The Third Way and Attacks from Each Side

In a recent sermon, my teaching pastor Bruxy Cavey talked briefly about The Meeting House’s position on homosexuality. To use Bruxy’s terminology, the official position of the church is conservative theologically but liberal in inclusivity. In other words, they would hold to the understanding that same-sex relationships are outside of God’s design for humanity, although not necessarily a bigger problem than anything else outside of God’s design: greed, lust, violence, nationalism, and many more that get cited in Scripture much more often than the few verses that may be speaking to same-sex relationships.

It was accompanied by a story from his recent road trip touring with the band All Sons and Daughters. While out West, he and Matt (Lead Pastor, Oakville) met up with a married lesbian couple who used to attend The Meeting House; they’ve now moved away but still see themselves as part of the family. I should just let Bruxy tell the story. It’s comes in not too long after the opening quotes.

It’s the Third Way position, and it is not a pleasant position to be in. I am certain that Bruxy and other leaders of TMH have gotten a lot of flack for their position. Liberals don’t think they’re going far enough and want a full affirmation. Conservatives think those like TMH are watering down the truth by still hanging out with them in our churches without constantly reminding them of their supposed sin. This Third Way is not new for Anabaptists, who have always been the Third Way between Protestant and Catholic and the Third Way between “conservative” and “liberal.”

On this issue, I do fall in the progressive or “liberal” camp (I don’t really like the word liberal but Bruxy did use it). I make no secret of that, including to those in leadership of TMH who listen graciously when the topic comes up. I myself have received some backlash from others who are progressive on this issue, about why I would still attend a church which hasn’t made a big public statement of affirmation. (I think most of my conservative friend already dismissed me over other issues so at the point I started being publically affirming they just shrugged me off).

I cannot, in good conscience, excuse those who use LGBTQ people as scapegoats for the world’s problems or who keep them out of their churches or make a point of emphasizing it as somehow a worse problem in the world than any other. That is simply not the character of Jesus and that I will call out in anybody who claims to be following Jesus. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about people who love like Jesus, even if I don’t think Jesus would agree with their position.

In other words, despite being in one of the more traditional “camps” on this question, I will defend the right for the Third Way to express their position. The Third Way is not about waffling and trying to appease both sides; it comes from the crazy idea that you can believe something and yet still be loving to those who disagree. That is an idea that I know is challenging for conservatives and liberals alike, but I firmly believe that it is true and it is one of the most important things we need to realize if we are to see the Kingdom of God around us because the Kingdom is one of grace and not judgement. Because of that, they actually get attacked at least as much as those of us who take up the “conservative” position or the “liberal” position which are both often defined by not being like those other people who are clearly inferior to them.

Note what I am not saying. I understand completely why somebody who is gay would not want to be part of The Meeting House or other Third Way churches. It’s a pretty important part of your life and I can completely understand wanting to hang out with people who are on the same page as you. I know I have certain issues that would be make-or-break for me in choosing a church, even outside of the broad themes like the importance of Jesus at the centre. I hope you find something that enables you to grow more and more like Jesus.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.

7 Responses

  1. It was this part of the podcast that REALLY got to me when I heard it today… it’s what I feel MCUSA is missing trying to pick one of two sides… It’s a messy place to be, as Bruxy mentions, but it is, I think a GOOD place to be and one that I affirm. You and I, Ryan, are on different “sides” of the issue… but I think this Third Way allows us to continue God’s work, even though we disagree.

    My hope is that this kinda thing is infectious and that it will spread and will not die here.

  2. Kevin Daugherty says:

    I am somewhat annoyed by the “third way” position that I see people like Greg Boyd and Bruxy Cavey falling into. I feel that it is the same bad theology but in passive aggressive form.

    • I’m with you on the bad theology, but that’s a sibling disagreement conversation we can have and I don’t think needs to be divided over. I’m not with you on it being passive aggressive; I think it is very possible to actively love someone even if you don’t agree with all of their ethical positions, including on this particularly-contentious issue, and from what I’ve seen I do think that Boyd and Cavey are both doing a pretty good job of modelling that.

      • Kevin Daugherty says:

        I agree that it doesn’t need to be a dividing issue, but I also try to be very inclusive theologically. (I don’t even like creeds.)

        I am sure that there are many places where you can genuinely love someone but disagree with their ethics. As someone who has a family, I experience it all of the time. However, for me the debate around LGBT issues is different. Perhaps it is because I am personally passionate about it, or perhaps it is because that sort of theology has led to discriminatory policies in both church and state.

        • Yes, that theology definitely has led to discriminatory policies. Sometimes even the rhetoric that sounds like Third Way is really just a mask for a more passive aggressive discrimination. I have no problem admitting that. If I see that abuse, I will still do my best to call it out. But just because the Third Way language has been abused doesn’t mean that it is an abusive (passive-aggressively) line of thought.

  3. Tim Nafziger says:

    I was surprised to see Bruxy is headlining Evana Network’s conference in January:

    Does this signal an abandoning of the “third way” position given Evana Network’s prominent role as a network formed by shared rejection of LGBTQ inclusion?

    • I don’t know enough about either Evana or about Bruxy’s criteria for accepting speaking requests to be able to truly answer that. If Evana exists for the purpose of excluding LGBTQ people, it would seem like an odd choice, for sure.

      The Meeting House definitely continues to promote the “Third Way” approach when it comes up. For example, I think pretty much everybody in my Home Church is affirming, including the elders, and TMH doesn’t have any problem with us continuing to meet under their banner and talk openly about it.