Made up of millions of individuals of varying backgrounds, education, and experience, there are no two people in the Christian Church who agree on all issues. There are, however, some essentials, some non-negotiables, of the Christian faith that define it. As Christians we believe (in both mind and soul) in God the Creator, Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected, and the Holy Spirit dwelling and working within us. As Christians we strive to follow the life and teachings of Jesus, including what he called the most important commandment, to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourself.
Beyond the essentials of the faith, there is room for our diversity. Some prefer classic hymns, others contemporary praise choruses. Some prefer tradition while others seek new expression. Some worship quietly, others with applause and verbal praise. Some like vestments, some don’t. Some read the Bible dogmatically, others contextually. Some can’t imagine life without technology. Others believe it has ruined the world. Some are urban, some rural. Some like dogs, others cats. Some are Republican, others Democrat. Some like to grill burgers, others are vegetarian. We have different opinions about gender roles, divorce, hymnals, abortion, immigration, the color to paint the Sunday School room, and gay people; and there is room for us all.
None of the non-essential disagreements are worth a church split. But there is a catch. If we are to live together as a Church, we must agree to respect each others’ differing opinions and to love each other despite them.
If we cannot find that mutual respect, then, yes, the gay issues are important enough to allow a split. Here’s why. Because an estimated one in every 15 children born into our congregations is gay, * and we, the church, are oppressing them and harming their families. And once they are old enough to make their own choices, we lose them entirely, along with a large percentage of, especially the younger generations, who see this misguidance of the Church and want no part of it.
Denominations and congregations are gradually coming to the realization that gay people do not choose to be gay any more than left-handed people choose to be left-handed, and that the Church has been wrong in labeling homosexuality a sin. As with any change from traditional thinking, this is bringing division. Congregations are losing members. Denominations are splitting. And while this is tragic, yes, it is worth it.
For every single child who will not hear in sermons or Sunday School lessons that he’s destined for hell and that if he has enough faith, he can pray and God will make him straight; for every child who will not leave the Faith, believing she is a bad person and God does not love her; for every parent who will not hide in the double shame that her child is gay and that she failed as a parent; for every disciple whose heart is able to listen to others’ stories and love them unapologetically as God’s precious children, yes, it is worth even a church split.
There are times when a particular issue is so important to an individual disciple, that he cannot live together in Christian love with those who see it differently. Whatever that issue might be, there are other congregations or other denominations where he might feel more comfortable in God’s service. And as God’s family, whether we are those who leave or those who are left to grieve as others exit (I have been both), may the love of Christ cross the divide, and may we find peace in knowing that yes, it is worth it, and as painful as division always is, sometimes we cannot grow as Christian disciples without it.
Moravian motto: In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love.