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Center for Action and Contemplation
Everyone Belongs
Everyone Belongs

The Integrity of Love

Thursday, January 27, 2022

CAC friend Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis shares how a broad examination of scripture emboldened her to trust in God’s expansive love for all people, even when the church excludes them:

In my first semester at Princeton Theological Seminary, I was confronted with questions I had never pondered—most especially, just how literally was the Bible the word of God? This question buzzed around everything: from women and preaching to manifest destiny and chosenness to economic justice to homosexuality. . . . Since I had no idea what to think of all this [regarding gay ordination], my first question was, “What does the Bible say?” . . . 

As a Christian, I had learned only ten commandments, none of which said anything about being or not being gay. In the gospels, Jesus hadn’t said anything about being gay. Puzzled, I went to the part of the scriptures these colleagues [against gay people] were referring to—the texts about purity codes. I read about keeping kosher, about not eating shellfish or pork, about avoiding mixed fabrics and not touching a woman during menstruation. And there, too, was the mention that a man shouldn’t lie down with a man as he would a woman. But it made no sense to me that we were singling out the texts relating to gay sex while still wearing different fabrics . . . and still eating shrimp and barbecue ribs! All of this was so maddening to me. . . .

My own view came into clearer focus when, at the suggestion of one of my teachers, I read a book by Chris Glaser. . . . Reading his story, it was clear that Chris was born gay—thus was gay by design—and so he hadn’t broken any laws! As the psalmist wrote, every human being is “awesomely and wonderfully made” [Psalm 139:14] just as they are. To me, this meant that if any of us are created in the divine image, my gay friends are, too. I found a sense of kinship with my LGBTQIA+ colleagues, and my heart expanded. They deserved justice, welcome, and acceptance. These were my people, my posse; I would not leave them behind.

Their stories and their struggles converted me from “What does the Bible say?” to new questions: What is the context in which the Bible says that? And does that make sense? And is that right? And does it square with Love? [1]

Minister and activist William Sloane Coffin Jr. (1924–2006) urges readers to rely on the integrity of love rather than our own limited and limiting judgments:

[There] are those who prefer certainty to truth, those in church who put the purity of dogma ahead of the integrity of love. And what a distortion of the gospel it is to have limited sympathies and unlimited certainties, when the very reverse, to have limited certainties but unlimited sympathies, is not only more tolerant but far more Christian. For “who has known the mind of God?” [Romans 11:34] And didn’t Paul also insist that if we fail in love we fail in all other things? [2]


[1] Jacqui Lewis, Fierce Love: A Bold Path to Ferocious Courage and Rule-Breaking Kindness That Can Heal the World (New York: Harmony, 2021), 140–142.

[2] William Sloane Coffin, “Liberty to the Captives and Good Tidings to the Afflicted,” in Homosexuality and Christian Faith: Questions of Conscience for the Churches, ed. Walter Wink (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1999), 106–107.

Explore Further. . .

Image Credit: Brian McLaren, Untitled 10-12 (detail), 2021, photograph, United States. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2021, triptych art, United States.

The creative team at CAC sent a single-use camera to Brian McLaren as part of an exploration into contemplative photography. His photos are featured here in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image Inspiration: The two outside photos in this triptych can appear spare, bare, or apart. The photo in the middle brings together a collection of unique items supported by the table. What happens when we are intentional about connection, or together-ing, rather than other-ing?

Story from Our Community:

Deep political polarization in my 38-year marriage left me untethered, broken, and lonely. We were a microcosm of our country’s division. . . One evening, we threw a “Hail Mary” deciding to put our relationship above all else, and we slowly began the messy process of healing and reconciliation. During the darkest days of my life, these daily meditations have brought me the light, clarity, and courage I needed to take care of myself. They also opened my heart enough to find the humility and compassion I needed to do my part in healing our marriage. I discovered that I, too, was guilty of “othering.” I finally feel like I’m emerging from a chrysalis to a more joyful life of love and connection.
—Julie C.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.


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In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.