Sunday, July 10, 2011

Rev. Steve Parelli tells young Christian lay leaders in India the Church must move towards welcoming the gay community

Reporting from the conference grounds,
Thursday, July 7, 20100
By Rev. Steve Parelli

In the second session of the first day of the Young Lay Leaders Conference, sponsored by Trivandrum Theological Forum, Amirtham Ecumenical Trust and Other Sheep, Rev. Steve Parelli, Executive Director of Other Sheep, presented a paper, using the medium of PowerPoint, on "An Inclusive Community or What the Church in India must consider towards becoming a Welcoming and Affirming Church for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) people."

Young Lay Leaders Conference, southern Kerala, India,
July 7-9, 2011.
Jose Ortiz and Rev Steve Parelli of Other Sheep, third and
fourth from left, front row (on knees)
Before presenting his paper, Parelli gave an overview of his life as a gay Christian from his teen years to his mid-life adult years when, at that time, he accepted himself as gay and Christian.  Parelli introduced his husband Jose Ortiz who is presenting on the second day of the conference.  They were married, he said, in the USA, in the state of California, on August 25, 2009.

In the first part of his presentation, Parelli said the church needs to have an understanding of its own history of exclusion and make whatever correctives are necessary.  Quoting Dr. George Nalunnakkal of the Malankara Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church, Parelli said, "India's traditional silence on 'sexuality' is nothing but a celebrated myth.  In fact, the Indian mind had always engaged sexuality in a very open and radical manner.  It was, in fact the colonizers who had brought to India their 'values' and ethos, which suppressed the Indian tradition."

In his second part, Parelli said the church needs to understand what 'grid' the church is using when reading the Bible.  Is it an inclusive grid, or a discriminating grid; is it culturally and socially subservient or subversive.  Parelli said the church should be open to radical and critical thinking in moving towards inclusiveness.

Parelli said he moved from "thinking Biblically" to "thinking critically" when he awoke one day to the thought, "What if the church is wrong?"  He called this his "first epiphany" in moving towards accepting himself as a gay man.  He said his "second epiphany" came when he realized Romans 1:26, 27 - the "against nature" passage - was not about him.  He said it was an intellectually violent upheaval, an  about-face when he came to the realization that "nothing in Romans 1 is about me." 

In his third part, Parelli talked about the church's need for a love ethic.  Parelli said James B. Nelson makes the claim that there is no biblical sex ethic, only a love ethic;  that, for example, "there is no explicit prohibition" in the Bible on premarital sex between consenting adults.

Parelli said the religious leaders of Jesus' day "narrowed the love of God until it included only themselves" whereas Jesus had "widened the love of God until it reached out to all men" [William Barclay].

Parelli, making reference tp David Myers and Letha Scanzoni (What God Has Joined Together), said we are social beings with the innate desire to belong.  Parelli noted that Mr. Shyam Divan in Voices Against 377, said "Homosexuals suffer tremendous psychological harm.  Fear of discrimination leads to a concealment of true identity."

An American-African civil rights activist of the 50's and 60's, once told Parelli that the African-American, rejected openly by society, had his church and his family as a place where he could go and belong, but not so for the homosexual who often experiences rejection by society, his family and the church, and has nowhere to go.

Parelli concluded that "the reign of God on earth" is what Jesus demonstrated in his crossing social boundaries and in his disruption of the "habitual arrangement of things." 

"Jesus' teachings and actions were subversive," said Parelli. "He freed things and people."

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