Homosexuality is the latest in a trend of hot-button issues in the
church which can cause congregations to break up. It is not very
difficult to infer why this subject inspires such passion, resulting in
I was pondering recently why some differences of opinion can cause
division whereas others can be tolerated within a congregation. For
example, I know that in my current church there are people who are
pacifists and people who affirm the use of violence in defense of
justice. It seems to me that the difference between these positions
would be much harder to bear than a difference over homosexuality. The
ethical implications of violence are huge for both sides, and neither
side looks very good in the other's viewpoint. Yet for some reason,
people from both groups (and everyone else) can get along in church. Why
I think it has to do with the scope of church. It is easy to get along
about violence, because the issue doesn't come up in the context of
church. Since (ideally) the church is a place where no injustice is
practiced, there is no opportunity to debate the issue. Homosexuality,
especially as it pertains to the clergy and marriage, does travel
through the church's space.
As a converse example, it is probably not very easy to agree about
violence in the midst wartime occupation (see Bonhoeffer). So context
seems to be all-important here.
This is purely descriptive. My observations cannot answer what
differences churches ought to be able to bear. But I think it is
important to take a look at what they can bear, and why.