In response to “Hoping for dialogue in Circle of Hope,” Jan. 31-Feb. 6
As a former Circle-of-Hoper, who only left because we had to move to another city, and a parent of a gay child, let me start by saying Circle of Hope is doing a better job than most churches. Most of the congregants at Circle are actually more progressive than the leadership’s position and many are clamoring for positionality on the issue from leadership. I cannot speak to their silence. What Circle does well is love people without emphasis or concern for their sexual identity (and a whole lot of amazing service to Philly’s and Camden’s residents). What people are dissatisfied with is the potential political and personal impacts of a non-position. Nonetheless, we never heard the hate spewed from pulpits that we experience at other churches, who also claim to be Bible-believing. I hope readers will recognize with grace that just like our parents don’t fully represent our beliefs as children, neither does church leadership fully represent the beliefs of its congregants. As with all institutions, change occurs more slowly than we’d like, and from within. No one at Circle, especially its leaders, thinks they are the perfect representatives of Christ on Earth. We are all trying to get as close as we can to getting it right. And we recognize it is an imperfect way to be Christians, just one that works better for us than other ones. Circle of Hope is not, and does not claim to be, the best manifestation of Christianity on Earth. But its congregants try to be the best version of Christians they can be, most of the time. They don’t always get it completely right, but at least they try. John Bright asks, “Isn’t that something worth talking about?” Yes, of course. Just don’t assume they aren’t talking about it already. They just might not have an answer yet. Be patient, and please, keep asking the question. — ProgressiveChristianMom
(Author’s response) I seriously considered not replying to this comment, because it does a good job of making one of my points — that the attendees at Circle are more progressive than the leadership at Circle — from the inside.
It says something else, however, that is sufficiently inaccurate that comment is required. It is simply not true that “What Circle does well is love people without emphasis or concern for their sexual identity.” If Andy’s story is true, which it is, then that comment cannot be true, and that does not even take into account my experience or the experiences of others who have never been mentioned by a news outlet.
The point of the hyperbole about perfection was to tease out the tendency that we have to place our religious institutions just beyond the reach of realistic analysis, if that analysis reaches a negative conclusion. I do not doubt that you had a positive experience at Circle. You cannot, however, simply extrapolate that experience into a general description in the face of obvious contradictory evidence. Realistic analysis must take both into account.
If you do not do that, what you will always be left with is a more-or-less sensitively worded defense of the status quo.
On one level, I appreciate your last line, but as a self-described progressive Christian, does it really suffice for you as a finale that I have to keep bothering you until you do the right thing? — jbright1