Becky Garrison: I’ve come to the realization that we’re never going to find common ground on issues of belief. So much of what we believe is ingrained from our childhood and life histories, personal psyches and other variables. But it seems that people can engage in coalition building around specific social justice issues such as immigration reform, LGBT rights or the Occupy movement.
David Hayward: Why can’t we start a new rule where the common ground is that we really don’t know? But we agree that the one principle that we’re not willing to sacrifice is that people aren’t harmed in anyway, and everyone has equal rights.
Becky Garrison: What you’re talking about is a term I like to call “radical inclusivity” where we explore who is being excluded from the conversation. People have asked me why I’m so dogmatic regarding LGBT rights. I see this as a group that’s now is being left out of all but the most liberal of Christian settings.
David Hayward: In the spirit of the teachings of Jesus and any other wise teacher that we want to seek out, it starts with belief and boils down to words. But eventually it boils down to policy or it’s empty. There seems to be this huge gap between a lot of beliefs and words floating around that might sound very affirming where Christians say they love and accept the LGBT community. But where’s the policy where LGBT folks can actually play the game?
Becky Garrison: In the past, a number of progressive religious leaders could talk about the need to affirm and welcome LGBT people. But they didn’t have to put the talk into action because according to civil laws and denominational polities, LGBT folks were not granted equal access to the same rights as everyone else. Now that the landscape is shifting and you see marriage equality is becoming slowly but surely the law of the land and some denominations ordaining LGBT folks, this excuse no longer holds water.
David Hayward: Different power brokers offer different deals. The power brokers holding the reigns aren’t the ones affected by these policies. Unfortunately the ones in power aren’t the ones who need the policy. These camps who follow these leaders have their list of absolutes. If they don’t recognize you as subscribing to any of these absolutes, then they can’t claim you as their representatives or ambassadors. So it makes it difficult when you aren’t willing to subscribe to any criteria except openness, patience, humbleness, and a willingness to admit you don’t know. They see the question as a computer virus. Once you let it in, it’s going to cause your whole system to crash. Even if the system isn’t a great system, at least it’s working and we’re making some progress. They don’t want to wipe out the whole system and start all over again. This is overwhelming and intimidating for most people. There may be a lot of flag waving in Christian circles but when it comes down to a church or an institution of any kind, what are the actual outcomes? How are things actually changing? If there’s no policy, there’s no truth.
Becky Garrison: Why did you leave the institutional church?
David Hayward: I commend those who commit to the church for a lifetime hoping it’s going to eventually change. I just realized that what I wanted to see happen wasn’t going to happen in the context I was in. So I decided to leave and continue to raise the questions and challenges and so forth. I feel a bit like a voice crying in the wilderness. We need voices who are more international than provincial that can cross all kinds of labels and start challenging people of all kinds of stripes. But it has to come down to actual policy and practice. We can talk about love and inclusion but if it doesn’t actually look like this in practice, then we’re just creating an audience for ourselves. For me there’s a need to recognize the unity of all and that equal rights of all people is an innate reality. What we need are policies that will put this reality into practice. We’re on the threshold of something new where we need to stop talking the talk and start walking the walk. I know this is a cliché but I really do think we’re on that kind of a threshold. We’re tired of hearing the same old thing because my LGBT friends want to enjoy their rights now.
Image courtesy of David Hayward