Tag Archives: Generous Spaciousness Conference Retreat

Spotlighting a Couple of BTG Posts

I really don’t have much to say today.  This is fine because it gives me the chance to point out a couple of posts written by Wendy over at the Bridging the Gap blog.  The first post is where she gives a brief summary and a few thoughtst about about the GSCR.  As I’ve blogged a bit about my own experiences at the retreat, I thought some readers might be able to hear someone else’s thoughts.  I particularly liked the sampling of quotes Wendy included from various attendees toward the bottom of her post.

The other post I want to draw readers’ attention to is one in which Wendy talks about a video showing a discussion between Rob Bell and Andrew Wilson in which the topic of the morality of same sex sexual relationships comes up.  Wendy offers her thoughts on how she might have responded to Wilson’s comments and questions, had she been in Bell’s position.  Her detailed and thoughtful analysis of some of the underlying questions — questions that don’t always have to do with human sexuality no less — that must be answered, as their answers will greatly influence how someone approaches the whole topic.

Wendy, being who she is, ties it back to Generous Spaciousness:

My point is not to argue for Rob Bell’s position. My point is that there are robust theological reflections that help us to understand why we can come to such different perspectives on matters such as our theology and ethics of sexuality. My point is to try to demonstrate that generous spaciousness is not some weak, compromise that is simply motivated by keeping up with culture and trying to make God relevant in a gay-positive context. Rather, generous spaciousness costs us our pride, it costs us the luxury of arrogant certainty. Generous spaciousness costs us our security in our exegesis, our hermeneutics, our interpretations. (especially when such exegesis and hermeneutics result in prohibitions for others that do not personally affect ourselves) Generous spaciousness forces us to find our security in the wild, untamable revealing of Jesus Christ to us through the Holy Spirit, through the Scriptures, through tradition (including contemporary tradition), through the academic disciplines, and through our experiences. And the truth is that this revelation is not in our control – it is in God’s control. This demands our humility, our openness, our fearlessness, our willing to risk following – even when it seems God is doing a new thing.

I absolutely love it when Wendy — or anyone else — talks about humility and then goes on to practice it.  I find her willingness to let go of determining what is right for someone else’s life and leave that in God’s hands refreshing and powerful.  I also think it takes no small amount of faith, personally.

If you haven’t done so already, go read Wendy’s posts.  The whole blog, if you have the time.

Some final musings on the GSCR

Before too much time passes, I wanted to offer a few more comments and thoughts on the Generous Spaciousness Conference Retreat I attended 10 May through 13 May.  In particular, I want to reflect more on one of my reasons for going and what I found out:

Generous Spaciousness offers a possible alternative [for living peaceably with Christian friends and family members] to those choices [hiding parts of who I am or limiting how much time I spend with certain people], and it’s an alternative that I want to place hope in.  Going to the retreat was, in many ways, an attempt to gauge how much hope I should allow myself to put in Generous Spaciousness.

At the retreat, I found a great deal of welcome and a willingness to walk with me no matter where I was in my own journey.  I found that people were seeking to make Generous Spaciousness as open as they possibly could.  In fact, I remember another member of my community group turning to me at the breakfast table and asking me if I had found the even very generous or spacious, given the fact that I followed a completely different faith tradition.  It suggested to me that he was considering how his spaces could be more welcoming, even beyond the bounds and dimensions of human sexuality.

I’ll also note that while many people commented on my bravery for attending the event, I found my fellow community group member’s choice to ask that question pretty brave in itself.  It takes a certain amount of vulnerability to ask another person if they perceive you and your comrades as welcoming and hospitable as you perceive yourself to be.

For the record, by and large, the answer to that question was a resounding yes on my part.  Oh there were a few things here and there, mainly what seemed to be a couple assumptions about people who land outside the Christian faith.  But I saw these as mostly minor things, the sort of thing that would be resolved by further dialogue.  What was far more important to me was the desire to have that dialogue and how many seemed open to allowing that dialogue to challenge them.  I think this was most likely due to the fact that I was dealing with people who have experienced what it’s like to be misunderstood and seen inaccurately (a la validity prisms and straw men) by others and have combined that experience with their capacity for empathy, creating a desire to better understand those they themselves and lose their own preconceived notions along the way.

