Please forgive the length of this post but I had to get this off my chest:
I confess that I have doubted my moderately conservative position (and the larger traditional Christian position) on same sex practice for several months now. I cannot pinpoint when this doubt actually set in, but it has become very apparent in my latest conversations with family, friends, and classmates on topics related homosexuality, specifically same-sex marriage. Although I cannot say with conviction that I believe homosexual practices are not inherently sinful or that I am now an advocate of queer theology in total, I cannot but help be dissatisfied with the traditionalist answers, specifically theological positions and their pastoral implications for sexual minority Christians. I’ve noticed several areas within my thinking that elevates my doubts of traditional positions:
1) Gender: I do believe that gender is socially constructed in some shape or form. I am not a radical social constructivist in the vein of philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler, but I do believe part of the ways North American Christians speak about gender roles and identities are socially constructed. For instance, many speak about manhood and womanhood in “universalizing” and “normalizing” ways which are abstract devoid of historical contingency. I think of my own experience as an African American man living in the United States where gender norms are unapologetically Euro-centric. A more striking example lies in this history of black women being used as maternal and sexual surrogates for white slaveholder’s wives in the antebellum South. Still, black women and men are perceived as sexual deviants. However, many sincere Christians of all races do not see that this fact which creates a deeper struggle for many people to accept their claims on gender roles in marriage, church, and society. What I am getting at is this: gender exists; it’s real, yet it has no essence.
2) Theology: Although I affirm the faith as attested in the Scriptures and the ecumenical creeds, and I stand within the Afro-Baptist tradition, I have noticed that my approach to theology has been deeply informed (and challenged!) by contemporary theologians, especially black/womanist, feminist, and other liberation theologians’ unwavering assertion that all theologies are contextual. There is no “neutral space” in doing theology. Generally, the theologians in which I find deep wisdom on the fundamentals of the Christian faith from are still largely white, European and European-American, middle class, heterosexual males. As a gay African American man, I cannot accept that these voices always speak for all Christians, especially when many white Christian theologians across the theological spectrum refuse to reckon with the tragedy of racism and slavery within the United States and the implications of race on Christian theology in the postmodern world. They have failed to reckon with the thought of James Cone, J. Deotis Roberts, Gayraud Wilmore, Delores Williams, and others on the ways so-called traditional Christians preached and taught “traditional doctrines” of atonement and Christian obedience to authorities in American churches have legitimated the oppression of African Americans. Largely, white Christian theologians have failed to reckon with their own whiteness and the privilege it grants them in the theological academy and the Church. If these theologians cannot wrestle with this failure, why should I trust that they are being faithful to the gospel in matters of human sexuality? While I still read these “standards,” they are not my only conversation partners in doing theology. Therefore, I stand in a liminal space as a gay African American evangelical Christian theologian.
3) Vocation: This leads me to question my very vocation as a minister and my place within the Black Church. Since attending two mainline Methodist seminaries in the South, I have been exposed to various traditions. Since coming out nearly two years ago, many sincere folks have asked me if I have considered becoming an Episcopalian. This seems fitting since I love the Book of Common Prayer and have used it as a devotional tool. Since the Episcopal Church welcomes LGBT folks into ordained ministry, despite conservative opposition, these suggestions from classmates and professors were kind. Despite their warm intentions, my classmates and professors really pose a challenge to me as I assess my relationship with the Black Baptist tradition. I have been an Afro-Baptist all my life. I love the black Baptist churches. I have been a licensed minister for nearly two years now. Despite of the love I know I feel back at my home church, I cannot go back into the closet. I know my church’s position on same-sex unions (indeed, they are some members who disagree). I respect their position. But I’m not sure if I can maintain fellowship there if my mind changes.
4) Relationships: The strongest reason for my doubt is my desire to love and be loved. When I came out to God, I immediately thought celibacy was my vocation. At times I felt confirmed that this is the charism that God gave me for to this ministry (whatever it is, I’m still seeking clarity). However, since coming to Atlanta and having real conservations with openly gay classmates and professors, I question if celibacy is a charism by virtue of being homosexual (gay if you prefer). I desire a family. I desire a partner/spouse. Although I have some attraction to certain types of women and I’m open to the possibility of marrying a woman, I don’t see this as likely at the time being. I don’t know what to do, who to consult, or who to trust for wisdom. There are many churches in Atlanta of many different flavors. I haven’t found a community where I could wrestle with God and express my thoughts without shame. I guess that’s why the academy has been a haven for me. I can think aloud without receiving a penalty of exclusion for my thoughts.
So, dear friends, I struggle with doubt. I should also admit that I am afraid. I fear the unknown. I fear the possibility of being wrong. I fear the possibility of being deceived and deceiving others. Although I don’t affirm universal salvation, I sometimes pray that God is a universalist just in case. I struggle to trust the Word of God in the midst of ever-growing complexities and unsettling lived experiences. I write all this to say: I doubt, won’t you pray for me?