I Face a Trial for Being LGBTQ+ Affirming

May 27th, 2024 / 16 Comments

I want to bring you up to date on the charges and pending trial I face for advocating for my LGBTQ+ friends and their allies.

CLICK THE IMAGE TO WATCH THE VIDEO

ABOUT ME

First, a bit about me for those who may not know me.

I am Thomas Jay Oord, professor of theology at Northwind Theological Seminary and former professor of theology and philosophy at Northwest Nazarene University and Eastern Nazarene College. I’ve published 30+ books, including being the co-editor with my daughter of Why the Church of the Nazarene Should Be Fully LGBTQ+ Affirming.

I’ve been president of various academic organizations and am internationally known as a theologian of love. I’ve lectured at major universities like Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge, and Princeton, as well taught everyday people, in out-of-the-way places, on every continent in the world except the Antarctic.

I have been married for 35 years to my wife Cheryl, whom I love deeply and whose support has been monumental. I also have children, grandchildren, and extended family whom I also love dearly.

Back to the charges and my upcoming trial for being queer affirming.

GIVEN CHARGES

In early August of 2023, Nazarene district superintendent Scott Shaw gave me a document with two charges. Both charges pertain to the fact that I am a straight, cis-gender male who fully affirms and supports queer people and wants the Church of the Nazarene to do the same.

For my views on full queer inclusion, I’ve been charged, first, with teaching and promoting doctrines contrary to the Church of the Nazarene statement on human sexuality. And secondly, I’m charged with conduct unbecoming of a minister for advocating for queer people and their allies.

For some time, I’ve been advocating for the denomination to change its views on LGBTQ+ matters. That advocating has taken many forms, including in the book I mentioned earlier. If love is the heart of holiness, my call for full queer inclusion reflects the heart of the teachings advanced by the Church of the Nazarene.

Wanting to include and seek the flourishing of queer people is NOT conduct unbecoming a minister. It’s part of the minister’s central call to love neighbor as oneself.

SILENCE

Despite being told in the summer of 2023 that I would face a trial in the fall of that year, I heard nothing from denominational leadership for nine months. Silence of silence. I began to assume the charges had been dropped. But in the last week — late May of 2024 – I was finally contacted about the trial.

Since receiving that contact in late May, denominational leaders have tried to silence me. They have threatened to make an additional charges if I speak publicly about the trial.

They want to muzzle me.

Unlike them, I want transparency. And openness. I encourage forthright discussions about what matters. This video is one expression of the transparency needed.

WILL NAZARENES LOVE QUEER PEOPLE?

The fundamental issue at stake is whether the Church of the Nazarene will love queer people by affirming their identities, orientation, and healthy sexual behaviors.

As for me, Jesus’ love compels me to accept and affirm queer people. For me, love matters most.

Love prompts me to urge the Church of the Nazarene laity and leaders to engage in open conversations with queer people and their allies. Rather than try to silence me or hide behind procedures and processes, love calls us all to be transparent.

In its current form, the Church of the Nazarene’s statement on human sexuality does not reflect love well. It does not give witness to the abundant life queer people enjoy as they cooperate with the Spirit of God. The statement also creates obstacles for allies and clergy who want to include queer people fully in the life of the church.

SOME LGBTQ+ PEOPLE ARE SANCTIFIED

I personally know LGBTQ+ people who experience the sanctification described in Article 10 of the Church of the Nazarene’s Manual. They are sanctified.

To use the phrases from the Manual article on sanctification, some Queer people have been transformed “into the likeness of Christ,” are “made free from original sin, or depravity,” have been “brought into a state of entire devotement to God,” express “the holy obedience of love made perfect,” enjoy the “infilling of the Holy Spirit,” experience “cleansing from sin,” are “empowered for life and service,”  “grow in grace as a Christlike disciple,” improve “in Christlikeness of character and personality,” are “participating in the means of grace, especially the fellowship, disciplines, and sacraments of the Church,” and grow in “grace and in wholehearted love to God and neighbor.”

