It seems like the U.S. government is not the only institution that is being shut down. In my own naivety, that I will humbly admit to, I was not aware that hostage-taking was a viable negotiation tool for not only political but for religious institutions to use, as their fallback to achieve edicts of power. I know that that U.S. policy is to not negotiate with terrorists; I guess that is why our political institution of congress can’t seem to get anything resolved… both sides feel like they are being held hostage and are refusing to negotiate.
I digress… I am not here to provide commentary on our political hostage situation, unfolding every hour on NPR and Fox News, because I have friends on both sides. Both sides are guilty – acting like a terrorist and like a hostage at the same time. I don’t envy the conundrum that we are in. However, I am here to briefly talk about another hostage situation that is amassing in the denomination that I have grown to love – The Christian Church (Disciples Of Christ).
In July, as a denomination, we voted on resolution GA1327, the resolution states the following, “BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the General Assembly calls upon the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to affirm the faith, baptism and spiritual gifts of all Christians regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that neither is grounds for exclusion from fellowship or service within the church, but we celebrate that all are part of God’s good creation.” Unlike many mainline denominations, our individual faith communities are autonomous entities who only have to confess that Jesus is Lord (and that is up to each individual community to decipher what that even means). With that said, resolution GA1327 has brought friction to the Christian Church (Disciples Of Christ) especially the region in which I minister in – the Christian Church In The South West (CCSW). Much like the hostage negotiations that are getting nowhere in Washington, a militant faction of the CCSW has taken a page from Washington and has begun to try to hold us hostage if we, as a region, stand by our acknowledgement of GA1327.
Un-bashfully spearheading a terrorist-like coup in the CCSW is one pastor, David Huegel of Houston. David, with the help of a few others composed a public letter to the leadership of the CCSW, that I have provided for reference here, suggesting that the Disciples of Christ is no longer a “safe space” for people who don’t adhere to GA1327, the All Means All resolution. David claims to speak for the entirety of the Hispanic community of the Disciples, suggesting in his letter that if the CCSW does not recant the acknowledgement of GA1327, then all the churches he speaks for will leave the Christian Church (Disciples Of Christ), creating a subset of the Disciples that only recognizes “traditional” heterosexual leadership and heterosexual relationships as valid.
Our Hispanic faith communities are an essential part of the fabric of our diversity of churches here in the CCSW. And if any of these churches choose to leave, it would be devastating to us, a tear in the fabric of our region. However, David’s argument in his letter suggests that the division is over the interpretation of scripture, especially the interpretation of the verses around homosexuality. I don’t agree with David’s view of these verses nor his larger view of scripture (sola scriptura). However, the beauty of being a part of the Disciples of Christ is that I don’t have to agree with him. The table, not scripture, is the great equalizer for us who identify with the Stone-Campbell movement.
If David wants to make sola scriptura the center of his theology, instead of the table (sola mensa), then with my blessing, go in peace. If you don’t possess the constitution to agree to disagree and still meet at the table of Jesus, then it may be time to find what you deem a “safe space” to call home. Just because you’re a minister who claims to represent one group, that doesn’t give you the right to hold the rest of us hostage because we believe the table of Jesus isn’t exclusive to heterosexuals. The table and the confession that Jesus is Lord is at the center of Disciples theology, not the position of sola scriptura, that the bible is the inerrant word of God.
Before people jump my case, because you think I am a privileged, middle-class white man, let me say two things. One, don’t make the assumption that I’m white; don’t judge a book by what you might think is its cover. And, two, just because you claim to speak authoritatively for one ethnic culture, that does not give you the right to speak for all within that culture, nor hold others (of all different ethnic backgrounds) hostage with threats of succession because you think the rest of us are apostates, viewing the scriptural narrative in a different light.
I hope that we can agree to disagree and still meet at the table together, as children of God. But if you insist on leaving, then please go with the peace of God. However if you leave, then leave. But don’t fall into the sin of hostage-taking, thinking you can have your cake and eat it too. What I mean is this: Creating your own subset of the Disciples Of Christ, so you can still obtain nonprofit status and clergy standing in a denomination that you deem heretical, is ludicrous. I am not speaking on behalf of the CCSW. I am a minister in good standing with the CCSW and I am saying I will not be a hostage to these ultimatums, ultimatums that are not founded in our theological stance (as a denomination). I stand by the theme that I saw in General Assembly this past July: All Means All: any color, straight, gay, conservative, liberal, tattooed, non-tattooed, old, young. This is Jesus’ table, not ours; and Jesus creates the invitation list, not us.
