Omvendt hyrdebrev til biskopen

Absolutt Biskop-konvoluttLegfolk i United Methodist Church i den amerikanske delstaten Texas, samler via sosiale medier underskrifter på et brev de har skrevet til sine biskoper angående kirkens syn og praksis i homofilispørsmålet. «Problemet» er at bare texanere kan underskrive. Men brevet er så relevant og sterkt at jeg, som norsk metodist-legmann, velger å videresende det til vår nordisk/baltiske biskop Christian Alsted.

Av respekt for brevets amerikanske opphaveskvinner og -menn. har jeg (med unntak av geografiske omskrivninger) bevart den originale engelske ordlyden i brevet jeg herved videresender til biskop Alsted:

Dear bishop Christian Alsted!

We write this letter representing lay members of the United Methodist Church who live, work, and worship in the country of Norway. It is in keeping our covenant with God and with the church that we write, so that we may better live out our membership vows. These vows call us to Christian discipleship, to strengthen the ministries of the UMC and to fully participate in church ministries by our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness. At the heart of our vows, we accept the freedom and power to renounce and reject evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.

 We know that the position of the Church is shifting toward the full inclusion of our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) siblings in Christ; yet, we lament the glacial pace of change, which hampers the pursuit of our mission to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world. We are convinced this mission can only be fulfilled through outreach and witness based in Christ’s all-inclusive love. We are deeply troubled by the harm perpetuated against LGBT people and their families by our church while we continue to wait for General Conference to take the steps necessary for reconciliation.

 We have witnessed families torn apart by spiritual violence after a loved one’s disclosure of sexual orientation or gender identity. We have witnessed the deaths of people young and old who have died by suicide, worn down and broken by years of abuse. We have mourned the loss of many to AIDS and indifference in a spiritual culture that privileged misguided piety over compassion. We have witnessed beloved couples within our congregations seek the pastoral care of their ministers as they prepare for marriage, only to be turned away, bringing great pain to both the couple and the clergy person. We have witnessed gifted clergy fall victim to witch-hunts and suffer the removal of their credentials and ministry. We have endured the isolation of holding a sometimes unpopular view among people of faith too entrenched in fear to hear God’s call to be reconciled with all people. Often the church has directly contributed to these harms, but even when it has not, the church has been complicit by its complacency.

 Despite the adversity faced by our LGBT family, friends, and allies in society and the church, we profess the Christian faith found in the Old and New Testaments and strive for beloved community. But, we struggle to faithfully participate in the ministries of the church and make new disciples of Christ when the presence, gifts, talents, and witness of our LGBT sisters and brothers are not fully recognized or appreciated. The One who calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves also calls us to enter the temple when it has been profaned and overturn the tables.

 Marriage equality has reached Norway. More and more congregations will feel called to open their sanctuary doors and celebrate services of Christian marriage for prepared same-sex couples in their congregations. More and more clergy will begin to officiate these sacred events. And you will receive complaints against us for violating the Book of Discipline—the same book that says, “We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.” We must begin to live out our commitment to the part of the Book of Discipline that says we are committed to supporting “the human rights and civil liberties . . . of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.”

 As the norwegian society moves toward acceptance of LGBT people, the UMC continues to resist this positive and Christ-centered change. We understand change in denominational policy cannot occur outside of General Conference, and we recognize there is no assurance of change in 2016. Nevertheless, many of us are called to open the full ministries of the Church to all now. We cannot in good conscience continue to be proxies of institutional discrimination against our LGBT neighbors. We cannot continue to prioritize institutional maintenance over the mission and ministries of the United Methodist Church. And while we value our connectionalism and prefer not to violate the Discipline, we cannot continue to wait on the General Conference to right this wrong.

