There were many powerful and eye-opening moments for me at the Wild Goose Festival. One of the most powerful came when we participated in a discussion with Jay Bakker on the church’s reluctance to accept gay inclusion as an urgent issue of social justice.
For any who may not know him, Jay is the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. As such he has had a rather tumultous life, but has landed in New York City, where he pastors a church that meets in a bar (www.revolutionnyc.com).
In Jay’s new book Fall From Grace, released earlier this year, he argues that the practice of homosexuality is not sin and calls for acceptance of practicing homosexuals into the Christian community. Of course this has stirred up quite a storm and his stand has knocked him off the speaking circuit of the Christian Industrial Complex. But his stand has also encouraged others to become more brave. Research has shown that most American Christians, including pastors and church leaders, oppose discrimination against homosexuals, but pastors’ insecurity and fear of their congregations has led most of them to remain silent. Maybe now that is changing.
At Wild Goose, Jay was emotional and passionate in his plea for acceptance of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. The thing he said that stuck with me the most is that he wants to preach nothing but grace for the rest of his life, but that he cannot do that so long as they are being excluded from the church. I can’t do justice to his comments. What we typically deal with abstractly has flesh and bones to a pastor like Jay, who shepherds a flock of folks the institutional church has cast out and rejected.
A change is in the air though. I’m convinced that the day is fast approaching when we’ll look back on the exclusion of gay people from the Christian community in the same way we now look back on our treatment of women, wondering how most of us could have gotten it so wrong for so long.
And then Jay Bakker can get on with preaching grace again.