Letter Written To CCSW
PROPOSAL BEFORE THE ADMINISTRATIVE BOARD
Southwest Hispanic Convention of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
October 5, 2013
Iglesia Roca de Salvación San Antonio, Texas
I. Initial considerations
This proposal for certain actions comes in response to a mandate that the Executive Committee of the Southwest Hispanic Convention received from the Assembly of the Convention in its business meeting on June 22, 2013. On August 31, 2013, our moderator Servando Peralez, called for a meeting of the Executive Committee and the Advisory Committee (Article 13, paragraph 4 of the Bylaws) for the purpose of settling upon a place and date for the Administrative Board meeting and to develop the recommendations that are to be brought to that meeting in response to the action of the recent General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), celebrated July 13 to 17, 2013, in adopting resolution GA1327, which declares that no sexual orientation or gender identity is to be excluded from Christian service.
II. General Objective:
The adoption of resolution GA1327 signals a rupture in the relationship between both the Obra Hispana (National Hispanic and Bilingual Fraternity of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, in the United States and Canada) in general and our Convention in particular with the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The current reflected in this decision is distancing the vessel of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) from the Hispanic portion of its crew that got left on shore. This proposal seeks with urgency and deep fondness to achieve two goals: to provide a safe space such xx`a lifesaver across to the rest of our beloved churchsuch that we can reestablish our communion and unity on the basis of a common respect for Holy Scripture.
The Executive/Advisory Committee developed the following five recommendations to be presented to a special meeting of the Administrative Board to be held at Iglesia Roca de Salvación in San Antonio, Texas, on October 5, 2013, from 9 AM to noon.
1. A letter from our convention to our Region, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the Southwest (CCSW) with a copy to General Minister and President Sharon Watkins that would include the following points:
a. That the adoption of GA 1327, in the view of the Southwest Hispanic Convention, represented a step towards a position without foundation in the Scriptures and without precedent in Christian tradition. In our view this step justifies the decision on the part of those congregations who feel obligated to leave the denomination.
b. We ask that the CCSW and its constituent Areas would commit to accompany all of the Hispanic Disciples of Christ congregations in their discernment processes regarding the step that the General Assembly took. This accompaniment should at least include offering several options for continuing in fellowship, legal advice, advocacy before the denomination, and, in extreme cases, a pastoral blessing upon those who feel obligated to cut their ties to the CCSW.
c. We ask that the CCSW request the cooperation of the Regional Committee on the Ministry (RCOM) its cooperation with the Ministerial Committee of the Convention (Article 14 paragraph 4 of the bylaws) to develop a protocol for offering standing through the Convention to ministers from churches that may so request.
2. A letter to the National Hispanic Pastoral Office (CPOHM) to include the following points:
a. Our Convention supports the efforts that the CPOHM is making to join with Disciples of all ethnic groups who have concerns regarding GA 1327.
b. We would ask the CPOHM that, in conversation with Disciples both within and outside the United States in the Disciples churches of Puerto Rico, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Guatemala, and Ecuador, the CPOHM would seek to develop a new logo that our Convention could use, along with such congregations who would choose to do the same.
c. We would ask the CPOHM to employ legal assistance to develop a model congregational constitution and bylaws that our congregations could adapt for their own use than that would protect their right to practice and to demand the exercise of traditional sexual ethical standards.
3. A letter to the congregations of the Convention, offering them a series of options of which they can avail themselves to deal with their noncomformity with GA 1327, options that, at least for the time being, will maintain their ties to the CCSW and the CPOHM.
a. They can ratify the past decisions that the Convention has taken regarding this matter, especially in adopting Declaración y Postura of the Obra Hispana.
b. They can seek legal advice to put their constitution and bylaws in order and to be informed regarding the details concerning such matters as titles to property and restrictions on endowment.
c. They can use the new name and logo that the Convention will offer.
d. They can send a letter to CCSW and RCOM requesting that the ministers of the congregation be granted standing through the Ministerial Committee of the Convention.*
e. (other options may be developed between now and October 5)
4. We recommend that the Administrative Board of the Convention would seek a new name for the Convencion (Alliance of Disciples Christian Churches) was the first suggestion shared, but the group did not choose to recommend it), and that in communication with other groups we seek a new logo for the use of the Convention and its congregations.
5. The sense of the Executive/Advisory Committee is that the adoption of GA1327 is a symptom of the fundamental problem confronting the Christian Church (Discíples of Christ). The foundational probmen is that the Disciples Church doesn’t seem to recognize the priority of the Bible for reavealing God’s will. It is for this reason that we recommend that the struggle at this moment should not be against the legitimizing of lifestyles involving alternative sexual identities and orientations, but that we should strive to seek that the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) would return the Bible to its place of authority in the church. Our recommendation is that the Administrative Board of the Convention adopt a resolution similar to a resolution concerning biblical authority that was rejected by the General Assembly in Indianapolis in 1989 and that such a resolution be offered to the Region to be adopted by the Regional Assembly in 2014 for the purpose of having it submitted to the General Board and to the General Assembly in 2015.