John Walcott: When the editor shared with me that the February 2016 issue would focus on LGBTQ-related issues in Christian schools, my first response was that I would like the contributors to this column to have the opportunity to participate in the discussion. I have both appreciated and learned from the ideas, suggestions and perspectives that the contributors have offered over the course of the past few years, and therefore I wanted to help share their wisdom with the broader community of Christian educators.
At the same time, I realized that this sort of conversation is difficult, and this sort of platform may not be the best for this type of dialogue. When talking about contested issues, we usually want to choose our words carefully and consider our audience. That is easier to do when talking with friends or colleagues with whom we interact on a regular basis. For that reason, I was not sure if this column would be the appropriate space for such a conversation. In the end, however, I felt that we should try to add to this conversation, and so I began the conversation with the following thoughts:
LGBTQ-related issues and concerns have been the subject of a great deal of conversation and argument in society and in the church in recent years. As Christian educators, we often have the opportunity, or may feel pressured, to respond to questions about these issues and to offer guidance and perspective to our students. This is an important and needed conversation.
With this context in mind, please respond to one or more of the following questions:
- What are some foundational perspectives or attitudes that you try to promote in your students (considering their age) that will help them navigate issues or questions they may encounter?
- How do you, as a Christian educator, seek to live out your call to love, seek justice, and show mercy to LGBTQ students in your school who often feel marginalized?
Rebecca DeSmith: Hello all! It’s time to begin this conversation.
Grace . . . I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately. I am thankful for God’s amazing grace that saved me as a sinner, the grace that is sufficient, free, and inclusive. I am familiar with the grace that I show to my family, friends, and students when they mess up, and the grace they show to me when I make mistakes. But I wonder where grace fits into our world—into the bombings and shootings and the countless injustices we see on the news and hear about every day.
A few months ago, a line struck me in a TODAY devotional by Thea Luenk: “Grace and forgiveness are about transformation.” It got me thinking: What needs transforming in my life, in my classroom, in our world? And if grace and forgiveness are part of that process, I better start practicing them more intentionally in my life, living them out each day, and letting my elementary students experience them more often in my classroom.
Leading with grace may be the starting place in helping our students navigate the tricky issues we encounter within our families, our communities, and our world. I’m not saying that we dismiss biblical teachings, but rather, through understanding, experiencing, and being able to genuinely show grace to others perhaps we can find space to grapple with the difficult issues that challenge our faith.
In an article in the online magazine at <inallthings.org>, Rev. Mark Verbruggen wrote, “If we read the Bible carefully we will see grace overpower the messiness of sin.” That is a truth I need to remember. It is also a truth we can hold onto as we disciple and nurture our students through the chaos and uncertainty of our broken world, working to show grace and bring shalom and reconciliation.
Blessings to all!
Thank you, Rebecca, for getting this conversation started. I appreciate that you’ve pointed us to transformation and grace. I think these are always great places to start. Thank you for sharing the quote about grace overpowering “the messiness of sin.”
The panel consists of:
Justin Cook, who serves as the Director of Learning at the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools in Ancaster, Ontario
Rebecca De Smith, who is the Discovery Room coordinator and the curriculum coordinator at Sioux Center Christian School in Sioux Center, Iowa.
Gayle Monsma, who serves as principal at Covenant Christian School in Leduc, Alberta
John Walcott, who is assistant professor in the education department at Calvin College.