Sunday, October 9, 2016

Receiving with Thanksgiving

In my time, I've been a student group leader in a "Christian Union" - the on-campus ministries in British universities founded by UCCF, the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship, historically the ancestor of Inter-Varsity Fellowship here in the USA.

I've been a trustee of the Oxford Evangelical Pastorate, a student ministry founded in the 19th century.  In this place I was honored to share some time with Stella Aldwinckle, whom the Pastorate hired as chaplain to the university and who was the founder of the Socratic Club, the venue for many of C.S.Lewis' messages in defense of Christianity.

I've been the faculty adviser to a student ministry associated to a large evangelical church in the US.

And now, I'm the faculty adviser to Receiving with Thanksgiving - a new Christian group on PSU's campus.  It's not big.  It's not showy.  And I couldn't be more proud. 

You see, Receiving with Thanksgiving is (as far as we know) the only campus Christian group that is explicitly open to and affirming of students of all sexual orientations and gender identities.  Taking their cue from First Timothy ("For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving."), the students who founded this group refused to allow their different identities to be a source of shame.  Rather, they affirm, we are all "fearfully and wonderfully made" - and are all called to enter with joyful worship into the presence of a God whose love is deeper and more patient than anyone can imagine.

Today's a good day to remind students about the existence of RwT.  Just in the last few days, it became known that a major national student ministry organization was conducting what it called a "reaffirmation of its values on sexuality".  Whatever they call it, the effect is the involuntary departure of those ministry workers who are prepared to affirm LGBTQ students, who are willing to explore the possibility that there may be a path for them beyond compulsory celibacy for all.

Even though organizations like this one do much valuable work, and provide wonderful opportunities for shared learning, praise, and worship, the theology that they have just "reaffirmed" can make them unsafe spaces for LGBTQ believers.  However carefully its proponents may dance around it, this theology ultimately paints LGBTQ people as 'damaged goods' on a fundamental level; as one LGBTQ person tweeted just now, 'If only they knew how phrases like "a distortion of God’s loving design for humanity" land on our bodies'.  

If this is you, looking for a safe space for worship, and if you are a Penn State student, please consider letting Receiving with Thanksgiving be part of your support system.  And, in particular, let me invite you to our November 13th presentation by Justin Lee, who is the founder of the Gay Christian Network and a nationally known speaker and activist.   I believe that he will share with you a message of encouragement, affirmation, and hope.  That may be God's grace for you in this moment.

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