Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sex, Ordination, and Covenants

Over at The Huffington Post, regular columnist Rev. Debra Haffner is writing about the commitment to celibacy and chastity for ordained clergypersons. I encourage you to read the entire article. The most interesting statement is where Rev. Haffner asserts that
it does not make sense to ask [ordained, single clergy] to give up adult sexual lives outside of the congregation.
Once again, I'd like to make the distinction between being a grownup and being an adult. Adult means that you are old enough to do whatever you want; being grownup means you have the wisdom and self-discipline to exercise that ability appropriately. As Paul says,
‘All things are lawful for me’, but not all things are beneficial. ‘All things are lawful for me’, but I will not be dominated by anything. (1 Cor 6:12, NRSV)
But there's more to it than that. I'd like to quote extensively a passage from Rowan Williams' Where God Happens (reviewed by Josh here), because I feel like it addressses this more substantially than I could.
A church that is simply recognizing different preferences is stuck at the level of individualism; the real work has not yet been done, the work that is the discovery of God's call beyond the simplistic "listening to the heart" that we all too readily settle for. This is a work that takes protracted, committed time, which is why the church is so much involved in blessing lifelong commitments--marriage, ordination, monastic life--not as a way of saying that everyone has to be involved in one or more of these but to remind all baptized believers that, because of their baptism, they are bound to the patient, long-term discovery of what grace will do to them. And it is a work that requires the kind of vulnerability to each other that can only come with the building up of trust over time, and the kind of silence that brings our fantasy identities to judgment. (p 67)
I understand the rub. But you can't separate your sexuality from your spirituality; you can't take one covenant seriously and neglect the formation of another.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Experiencing Jesus

The experience of Jesus in Christian worship and discipleship is not primarily 'spiritual'--whatever that means--but sensory, corporeal, bodily, tangible, enfleshed, incarnate, and immediate.

An overemphasis on so-called spiritual or heavenly aspects eviscerates the power and import of faith. It turns us inward and enforces purity of life or experience as condition for grace. It also demarcates what is of God and what is not in a way that belies the Biblical witness. Rob Bell famously says, "Everything is spiritual." The material things of life are used by God throughout the Old Testament, Jesus in the New, and the Spirit in history to convey grace and life.

To treat God--Father, Son, or Holy Spirit--as that which can only be apprehended internally denies the importance and validity of Incarnation and Crucifixion, as well as the goodness of the Creation. As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin writes, "By virtue of the Creation and, still more, of the Incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see." May the sacredness of all things created, redeemed, and sanctified by God lead us further into the grace of Jesus.