February 8, 2013
"As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."
Reflection by Matt Laney
When Rev. Sam Wells first arrived at Duke University to serve as dean of the chapel in 2005, the LGBT student director asked him to provide an LGBT campus minister. Though a progressive-minded fellow, Wells was reluctant, pointing out that Duke already had 26 campus ministries.
The persistent student said "But I want to encourage people who self-designate as LGBT to recognize that their sexual identity is not the most interesting or important thing in their lives."
Wells' mind changed completely.
On this day in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America began with the noble aspiration of building character and responsible citizenship in boys. I am one of the millions who benefited from the blessings of scouting.
This week the BSA board of directors considered lifting their ban on gay members and leaders, thrusting the organization into the national spotlight. On Wednesday, the board voted to delay decision until May due to "the complexity of this issue."
The "complexity" says far more about the BSA's persistence in making sexual orientation the most interesting and important thing about person's life, over and against the desire to be a good and loyal scout or scout leader. Accepting only straight people is a warped understanding of the Scout Oath to keep oneself "mentally awake, and morally straight." Modeling fear and ignorance while professing morality is complex indeed.
We in the church have little reason to feel smug. The church does not have a stellar record of overlooking race, sexuality or gender in favor of more important identity markers, like, say baptism.
Being a baptized member of the church is not a part of our identity, it is our identity, whether we are "Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female" gay, straight or trans. When we are baptized, questions like "who am I? are eclipsed by more interesting questions like "who is God calling me to be?"
Sadly, we often get that backwards and the Boy Scouts have followed suit.
Redeeming God, just as women were the first apostles, help the Church and the Boy Scouts follow the lead of the Girls Scouts, who have never presumed to exclude others because of sexual orientation.
About the Author
Matthew Laney is the Senior Minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, in Hartford, Connecticut.
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