My post today is part of the Bridging the Gap Synchroblog. The purpose of this synchroblog is to share positive stories, ideas, suggestions on how we can bridge the gaps between people on the topic of faith and sexuality. Another way to put it is, “How can we embody mutual honour and respect in our conversations and relationships with those with whom we may disagree on the topic of homosexuality?”
I’ve been to some tense meetings, but none quite like one at a public school last year.
Why so tense? The school was teaching the kids about tolerance and respect, particularly around the area of homosexuality. There shouldn’t have been much of a debate. Of course we should treat all people with respect, regardless of sexual orientation. But people came with different ideas of what tolerance and respect means, and it was hard to say anything constructive given the emotionally charged atmosphere.
Charlene and I attended the meeting. We really wanted to do two things if we could. One: to communicate respect in how we talked about the issue. Two: to try to demonstrate that tolerance does not mean that we all agree on the issues, but that we are willing to respect others despite holding different views on a topic. Tolerance is not agreement; tolerance is respect and courtesy when disagreement takes place.
We said a few things at the meeting. We tried, but we left for home feeling pretty discouraged. I also felt that being a pastor wasn’t helping. I could be wrong, but I felt that people almost expected me to be intolerant. How could we bridge the gap and even begin to talk about the issue with so much working against us?
We experienced a bit of a breakthrough a few days later in a very unexpected way.
Charlene talked to a parent in the hall one day about what was happening. She did what many of us do when things are tense: she complained about the injustice she was experiencing.
Then came the guilt about some of the things she had said. She knew that others had overheard her, that she was feeding the division, not bridging the gap.
The next day, she returned to school and apologized for grumbling. It was in that moment that Charlene experienced a small breakthrough, at least with one person. The atmosphere completely changed. It was a small and significant start.
Our experience has shown us that genuine love, humility and – when we fail to love, repentance – begin to bridge the gap between people on the topic of faith and sexuality.