughty; supercilious.

    A foe so proud will not the weaker seek.

    3. Daring; presumptuous.

    By his understanding he smiteth through the proud. Job.26.

    4. Lofty of mien; grand of person; as a proud steed.

    5. Grand, lofty; splendid; magnificent.

    Storms of stones from the proud temple’s height.

    6. Ostentatious; grand; as proud titles.

    7. Splendid; exhibiting grandeur and distinction; exciting pride; as a proud day for Rome.

    8. Excited by the animal appetite; applied particularly to the female of the canine species.

    9. Fungous; as proud flesh.

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  3. “KJV dictionary?”
    Which one of the 9 options fit when you used “proud”? You’re right, it’s good to know what you mean when you use a word!
    My dictionary has my context fairly well tuned:: “feeling deep pleasure or satisfaction as a result of one’s own achievements, qualities, or possessions or those of someone with whom one is closely associated.”

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  4. I am thoroughly encouraged by your writings and reflections. I struggle with my responses to the overwhelming negativity to the GA decisions. I am very happy for the changes, very hopeful for the future. I retread the intro to the Book of order this week and it was a good reminder of what church is asked to be. “Even at the risk of losing its own life,” we are called to follow God. Messy as the aftermath may be, I believe that this as a church is our future, to love…to always love and accept. Thanks, Derek. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Callie. Great to hear from you.
      Along with this great challenge as a church we also have this great opportunity!
      Peace and blessings to you and your family – DEREK

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  5. Hi Derek,
    A few things come to mind. Including a bit of testimony below. Breaking God’s heart is something I am sure we have all done regularly, knowingly and at times unknowingly. Unknowingly when our relationship with him is not developed to a deep love. How do we break God’s heart? Is a good question I believe to shed some light onto the current debate of sexual sin. Maybe a take like this one is helpful… If God is preparing us, his bride for a final wedding day.. ‘the wedding of the bride and the lamb’ (Jesus). He is hoping and longing for us to be pure before him, Growing in it as we spend more time with him, and in the word. If I then go out and sin sexually: with sexual immorality, adultery, including having sexual relations one woman with another woman, or man with a man.. all of these would break my Savior,, and my loving fathers heart, and relationship with him. I think if at this point, I would not be able to lift my head and look him in the eye, without feeling awful, I would have hurt him. Doing the thing I know my Lord asks me to refrain from, Sin, even my heart feels and understands this, as I am born again of his spirit, now I know him. I I sin in this way I have Grieved the Holy Spirit. The word is clear on this. God is the same yesterday, today and forever.
    The only way to restore this relationship with Jesus, , is to repent, be so sorry, and ask his forgiveness. If it is an ongoing problem, I need to be delivered from it, I need help to make moves in my life to reduce the power of temptation, cry out to God, as in the Lord’s prayer, ‘Lord keep me from temptation, deliver me from evil…’ No one can do this alone when struggling with sin. Pastors, Councillors, family, mature christian friends, who have found their freedom from sin, need to be sort out to stand with us to see us walk in freedom from sin. Here we love each other Prayer, fasting and wisdom is required, to encourage, love, support, empower the sinner with truth, to believe God’s word, (the word a lamp to thy feet), continued prayer to see them released. If I could share, I have seen the opposite of this in action!

    My husbands mum, many years ago had one of the only gay relationships I had come across. She during her marriage to my husbands father, acted on her desire and engaged in a gay relationship. The consequences catastrophic to her family and young children living in the home. The marriage split up, and the other gay women came to live in the home. I can say that those young children that went through this experience, have struggled big time in their lives, and interestingly with sexual sin themselves, to a destructive level. And taking them into illegal behavior, ending up in prison. My husband, did not have a good role model regards normal sexual boundaries as he grew up. Added to that was the loss of not having a father figure around. Great was his anger and bitterness towards his mum!!

    I as his wife have spent a lifetime picking up the pieces, together with pastors and counselors, our own children suffering the consequences that continued, and at times also had no father around! So experienced added hardship. The number of consequences are so many that they would will fill a large book.. whilst the members of the family went through them some thought death as a better option. We have seen therapists, Counselors, family workers, pastors, courts, specialists. A great cost personally, and cost to the church, and to society. (a decade of cost to society I estimate to cost the tax payer some £600, 000, in a variety of court costs, prison costs, housing costs, benefit costs, therapy costs!) None of the consequences of sin are lovely, or nice, or a blessing.. ! I wish to save others who hear our story, from this consuming process of mending lives. Thankfully.. God gave me life to impart his fullness of love in walking with Jesus to others, and to every member of my very broken family. I cannot stand by and say nothing in response to the current gay marriage issue. And whilst I understand that not every gay marriage will involve children, there will be a significant number that do. And a growing number of children that will go through the loss of a father or mother. This is a concern Because of the recognized pain we have all gone through, in relation to this there is much to be learnt from disregarding God’s word to walk free from sin. . . I thank God he has given me the insights into the pain and destruction sexual sin caused, that the enemy the devil incites with, there is always a choice to follow temptation or to turn away. I think God would want me to share some of our story with others, who would not know unless they had been through it, or read the word to confirm the lessons to be saved from in life? ‘Apostle Paul writes that which I counted as gain, I now consider as loss, to the all surpassing joy of knowing Jesus’ Here we have a Key, also the best place to flourish and live in. My prayer for my mother in law is that as I offer help in her garden, invite her to dinner, chat with her, that an earthly restored relationship with those around her increases, will speak of her God’s love for her, and cause her to be in a place that she will come to love who Jesus is, and receive salvation, in hope to be real and reflect on the ugliness of the past trauma for her family. Open honest exchange of feelings, in a loving way, forgiving and bringing healing. It will take time, and love. (otherwise we live false shallow relationships, that will not go deep) Over the last decade healing of relationships has began to happen for us. I have learnt to lean on God, and not on my own understanding. He is able and willing to do far more that we can ever imagine. His heart is big, and compassion goes out to all he has made. Are we willing to walk the walk with people , or are we being tempted to take the easy option to welcome an easy (but flawed) way out, when encouraging gay marriage in church. If I can say, Even My husbands mum choosing what she thought was good for her in a gay relationship suffered loss, and has been isolated, and on her own for several years, having to cope with the discontent of her children, so in the end sin robbed her of happiness and quality of life. (this I believe is the current lie of the enemy, he is getting away with it through lack of insight into the future costs)
    There are testimonies of ‘gay’ people who have walked into normal patterns of life that God blesses, no longer needing a gay relationship, instead enjoying a husband and wife marriage, or have dedicated to Jesus working through to win over gay sexual tenancies.. to a place of Contentment, fullness of joy in Christ and freedom from being ‘ a slave to sin’ . Finding scripture to be true ‘ that Christ is more than sufficient’ for them. We need to be listening to these awesome folks, who have walked that path, for their determination to find trust in God, and give their lives up for Jesus? God loves to restore us to the father to enjoy full relationship with him, not be robbed of this by a taint of sin in our lives. Surely he is calling a ‘pure spotless bride’, so we know what we should be aiming for, the question is for each of us ‘Lord show me how’, and how can I help others live being that ‘pure spotless bride’ I am interested in this subject because I am sure Jesus offers life to the full, and wants to spare us trouble in life if we will only hear him, take up our cross and follow him.. Then he ‘in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight’

    Thank you for the opportunity to share Derek.
    With love, every Blessing. Your sister.

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