Happy Monday, friends! Last week I told you about Bishop Gene Robinson finally receiving an honorary doctorate from our alma mater, Sewanee: The University of the South. In the speech he delivered, he defined seven lessons he has learned in the 54 years since he graduated from Sewanee—50 of those years as a priest and 20 of them as a bishop. Starting today I will be using those lessons as inspiration for Monday Moments which will bring us nicely to the beginning of Advent.
Gene’s first lesson was that “there is nothing you can ever do to cause God to stop loving you, nothing. And with the assurance and confidence which comes from that, there is almost nothing you can’t do.” LGBTQIA+ Christians who have fully reconciled their sexual orientation and gender identity with their faith have a certain confidence that if God can love them because they are LGBTQIA+, an identity that has been so derided, negated, and erased by the church, then it has to be true that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. No person, no church, no book, no set of beliefs, can separate us from the love of God. Nothing.
At MTSO we have been reading Jemar Tisby’s The Color of Compromiseacross our classes and various student, faculty, and administration positions. I highly recommend the book: at about 215 pages and written for a general, if not moderately educated, audience it is an approachable read. It is neither high theology nor extensive historical analysis but presents a case for how the American church has not only been complicit in the perpetration of racism, but actively worked to build, expand, and preserve racist systems of oppression. One lesson I learned early on in the text was that in 1667 the Virginia General Assembly declared that “the conferring of baptism does not alter the condition of the person as to his bondage or freedom…Masters, freed from this doubt, may more carefully endeavor the propagation of Christianity by permitting children, though slaves, or those of greater growth if capable, to be admitted to that sacrament.” While there are multiple tragic, horrific, and frankly disgusting things occurring in less than 50 words, the main point here is that a debate had been occurring among slaveholders about whether or not they could allow slaves to “hear the Gospel” and be baptized. If baptism promised freedom in a spiritual sense, did it also grant freedom in a temporal and legal sense. The Virginia General Assembly answered “no” and other colonial governments agreed. While church support and complicity in racism would become more subtle over time, the idea that people received God’s love in different ways and different amounts remains a component of bad theology.
Many, if not most, of us experienced some form of the bad theology of grace growing up. Perhaps you learned that venial sins damaged your relationship with God and mortal sins cut you off entirely from the love of and relationship with God. Or maybe you were taught that God had selected all the people who would go to heaven and those who would go to hell before the world was made. Maybe you learned that it was fully within your power to earn forgiveness for your sins through your prayers, study, and good work, but if you were still LGBTQIA+, depressed, or “sinning” in some other way it meant that you hadn’t prayed enough or worked hard enough leaving you in a constant cycle of devotion and failure. However we were raised and whatever theology we learned about sin and grace, many of us felt left out of the love of God.
When have you felt left out from the love of God? Are you confident that God does and will always love you?
Let us pray: God, we know that you love us, but sometimes it’s hard to feel that love. People tell us that you don’t love us because of our sins, our identities, and our beliefs. Break through the noise and remind us that your love knows no bounds. Make us know that there is truly nothing that can separate us from your love. Nothing. Amen.
Blessings on your weeks, my friends! Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.
 Gene Robinson, “The University of the South Convocation Address,” October 6, 2023.  The Methodist Theological School in Ohio, www.mtso.edu.  Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American Church’s Complicity in Racism, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2019).  Tisby, The Color of Compromise, 25.