For the last few years, I’ve been impressed with a growing number of writers and bloggers, mostly from Methodist circles, but from some other traditions as well who seem to be carrying the Neo-Orthodox/Post-Liberal banner that had seem somewhat dormant for a while. I’ve been attracted to this stream of Protestantism after finding both evangelicalism and liberal Protestantism wanting in different ways. Writers like Allan Bevere, David Watson, the boys over at Via United Methodists and others echo some of the same feelings I’ve been thinking about God, Jesus and the church. They show a different way of being within mainline Protestantism. It is more focused on the importance of salvation, atonement, sin and grace which sadly has become a counter-movement against the spiritually relative ethos in the mainline (at least among the elite).
But while I am thankful for this small movement, I am also left with some wariness about this movement when it comes to the issue of sexuality. Is there room for LGBT people in this movement?
I’m probably an odd duck: a gay Christian that has an orthodox theology. That’s not how it usually goes: most churches that tend to be gay-friendly, also tend to be quite progressive in their theology. Many gays would tend to have a more liberal theology. (Small-o orthodox doesn’t mean conservative.) But I’ve never felt comfortable with the standard liberal theology. Post-liberal theology is a far better fit for me. ( I know that I’m not the only gay person that doesn’t fit the usual profile.)
But a good part of these writers haven’t said much about sexuality. Some writers, like the late William Placher, were gay friendly. But what about other bloggers? I understand there is still disagreement on this issue and I’m not asking that this movement start excluding those who have different views on sexuality. But I am wondering if there is room for me. So, how does sexuality fit in this neo-orthodox/ post-liberal milieu?
I’m looking forward to your answers.
Dennis, thank you for this post. I have always thought that under the banner of orthodoxy, by which I mean the set of doctrinal claims affirmed at Nicaea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon, there is room for debate and disagreement about a variety of ethical matters, including human sexuality. I celebrate your embracing of the truths of our faith and wish God’s blessings upon you.
Dennis, I really appreciate what you’ve written here and have been blessed to have you as a conversation partner. The short answer to your question is yes. You will find postliberals all over the map on this, there are clearly folks like Stanley Hauerwas who write from an inclusive perspective (even if his way of getting at it isn’t the usual). I would also point you to the work of Gene Rogers, a systematic theologian who is gay and partnered. He’s an Episcopal layman who did his PHD in theology at UVA and, to my view, has some of the most theologically nuanced and interesting arguments defending gay marriage in the church. I can point you to longer pieces as well, but this is a good starting point:
Postliberalism is marked most by a cultural-linguistic approach to Scripture that is neither as hyper-literal as the inerrancy of most conservatives nor as dismissive as much historical-critical scholarship; I think because of that you will see the postliberals on all sides. Even when you do find someone like a Richard Hays who comes down in a more traditional perspective, i think you’ll find the approach significantly different that the usual conservative take.
(Side note: some progressives use “post-liberal” as a synonym for postmodernism, so I use postliberal because that is how Lindbeck and his students have labeled the movement.)