 We find it shameful that society is ahead of the Church. We are embarrassed to be the last of the mainline Protestant denominations to repent of the sin of exclusion and embrace marriage equality and ordination of qualified LGBT candidates. (nb: uthevet av meg) We believe that the UMC will be strengthened by the full inclusion of LGBT people into the life and ministry of the Church. Inclusion represents a step onward to perfection, and we will do all in our power to help the Church move forward. It is time for a faithful witness to the Gospel of Christ. This is our witness—it is our prayer, our gift, and our service to our Church.

 That we might better represent Christ to the world and make disciples for the transformation of the world, we sign our names to this document, which is as much a pledge to hold ourselves accountable to the inclusive love of God as it is a call to you, the Bishops of our United Methodist conferences in the state of Texas, to follow precedent set in other areas of the connection when faced with complaints about marriage ceremonies of LGBT people in the Church. We call on you to follow the process of seeking just resolution, rather than trial proceedings that are harmful to Christ’s people and the mission and ministries of our Church. Until a better solution comes to us through revision of the Book of Discipline, this is how we seek to manifest the life of the gospel in our Church and in our world.

 Will you join us, bishop Christian?

Gledelig gjensyn med gulnet kjetter-stempel

Absolutt-øveråsbrevDet hender jeg kommer temmelig svimmel ut av svingdøra etter møte med tidligere standpunkt og uttalelser. Kanskje er det et sunnhetstegn og indikasjon på personlig utvikling? Men noen standpunkt og verdier er jeg glad for har vært en del av meg gjennom størstedelen av mitt bevisste liv, og heller blitt forsterket underveis.

Her om dagen fikk jeg overlevert en liten bunke brev jeg i 1968/69 skrev til en nær venn, mens jeg var student ved Metodistkyrkans Teologiska Seminarium, Øverås, i Gøteborg. Rørende og nostalgisk lesing, mye av det. Men et avsnitt i et brev, skrevet helt på tampen av min Øverårstid våren 1969, gjorde meg faktisk både glad og litt stolt. Såpass, at jeg fikk lyst til å dele det med alle som av en eller annen grunn har klikket seg fram til denne bloggen:


«Christian
( Sørensen, min gode danske romkamerat, sjelevenn og våpendrager i de dager. Gud velsigne ham hvor enn han er nå ! red.anm) og jeg er forresten nok en gang ute i hardt vær her nede. Vi blir kalt for kjettere og det som verre er. Det er bredden i vårt «kristen»-begrep, bibelsynet vårt og romsligheten i vårt Gudsbilde (uthevet av meg nå) som har fått sinnene i kok, og det er i sannhet ganske livlig. Men vi stortrives med det, og i en diskusjon i dag fikk vi faktisk en av lærerne litt over på vår side. Men om vi skal tro våre mest ytterliggående medstudenters uttalelser, så har Christian og jeg satt seil med kurs «rett til helvete». Forhåpentligvis er det bare slikt som blir sagt i kampens hete; hvis ikke kan det bli trangt rundt teologbordet der nede – og neppe med Christian og jeg som de eneste metodister.»

 Det er ganske snart 46 år siden jeg skrev dette – og gjensynet gjør at jeg kan se meg selv i speilet og si til meg selv (for ingen andre gjør det): «du standhaftige, trofaste og gode tjener, du har stridt den gode strid, fullendt løpet og bevart troen…» ! (fritt etter et par meget løsrevne bibelvers.) Så får det bare skure at et par av mine tidligere blogger på denne siden har medført domsavigelse på linje med den i 1969. I rettferdighetens navn; kun fra én person, hittil…

Det ble for øvrig med det ene året i Gøteborg for meg. Jeg forlot Øverås til fordel for Teologisk Fakultet ved Universitetet i Oslo; et skritt jeg tok mot skolestyrets ønske, men med varm støtte, oppmuntring og anbefaling fra Øveråslæreren Einar Anker Nilsen, en av vår kirkes virkelig markante skikkelser som jeg minnes med takknemlighet.

Og har du hengt med helt hit, så ønsker jeg deg av hjertet en velsignet helg!