NAZARENE CONDEMNATION HARMS

Various studies have shown that the condemnation of queer people causes them great harm. Conversion therapy, for instance, rarely if ever helps. And it most often hurts.

In addition, LGBTQ+ people face excessive violence. Sometimes this treatment leads homophobes to kill queer people; other times, it leads queer people to take their own lives. Studies show that queer people are far, far less likely to end their own lives if the communities in which they live accept them.[1]

LGBTQ+ people are also more susceptible to mental health problems because of the social, emotional, and religious rejection they face.

One study shows that when families reject their LGBTQ children, those children are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide, 5.9 times more likely to have high levels of depression, and 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs than LGBTQ+ children with supportive families.[2]

Love and acceptance matter!

The Church of the Nazarene’s statement on human sexuality can easily justify the mistreatment of queer people. When the church does not embrace LGBTQ+ queer identities, orientation, and healthy sexual behavior, abusers believe violence against queer people is warranted.

JESUS LOVES QUEER PEOPLE AS THEY ARE

I believe Jesus loves queer people. He celebrates their healthy sexual expressions.

Jesus would seek to change to the denomination’s statements on human sexuality. He would speak out, boldly calling for repentance, standing for the marginalized. Jesus would do so even if it made his critics angry. He would speak out even if denominational leaders sought to silence him.

In our context, this means that Jesus would likely be given a Bill of Charges and brought to trial in the Church of the Nazarene. As they have about me, accusers would likely say he “taught and promoted ideas, beliefs, and doctrine out of harmony with” the denomination’s views.

Ironically, Jesus would not be welcome in a group that bears his name.

I AIM TO LOVE

I don’t know how things will shake out in the coming weeks and months. I don’t know when and where the trial will be. My emotions are all over the place as I try to deal with various issues.

But I do know this: I aim to live a life of love. And while love seeks the good of all, it is especially attuned to the good of those who have been mistreated, marginalized, abused, and rejected.

CALL TO ACTION

If you want to follow the ways of love, I encourage you to join me and others who seek loving change.

If you’d like to help us make changes, here are some things you might do…

Share this video with those who may find it encouraging.

Contribute to a new FundRazr campaign called “Spreading the News of Queer Affirmation.” https://fundrazr.com/42Ops0?ref=ab_1DSGa3

Join the private Facebook group “Loving Nazarenes – Book Contributors and Friends.” Some in the group wrote essays for the book Why the Church of the Nazarene Should be Fully LGBTQ+ Affirming, but it’s for all current or former Nazarenes who are affirming. https://www.facebook.com/groups/718708639899658

Sign up for my newsletter to keep abreast of my charges and trial. Find a link on my website. thomasjayoord.com

    Finally, let me repeat my first suggestion: Please share this video now.

    Thank you.

    WEBSITES

    Loving Nazarenes Website: lovingnazarenes.com

    My Personal Website: thomasjayoord.com

    FundRazr https://fundrazr.com/42Ops0?ref=ab_1DSGa3


    [1] See “The Trevor Project: 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health,” https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2022/
    [2] See “Parents’ rejection of a child’s sexual orientation fuels mental health problems,” March 2009, Vol 40, No. 3 Online: https://www.apa.org/monitor/2009/03/orientation
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    Comments

    David Price

    hi Thomas:
    I am a retired. Episcopal priest who lives in Canada, making me an Anglican. I read with sorrow and pain what you were going through. I’ve read several of your books and thoroughly enjoyed them.

    I have to wonder if God is calling you to spend your ministry on a different boat rather than the boat of the Nazarene Church. Do you really want to spend your energy fighting the battle with the Nazarenes?
    The leadership of your church as I read it described by yourself, reminds me of taking a planter and filling it beautiful flowering plants, but the planter has no drains, and so all the toxic chemicals of life build up in the planter and eventually, the plants in the planter and they die. It seems to me that the Nazarene church risks using the Bible like a planter and planting itself in this planter and now with the buildup of toxins it’s dying.

