Back in July of last year I got an email from one Sue Gunter of Alexandria, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C. Sue wrote to say that her church, Fairlington United Methodist, was using my book UNFAIR: Why the “Christian” View of Gays Doesn’t Work as a basis for discussing whether to become openly welcoming to people of all sexual orientations. She wanted to know if a study-guide for UNFAIR was available for her church’s use.
Weirdly, I was just then maybe a week away from finishing that very thing. A study-guide for UNFAIR was something I’d been working on for quite a while; I wanted it to serve as both a guide for UNFAIR and a readily accessible, stand-alone, conversation-ennabling, essentially condensced version of it.
Here’s a bit from its introduction:
This guide is meant to foster thought and conversation shared in four weekly group sessions. Its overall purpose is to usher the group through the process of fully considering all aspects germane to the relationship between gay people and Christians, which at this point has become too problematic for Christians to ignore. Week 1 (“Getting to the Hurt of the Matter”) looks at the pain being generated by that relationship; Week 2 (“Throwing the Book at Them”) assesses the Bible passages largely responsible for that pain; Week 3 (“All in Love is Fair?”) considers the real-life challenges inherent in the alleviation of that pain; and Week 4 (“When completeness comes”) acknowledges God’s role in forever eradicating this particular pain from the body of his church.
Anyway, I sent the guide to Sue. And her church used it.
Then, last week, Sue forwarded me an email sent to all Fairlington members from the Chair of the Fairlington Church Council, which read in part:
Dear Congregational Family:
This email is to share the outcome of our congregational vote on whether Fairlington United Methodist Church should become a Reconciling Congregation through the adoption of this welcoming statement:
Fairlington United Methodist Church proclaims without reservation God’s unconditional love and grace, and affirms the dignity and worth of every person as created in the image of God. We commit to extend Christ’s gospel hospitality, creating a place of safety and spiritual sanctuary for all people. Therefore, this community of faith welcomes into membership, participation and leadership all persons regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender, family structure, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic background, political affiliation, physical or mental ability, faith history, or life experience. We recognize among us differences in theology and biblical interpretation, and covenant to accept, respect, and love one another along our faith journeys. As God loves us, so let us love one another.
There were 399 votes cast by professing members, with 373 voting yes (93.5%) and 26 voting no (6.5%); thus, our congregation has voted affirmatively to become a Reconciling Congregation.
Right on! I love it. And I’m certainly honored to have played any role at all in Fairlington reaching this great decision.
It was really encouraging to see how thoughtful Fairlington was throughout their whole discernment process. They made sure to do it right.
If your church or study group would like to see or use the study-guide for UNFAIR, drop me a line (here, or at firstname.lastname@example.org). I won’t ever charge much for the guide, but I’ll let three more groups have it for free in exchange for their input on it.