I Let The Money Decide
We were hiring a staff member for a new church. My colleague and I already knew the candidate and the interview went well. After it was over, the candidate said, “You do know I am gay, right?” I replied yes and added, “As long as you are not going to be sexually active, we will have no difficulty.” After several years of good work, it was apparent the project he was a part of was not going to justify the continuation of his position, so we all knew his work with the project would have to end.
I didn’t want him to resign. He was exactly the kind of generalist we needed in our office. He was thoughtful, hard-working, intelligent, and an irenic spirit. But I did not offer him another job. Somewhere along the line he had told me his theology on LGB issues was one of inclusion and I made the assumption (accurately) that he was ready to look for a relationship. So I did not offer him another job.
If I had made that decision because I was convinced the scripture said gay relationships were wrong, I would have had less difficulty with my decision. But I already knew my theology was inclusive. I was not struggling over the issue. I knew where I stood. But I also knew the ministry I directed was not ready to be inclusive – not the board, not most of our ministers, and especially not our financial supporters. As a card-carrying member of a capitalist society, I let the money decide.
Now I stand on the other side of the silence. I observe as others make similar decisions about me. I understand their dilemma. “There are bigger issues here than one person.” It is true, there are. Some believe my transition is morally wrong, and they need to take their stand. I understand that. Others dance around a controversial topic to avoid offending any constituents, or question when the timing is right to initiate change.
Am I angry? Well if I am, I’d better include myself in my anger. I was guilty of the same pragmatism. This is one of the reasons the church is among the last institutions to accept cultural change. There is little question the Gospel calls for racial and social justice, but too often the church waits until the entire culture has shifted before it tepidly tiptoes into the waters of justice. It happened with slavery, interracial marriage, women’s rights, racial integration, and now LGBTQ rights.
When institutional health is at stake, pragmatism trumps ideology every time. But the Gospel is not built on pragmatism, but on radical love and inclusion. When neither is good for the bottom line, the problem is not with love and inclusion. The problem is with the bottom line.
As a long time parachurch worker, my friend completely understood my position, and was even supportive of it. When I talked about it with him recently, he said, “It wasn’t time back then.” My friend is very gracious. In fact he has been far more gracious with his former colleagues than I have been with many of mine. I am very grateful he is still a friend. In fact he was one of the first from my old world who embraced the new me. I will always be grateful for his love and encouragement during a difficult season.
As for me, I have had a hard time getting past the fact I did not offer him another job when the first one ended all those years ago. My pragmatism got the best of me and it still bothers me. Hindsight is always more clear when considering questions of character and courage. Truth is, I probably just need to give my self the grace my friend has given me, and move on.
And so it goes.
(This post has been altered from its original form. I had gotten some details wrong. This is my attempt to get the details right. Accuracy counts for somethin’.)