    Your own work and the work of many others seeing a dynamic God that emerges with the emergent Planet earth, and the cosmos as it evolves. You have no doubt, Matt many people that fit my definition..

    I wish you the best in your journey. Have a conversation with Matthew Fox in San Francisco. He would welcome somebody like yourself because he’s been through it with the Roman Catholic Church and now he’s the priest. Find a new home where you can fit and be comfortable and practice your valid philosophy and religion in a principal way. I will keep you in my prayers.

    Sincerely,
    The, Reverend David Price
    Abbotsford, British Columbia Canada. 604-825-5610.


    Nick

    Sorry to hear about this. Sounds terribly stressful. It is so intriguing how people who believe a book that teaches women and slaves as property appeal to its inerrant ethic framework. Sure do wish they would spend time warring against injustice and oppression. Thanks for standing for what you believe is love. The world needs as much love as it can get!


    Bev Mitchell

    We, my wife and I, will continue praying for you Tom. You are doing very important work. Since first “meeting” you by reading your 2010 book “The Nature of Love: A Theology”, I felt in my spirit “this guy is on to something”. I am so glad that you are using love as the centre of your defence against this amazingly disappointing action by the leadership of the Church of the Nazarene. I grew up Wesleyan in the 50s and 60s and experienced the tremendous power of love as expressed by the leaders of our small denomination. The means to move in the direction you advocate must still be there in the bones, and heart, of these great holiness congregations. We will pray that the fire of love will be rekindled with respect to this particular question. God bless you.


    Rev Dr. Shea Zellweger

    Praying for you, Tom. You’re a stalwart witness for love and I’m continually in awe of your courage.


    Keith Jenkins

    I suspect you hope to use the trial as a way to get your message out and, for that reason, would not want to avoid it. If it does result in your being stripped of your ordination, I hope you will consider joining The United Methodist Church. Not only do we have shared historic roots, but also our recent General Conference affirmed our commitment to full inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons and removed the harmful language and prohibitions that had cast a shadow over the UMC’s expression of God’s love for the past 50 years. You would be welcome and greeted with great joy.


    Robert Bruce Kelsey

    In the Deconstruction class, you repeatedly spoke of God feeling our sorrows and pain. I think that would also mean He feels our sorrow in sympathy for others who have been rejected and disparaged. May He take my puny contribution together with all the others who react to this news, and turn it into the stamina and strength you and yours may need. God spede.


    thomasjayoord

    Thanks for your kind words and encouragement, Bev!


    thomasjayoord

    Thanks for your encouragement, Nick! We all need to love and be loved!


    thomasjayoord

    Thanks for your prayers, Shea!


    thomasjayoord

    Thanks, Keith. I have many UMC friends and am happy about the direction the denomination is going!


    thomasjayoord

    Thanks for your sympathy, Robert!


    thomasjayoord

    Thanks for your encouragement, David. I’ve been wrestling with the issues you raise for more than 2 decades. I appreciate your support and prayer!


    Lynda Cohagan

    Hello Dr. Oord (May I call you Tom?)
    We have never met, but I know my dad, Rob Staples, held you in the highest esteem. Growing up, he always taught me that the questions are always more important than the answers. I think he would be proud of the hard, good questions you are asking of the church. I have considered myself a “Naz-been” for over a decade now, but I still keep abreast of things happening in the denomination that shaped me. May you be able to hold on to the Love that is Christ. My prayers are with you.
    Lynda Staples Cohagan


    thomasjayoord

    Thanks for your beautiful note, Lynda. Your father had a powerfully positive impact on my life. And I’m grateful for your prayers and support!


    James Murray

    I’ll be praying for you and lifting up your story this Sunday as we have our Pride Service here in Renfrew Ontario Canada. The story of David & Goliath is the scripture for the day. Keep up the fight, because love wins in the end.


    thomasjayoord

    Thanks so much, James!


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