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:
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
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
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.