I received a pretty unpleasant email this morning; and I’m sure a few hundred of my colleagues did too. It was from a man in Illinois who is deeply disturbed by the ‘all means all’ resolution that came out of the Disciples of Christ General Assembly. He sent a message to, I’m assuming, pastors whose contact info he could find online. He’s heard that “everybody’s doing it.” That all Disciples congregations now let LGBT people into membership and leadership. Using some turns of phrase like “gay supremacy,”and “churches gone carnal,” he asks the question: “Is it true? Is everyone really doing it?” Here is my response—to him, and to others who worry about the moral implications of letting the gays take over our churches…
Dear Mr. H,
I cannot speak for all Disciples congregations, but I can tell you about Saint Andrew Christian Church. I would not say that we ‘have gays’ in leadership. What we do have are people; people who have been called to serve. Real, broken, imperfect, hopeful, creative, generous, Christ-seeking people. And some of them happen to be gay. They are valuable voices at the table, they bring much-needed gifts to our community, and they find healing in a church that fully embraces them, as they are.
But to answer your questions more succinctly, no. Not everyone is doing it. Not everyone is where we are in terms of extending the welcome of Christ to those who are different from us. Not everyone has come to know LGBT people as real and actual people, and not just a vague and hypothetical threat to the sanctity of our communion. Not everyone realizes that Jesus was all about subverting the law, in the interest of loving the person in front of him. Not everyone is doing it.
And while that saddens me, and the people with whom I serve, we continue to stand in partnership with you, and with others who still struggle to see the whole-personhood of all God’s children. I affirm your right to not be where we are. I applaud the level of engagement that leads you to question the system. But what I cannot abide is your implication that, in practicing discipleship differently than you, we are somehow ‘carnal,’ ‘unspiritual’ sell-outs. The world must seem like a dark and scary place to you right now, but I promise, we are just folks. Folks who really love Jesus.
That said, I don’t feel that you have to worry about ‘gays and same sex people’ taking over leadership in your church. (btw—‘same sex’ as whom, exactly?) In my experience, these gays and same sex people you’re concerned about never darken the door of a church unless they are specifically, intentionally, emphatically invited. They have been so deeply hurt by people of God, that they no longer trust us. Unless you go out of your way to spread the word in your community—that yours is a church that welcomes and loves all people, regardless of how they identify their sexuality—then they will not come knocking. I don’t sense that message coming from your general direction, so they won’t either. No worries.
One final thought, and I think this is the most important thing to take away from the conversation: perhaps you should be far less concerned then who is ‘getting in,’ and far more concerned with what is going out. What good news does your church share with the community? How do you go about feeding the poor, caring for the sick, visiting the prisoner, and sharing the love of Christ with the most vulnerable among you? Who would miss you, if you were no longer there? Remember that the pulpit, the table, and even the board meeting, are simply expressions of who we are in Jesus. We are not called to keep and preserve them as sacred spaces for our own comfort and enjoyment; we are compelled to ‘go;’ to serve, to speak good news, to sing praise, to give thanks, to share all that we’ve been given and all that we’ve been promised.
Of course, not everyone’s doing that. And until they are, then we’ve got more important work to do than guarding the door.
Peace in Christ,
Rev. Erin Wathen