The Rapidian

Ethics and Religion Talk: What if the Worship Leader Dresses Gay?, part 2

Jose writes, “I’m a passionate student of the word. I’ve recently encountered a young man in church who leads worship. His attire and mannerism disconcert me. Those who do not know this young man personally will label him as gay.

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at http://topics.mlive.com/tag/ethics-and-religion-talk/. More recent columns can be found on TheRapidian.org by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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Jose writes, “I’m a passionate student of the word. I’ve recently encountered a young man in church who leads worship. His attire and mannerism disconcert me. Those who do not know this young man personally will label him as gay. However, he has been asked by the pastor and he claims he is not gay. I’ve shared with the pastor that many people are not happy with this situation and his only reply is that he cannot do anything. I would love to read an ethical as well as a biblical response on the matter.”

Rabbi Krishef’s note: Again, our panelists are deeply divided. Issues of sexual orientation and gender identity cut to the core of a religion’s understanding of God’s commanding voice. The tone of the responses is … passionate. Aside from light editing for clarity, I have let the panelists speak for themselves.

Dr. Sahibzada, the Director of Islamic Center and Imam of the Mosque of Grand Rapids, responds:

“Both men [the young man and the pastor] mentioned in the question are not behaving in accordance with guidance of God. Clergy and religious leadership, if they behave as above, are deceiving God, themselves, and the congregation. People of the Prophet Lot were destroyed due to their invention of sodomy and there is no trace of these gay people except in the word of God or Dead Sea. They can act like this to fulfill their desires in this world, but what will happen when they are standing in front of God on the day of Judgment?

“These two persons are not paying attention ethically and biblically to God, His words, and His prophet. Rather, they are worshiping their soul to satisfy themselves. Ultimately God is Just and will do Justice when the time comes, with only a slight delay. They must repent, seek forgiveness and must behave as God wishes. Wolves must not conceal themselves in the skin of lamb. God knows the best.”

The Rev. Rachel J. Bahr, pastor of Plymouth UCC, responds:

“Let’s start with the fact that none of us can see into the heart and mind of others, it’s impossible to tell what someone’s sexuality may or may not be by their mannerisms. Secondly, people often confuse gender identity and expression with sexuality. Gender is who you are and how you live, sexuality is who you want to be with. I don’t think based on the affectations you have described, that you can fairly conclude that this person must be gay. But no matter how this person identifies, your treatment and judgement of them could use some work. In the United Church of Christ and at my church Plymouth UCC we say and live these words, ‘No matter who you are, or where you are on life’s journey you are welcome here.’ It sounds as if your church doesn’t value difference, and would exclude folx if they were to identify LGBTQ. In my church, I am celebrated for being queer and gender queer, because this is a value of my Christian community. I must say that I am concerned by your words. If you are a student of the word, then hear these words from scripture as Christians, we are many members, but we are one body in Christ (Rom. 12:4), and Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mk. 12:31) without being judgmental (Mt. 7:1-2) nor disparaging of others (Lk. 18:9-14); and we are called by Christ’s example, to proclaim release to the captives and set at liberty the oppressed (Lk. 4:18). I firmly believe that not only would Jesus be open and affirming of LGBTQ folx, but I am convinced of a phrase often repeated in the UCC, that ‘LGBTQ folx will save the church.’ ”

The Reverend Colleen Squires, minister at All Souls Community Church of West Michigan, a Unitarian Universalist Congregation, responds:

“Most Unitarian Universalists would not claim to be experts in scripture, we would not say we are Christian and yet we would say we value the ministry, teaching and message of Jesus. His is a message of Love, Acceptance, Inclusion, and one that is free from Judgment. So if a congregant came to me concerned about someone’s attire, mannerism, or sexual orientation I would talk to them about our First Principle; to affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every person. I would say this is a judgment upon a child of God and therefore misguided. People of faith should not judge one another but support one another to be our true authentic beautiful self.”

Chris Curia, the Director of Youth Ministries at Fairway Christian Reformed Church, responds:

“We have to be wary of circumstances in which we find ourselves inferring a person’s way of being simply by our perception of their behavior. The spread of often overgeneralized, subjective observations is gossip, which can move like a disease through a community until the whole thing becomes contaminated and hostile, especially to the original subject of the gossip. Instead, it might be helpful to ask oneself why this person’s behavior has been so personally disconcerting in the first place.”

 

This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up in the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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