Of course, this raises the question of how well other people — including the people who are in my life on a more regular basis — would do.  After all, the retreat was full of a self-selected sample of people who wanted — and in many cases — likely needed Generous Spaciousness.  It may still be a long time before Generous Spaciousness gains traction with a less intentional gathering of people.  I have high hopes that it will gain that traction in time, however.

About that Tim Keller quote (Part 2)

Yesterday, I blogged about the following statement by Tim Keller:

If you say to everybody, ‘Anyone who thinks homosexuality is a sin is a bigot,’ . . . you’re going to have to ask them to completely disassemble the way in which they read the Bible, completely disassemble their whole approach to authority. You’re basically going to have to ask them to completely kick their faith out the door.

In that post, I talked about the quote from the perspective of seeing the fear that seemed to motivate and permeate it.  Today, I want to talk about it from the perspective of seeing the privilege that seems to motivate and permeate it.  Because if I may be honest — and I’ll try to do so as graciously as I know how — I find something deeply ironic about an evangelical minister objecting to the fact that other people might be asking him to change the way he thinks or even “kick his faith out the door.”

Dear readers, that’s exactly what every single evangelical Christian is asking of every single person who follows a different religion or no religion at all:  “Give up your faith and what you believe and believe what I think is right instead.”  So effectively, Tim Keller is objecting to other people (allegedly) asking him to do exactly what he calls upon every Jew, Wiccan, atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, Hindu, and Santerian[1] to do without giving it a second thought.  That’s boilerplate unexamined privilege right there.

It also underlines to me the biggest problem with unexamined privilege:  It’s often the enemy of empathy.[2]  Here’s an opportunity for Tim Keller to consider how (feeling like he’s) being asked to give up something so important to him feels to him and try to imagine how those he evangelizes to might often feel the same way.  And yet, because I suspect he doesn’t even make that connection (or avoids it by insisting it’s somehow different), he’s missing out on an opportunity to (1) empathize with those he’s trying to evangelize to and (2) think about how that empathy might influence how he handles his attempts to do so.

I don’t necessarily want Tim Keller or others like him to quit sharing his beliefs or inviting others to join his faith.  However, now that he and those like him have experienced being on “the other side” of the conversation, I’d like them to let that experience and their capacity for empathy to inform their mission.

Also, it would also be nice if their empathy would help them to understand that yes, if they really want others to be open to their message, they’re almost certainly going to have to be likewise open to others’ messages.  Otherwise, they’re expecting something from others that they are unwilling to offer up to others.  And one thing I that think is near-universal if not truly universal among humans is that we tend not to like double standards.

[1] Not an exhaustive list, I assure you.  But hopefully I’ve named enough religions and non-religious people to make the point that it’s a lot of people he’s asking this of.

[2] Or maybe the lack of empathy contributes to one’s failure to examine privilege.  Personally, I suspect it may be a bit of both, not to mention a self-reinforcing cycle.

About that Tim Keller quote (Part 1)

During her Saturday morning address, Wendy drew attention to the following statement made recently by evangelical minister Tim Keller:

If you say to everybody, ‘Anyone who thinks homosexuality is a sin is a bigot,’ . . . you’re going to have to ask them to completely disassemble the way in which they read the Bible, completely disassemble their whole approach to authority. You’re basically going to have to ask them to completely kick their faith out the door.

One of the thing I noticed about this quote was the fear involved.  Some evangelical Christians fear that if they allow themselves to question their views on same sex sexual relationships — any one of a host of other issues — they might end up losing their faith altogether.  In a lot of ways, I get that fear.  I experienced it once upon myself at times, too.

And I get it because, in some ways, I represent the realization of those fears.  I started out as a devout Christian.  When I allowed myself to rethink my views on homosexuality, it also gave me the freedom to grapple with a number of other questions.  The end result of that process, which only started with my struggle with my sexual orientation, was that I eventually chose to follow an entirely different path altogether and serve other gods.

