OneTable and Recent Press: Further Perspective by President Nick Palacios

OneTable in the Press

As the president of OneTable Fuller, I would like to take a moment to add to the recent article published by the Associated Press, regarding OneTable and Fuller Theological Seminary.

I am extremely grateful to Sarah Parvini, from the Associated Press, for taking the time to profile Fuller, myself, and OneTable, and would like to provide further detail about what makes OneTable unique. Below I hope to convey the the more complete heart, vision, and hope of OneTable and Fuller Theological Seminary who continues to support us as we welcome in those on the margins and without a voice.

OneTable exists as a safe space for all who desire to be a part of the conversation surrounding faith, sexual orientation, and gender identity. We not only welcome all voices, but are convinced that all are needed. We believe, as scripture teaches us, that the body of Christ is made up of many parts, each one dependent on the other (1 Corinthians 12: 12-27). As a community, we are only our most complete when we have the contribution of all our members. To sequester ourselves into uniformity of beliefs and paradigm leaves us anemic in our own formation as humans.

 Not only do we have a diverse membership with varying theologies, but the leadership of OneTable consists of what we like to call our Team of Ten. This group of students and alumni represent a spectrum of ideological, sociological, psychological, and theological belief. We don’t just talk about welcoming all voices to the table, we in fact embody it within our own team.

 At Fuller, OneTable stands for something different. Something counter-intuitive. We believe that intentionally living in the tension of disagreement is the way of the gospel of Christ. Constructive, non-violent tension has for too long been viewed by society and the church as implausible when relating to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning (LGBTQ) community. As a wider culture, individual liberties and freedom of speech are seen to be the paragon of American identity, and yet our utopian ideologies have fallen on deaf ears as we simultaneously want everyone to think the way we do.

The article, I believe, did little to bridge gaps of division and polarity, and instead, perpetuated a pervasive notion that Christians and LGBTQ people cannot live in harmony. This statement itself is a misnomer, reducing people to either this OR that, leaving no room for the nuance of human identity.

While we do not lay aside our beliefs and hopes, we hold them with hands and hearts open to becoming more like Christ. Former Fuller president Richard Mouw, in his book Uncommon Decency, speaks of convicted civility as prioritizing relationship over ideological boundary maintenance. We embrace the knowledge that as individuals we do not know all the answers. Additionally, we recognize that our own certainties and convictions can easily become postured as idols in our life. Each of us, with our finite human capacity and intellect, has much to learn. During OneTable gatherings we engage not only scholarship and scripture, but also life experiences as they inform our understanding of God and each other.

With recent political events furthering LGBTQ rights, let us be slow to make declarative statements about others, and quick to engage those voices that are seemingly so different from our own. Broad sweeping generalizations strip individuals of their nuanced humanity. This conversation is not merely hypothetical or somehow existing in some abstract realm, but it is present in the real embodied lives of those around us. Embodiment is as complex as it is jarring, but it is also so beautiful.

 Matthew 22 and Deuteronomy 6 both tell us to seek God first and Love our neighbor as ourself. This is the heart of OneTable. With as much effort as we put into securing our own needs, desires, and comforts, we ought to seek the welfare and thriving of not only our friends and family, but the stranger on the corner, the jerk at the office, the gay who hates the conservative Christian, and the conservative Christian who hates the gay. Matthew 7 reminds us that unfairly critical attitudes towards others, combined with a naive lack of self-criticism, threatens to disrupt close-knit communities such as that of Jesus’ first disciples. The only way to embody this sermon is to seek the way of the cross (Philippians 2) – dying to self in order that another may find life. Easy to say, hard to do.

It is only through relationship that our members have the permission to challenge one another’s theology and ideology. This is a critical component of dialogue that often gets looked over, especially in the church. In our desire to defend God’s truth, we are quick to point out the sin in the lives of others and neglect taking a fine-toothed comb to our own piety and self-sufficiency. We all fall victim to this, yet we must recognize it is only through the power of the Spirit that lives are truly impacted and changed. Strong arming someone into my own beliefs only further drives a wedge of hostility and distrust. OneTable believes that when we encounter one another at the table, sharing a meal and sharing conversation, it is exponentially more difficult to demonize.

 I am grateful to Fuller administration, faculty, and staff for their ongoing support of OneTable. Fuller continues to demonstrate a posture of gracious spaciousness and living in the tension. We at OneTable believe in the administration of Fuller to seek shalom in the wider community of Fuller, in both word and deed. It is the challenge of OneTable to embed this dialogue into the lives, conversations, ministries, and communities present at Fuller. As a gay student I came to Fuller under the current policy, wanting to engage in the larger dialogue.

 Today’s conversation does not end here, but lives on in the real lives of you and me. Please join OneTable this coming year as we continue to seek God and engage one another in tangible, hospitable ways.