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Peace and Unity

People have begun voicing concern that the “peace and unity” of the Unity Reformed Church is being threatened. A gentle reminder. The “peace and unity” they want to protect demands that straight people who experience unease or even angst about being a member of an unjust institution remain silent, and demands that gay people in the church remain silent and invisible, thus not revealing who they actually are as human beings (or at least please remain below the radar and don’t bring your partner to the URC party). This “peace and unity” is built on false relationships. How do you speak of peace when one person needs to deny their full humanity knowing that honesty might lead to conflict and rejection? The “peace” of such a relationship may be comfortable but it is a fabrication, a lie. URC “peace and unity” is only peaceful and unifying if you are standing on the right side of the fence.

It may be that straight people remain silent because they just do not want to deal with the inevitable negativity that will come their way. Very few people actually want to be the cause of conflict, particularly in situations and institutions they love. It may be that gay people do not want to reveal themselves fully because it makes the URC less than a safe place, having to face the possibility of rejection. Very few people actually want to be the source of disturbance and become identified as unacceptable in ways that might harm their relationships and ministries, not to mention that might lead to the loss of livelihood and calling.  Given that I am a straight person who goes out of his way to avoid conflict and who won’t have to face the consequences gay people no doubt will, I can only respect those decisions. But let us all – uneasy straight people, quiet gay people and disturbed protectors of the status quo – let us all at least be honest about the nature of our so-called “peace and unity.” It is grounded in an unofficial  policy even the United States military has abandoned: Don’t ask, don’t tell.  

But perhaps all this doesn’t really matter, beyond the ramblings of one malcontent. Outside almost all URC local churches are signs saying that all are welcome, and if I demanded in the interest of a greater honesty that we admit at least some of those welcomes are qualified, it would be churlish of me. Besides, given that churches in the UK have won exemption from human rights legislation (presumably because they disapprove of the ethical, moral, anthropological, philosophical and political arguments that led to particular human rights laws), if we do practice faith-based discrimination against certain people, we will not have to face the legal consequences. And surely the then Hothorpe Group’s Damascus Road like discovery of “peace and unity,” the same “peace and unity” that some now think is under threat, was the movement of the Holy Spirit. (Wait. What was the Hothorpe Group? What committee or council of the church was it? How did the progressive and evangelical members actually find “peace and unity?” Given that the group was formed to discuss the post-moratorium URC, there were gay members, right? I’ve never heard the details, though I was asked, apparently through some kind of spiritual osmosis, to embrace the Hothorpe Group experience and vision as if it were my own, and not just my own but everyone’s.) But no matter. As we once again wrap our fear, prejudice, collusion, indifference and ignorance in pretty biblical wrapping paper and tie them up tight with bright theological ribbon, we will know that everything will be OK.

Copyright © 2011 by Dale Rominger

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