It’s easy for someone like Tim Keller to point to me and others like me and say, “See, this is what happens when you start down that path!”  And I can understand their tendency to do that, at least to some degree.

The problem is, people like Tim Keller think that what happened to me is inevitable for anyone who starts asking those questions.  I don’t think it is.  I sat in a room with roughly fifty other people this weekend, most of whom serve as living evidence that a journey that begins by asking the tough questions and reconsidering what they’ve been taught doesn’t have to lead one down the path I took.  It’s just as likely that one could change their mind about same sex sexual relationships — or any other single topic — and go no further.  It’s just as likely that after one does all the thinking and reconsidering, one ends up back at the same conclusions they held before then.  So people like Tim Keller are fearing something that’s not inevitable.

I would like to suggest that the fear people like Tim Keller are feeling is the exact reason I think they need to rethink something about the way they do faith.  Because right now, the way they’re doing it causes them fear, and I don’t think that’s healthy for them.  So I’d personally like to see them to start asking some hard questions — and maybe not even questions about human sexuality — in an attempt to restructure and firm up their faith so they don’t have to worry about it unraveling on them so much.  In short, I’d like to see them develop a faith — and a way of doing and having faith — in which they can actually have more faith.

Walking the labyrinth at the retreat

11-Circuit-Labyrinth.jpgWhen I found out that Crieff Hills had a labyrinth, I got excited.  I’m fascinated by labyrinths, so I knew I’d have to seek it out and walk it at some point.  So when another attendee asked if anyone else wanted to go check out the labyrinth (he also mentioned checking out the amphitheater, but that didn’t hold as big a pull for me), I jumped at the chance.

The Crieff Hills labyrinth (and there’s a lovely picture of it here) is one of the simplest patterns I have seen.  Unlike many medieval-style labyrinths (in Greek labyrinths, the “center” wasn’t exactly in the center perfectly circular rings), the full length of each ring is traversed once its entered, as opposed to many such labyrinths (study the image included in this post to see what I’m talking about) paths only traverse one quarter or one half of a ring before turning sending you to a different one.  This has the effect of having you walk different quarters of the labyrinth, then jumping to a completely different quarter on occasion.  The Crieff Hill’s labyrinth simply has you jumping between different rings, sometimes bringing you closer to the center, only to move you further away from it before you finally get to the center.

One of the things I like about the Crieff Hills labyrinth (and every other labyrinth I’ve had the pleasure to walk so far) is that it is marked by a stone path that lets you look out and see your progress.  It allows you to see that your ultimate distance from the center increases and decreases — almost at seemingly random intervals.  That’s what makes them a beautiful metaphor not only for spirituals journeys and life itself.  Being able to see your progress and just how meandering it is in a labyrinth can be a great comfort when you feel like your own life journey is too tangled and wonder if it’s really going to get you anywhere in the end.    (Hey Wendy, if you’re reading this, would you consider including a
labyrinth walk as part of the planned activities next year for this

Some day, I hope to find and walk a labyrinth that has walls, thereby preventing me from seeing my progress.  I want to experience more fully the sense of getting completely lost in a labyrinth, not knowing how close (or far away) from my destination the next turn will take me.  To me, that would be another way to experience the parallels between walking a labyrinth and journeying through life.

As an aside, to date, the Crieff Hills labyrinth is the only labyrinth I’ve seen that has trees in it.  Having to duck branches to walk its winding paths was a unique and rather interesting experience.  I think it adds another layer of metaphorical meaning to the experience.

Home again

I made it safely home from the Generous Spaciousness Conference Retreat.  I hope to blog on my experiences there and share my thoughts on the event.  It has to wait, however, as I’m still trying to process through my thoughts on the retreat.

I will say, however, that it was a wonderful experience and I’m glad I went and that I’ll go again in a heartbeat (finances and schedule permitting) if they have it again next year.  I met a number of wonderful people who both shared parts of their story with me and invited to similarly share with them.  The stories shared were utterly amazing.