LABC Update – Tuesday, September 27
September 26, 2022
In Bible Study tonight at 6:00 and tomorrow morning at 10:30 we will conclude our discussion of “Changing Our Mind” by David Gushee (Chapters 18-20).
This reflection by Mark Wingfield, the Executive Director and Publisher of Baptist News Global stands as a reminder of why such studies and discussions are essential
WHY WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT SEXUALITY & LOVE, ALWAYS
Last Sunday, I taught my adult Bible study class at Wilshire Baptist Church from 1 Corinthians 13. We’re in a series I’ve titled “Bible Verses We Love,” each week taking a beloved passage of Scripture and digging deeper into it.Turns out that many of our most beloved Scripture passages also are problematic—or at least often misused. 1 Corinthians 13 is no exception. I confessed to our class that mywife, Alison, and I made the best man at our wedding memorize the entire chapter to speak at our ceremony. Not only was that unfair to him, I now know it was a misapplication of a beloved Scripture.
1 Corinthians 13 is not about romantic love—as much as we might want
it to be. It is a message written to a deeply conflicted early church. It is
an appeal for unity amid division, for setting aside the “lesser” things
for the things that really matter. It is a demand that love trump theology
Paul teaches that if your theology appears entirely sound but doesn’t
show love, it is rotten. Good theology always will pass the test of love.
This is one of the problems I have with Christians who use five or six
Scripture passages as bludgeons to maintain their hardened positions
on sexuality and gender. Their theology does not produce love, does not
exhibit love, is not based in love. It is, in fact, the opposite of love.
One of the barriers is they refuse to see love where it occurs. Which is
why I then told my class this story about my friend Lupe and his husband,
Bill. To borrow a phrase from the apostle, “Now I will show you a more
Lupe and Bill met 32 years ago on an airplane. Lupe was a young flight
attendant, and Bill was a businessman. Bill was so handsome that all the
female flight attendants noticed him and wanted to get to know him on
the long flight. But they didn’t stand a chance, because Lupe also noticed
him and took action. He got Bill moved to his section in first class. And
the rest is beautiful history.
Bill and Lupe were together for the next 32 years—until Bill’s death three
weeks ago yesterday. They were as devoted a couple as I’ve ever known.
When it became legal to do so, they got married in their Episcopal church.
The same church where they faithfully attended and served, where Bill
rallied other members to teach English as a second language, to help
the least of these among us. (This was after a derisive priest at another
Episcopal church in town caused them to leave the church entirely for two
years, but that’s another story.)
Earlier in life, Bill had lost everything when he came out. He lost his
family. He lost his friends. He even lost his job. Yes, back in the early
1990s Bill was fired from his public service job in Louisiana simply
because he was gay. It was such a scandal that it made the local
newspapers. I’ve seen the clippings. He was dragged through the mud
simply because he loved another man.
But Bill and Lupe picked up and moved on, and they did so together with
great devotion. They built a beautiful life together. Twenty-two years ago,
they bought a house in our very normal North Dallas neighborhood. They
got to know their neighborhoods—Lupe knows every person on his block
and can tell you their life stories. They opened their home for fellowship
events for their church. They loved to travel, and when they did, Lupe still
had to let the female flight attendants know that Bill was taken.
In time, Bill began to get ill. Heart problems, kidney problems. He
was quite a few years older than Lupe. For the last two years, Bill was
essentially homebound; it was a chore to get out. But Lupe was by his side
the entire way. Whatever Bill needed, Lupe provided. As faithfully as any
heterosexual couple I’ve ever known.
And then a few weeks ago during a visit to the hospital ICU, Bill made
the decision to go home on hospice care. Lupe loaded him in the car,
took him home and devoted himself to caregiving. And I mean devoted
himself. When the hospice workers hauled in all sorts of equipment, Lupe
stood at the door and said, “Oh, no, we’re not doing that. I promised Bill
he would die in our bed, in peace, and that’s what’s going to happen.” The
oxygen machine was put in another room down the hall and connected to
Bill with the longest oxygen tube I’ve ever seen.
The night before Bill lost consciousness, he and Lupe laid together in
that bed and talked from 10:30 at night until 5:30 in the morning. They
reviewed their life together, they said their goodbyes, and then Bill slid
into a coma, never to speak again. A couple of mornings later, Bill quietly
passed from this life to the next.
Before the funeral home arrived to remove the body, Lupe asked the
hospice workers to help him in one last act of love and devotion. They
dressed Bill in his tuxedo, with his best white shirt, freshly shined shoes
and a pocket square. “He was such a classy man,” Lupe said. “I wanted
him to leave looking his very best. That’s what he would have wanted. He
never left the house without a jacket and a pocket square.”
Bill and Lupe began every morning with prayer. They had found a
favorite prayer from the Book of Common Prayer, and that became their
morning ritual. It’s the same prayer Lupe led the congregation in saying
when he gave the eulogy at Bill’s memorial service last Friday.
This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make
me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand
bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to
do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these
words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.
As the bells tolled, we all walked in solemn procession from the
sanctuary to the columbarium, where Lupe knelt down on the ground
and lovingly placed Bill’s remains in a niche, weeping copiously as he did
so. I’ve stood with hundreds of families at gravesides, and seldom have I
been as moved as I was that afternoon.
A few days after Bill’s death, as I was listening to Lupe talk about their
life together and as I tried to console him in his grief, I mentioned that
I often am asked to speak to people who are trying to reconcile their
Christian faith with their own sexuality or the sexuality of their children.
“Please tell them our story,” he said. “They need to know this is not about
sex. This is about love.”
And so I have. He wants you to know—and I want you to know—how
lovingly these two men cared for each other for three decades. And how
beautiful and how normal it all was.
Bill and Lupe’s life is not what the conservative Christian gossip machine
says it means to be gay. But this is a real story, and it represents the same
kind of stories I’ve learned over and over again.
When we advocate for full inclusion in the life of the church, we are not
primarily making a statement about sex. We are making a statement
Theology without love is nothing but a noisy gong on a clanging cymbal.
Tonight on LABC Zoom – Study with Pastor Jim 6:00
LABC Zoom Meetings
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