changing church sign: “welcome”

From all to most to some to few to you’re to I’m. Kind of narrows it down. We have a choice: the more we get to know people we can either despair and resort to hate, or we can be gracious and resort to love.

Of course, it actually begins with us.

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About David Hayward

David Hayward runs the blog nakedpastor as a graffiti artist on the walls of religion where he critiques religion… specifically Christianity and the church. He also runs the online community The Lasting Supper where people can help themselves discover, explore and live in spiritual freedom.

  • http://samscoville.blogspot.com/ sam scoville

    For Pat Pope: “Jesus hath now many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His Cross. Many He hath that are desirous of consolation, but few of tribulation. Many He findeth that share His table but few His fasting. All desire to rejoice with Him, few are willing to endure any thing for Him. (Thomas a Kempis) I love the sound of this, Pat–but I’m going to avoid any cross-bearing I can, thank you; and I’m all for consolation: hate tribulation, are you kidding? Smiles and Jesus Hugs, sure: a piece of cake. That other stuff, bullying, mind-control, manipulation, excluding, hurt feelings: you can have it, I don’t want it.

  • http://westmanpreacher.blogspot.com/ shawn

    Too true.
    The most dangerous proclamation a Congregation can make is to say ‘All Welcome’.
    I’ve long reminded my congregations that there is no asterix on the sign, and there are no conditions – just an open welcome to ALL.
    Many congregations think they want this, but when the folks start showing up they can’t handle it … I have in my past two congregations who found it easier to fire me than to deal with ALL the things that were noted above … Church Congregations need to find some level of consistency between what they say and what they do.
    Thanks for the reminder.

  • http://samscoville.blogspot.com/ sam scoville

    I want to say (Shawn)–always for the sake of argument (converse action) that there is always a gap between talk and walk; I’m never as good as my word, knowing better than I feel. And that ongoing gap is no mistake but where the action always is. At any point any of us are liable to accusation for what we include/exclude, can handle, can’t handle. Should be no surprise. The dismay we ratchet-up tends to eclipse the reality or our short comings and make us that much more susceptible, vulnerable to the gap and discrepancy in others.

  • Christine

    I think there are some, or maybe just a few :), that really mean the sign. No gap between word and action, they really want all. No agenda on that front.

    But all the churches have the signs, well, maybe most, enough that the sincere ones, they just aren’t believed. They want a sign like “Everyone Welcome and We Really Mean It” because they know they aren’t the norm.

    I saw an ad the other day for an anglican church that said “Everyone Welcome, No Exceptions“. I heard recently of a united church with a sign that says “Everyone Welcome” with a small rainbow flag image next to it. (Makes me believe they do actually mean LBGT at least, because they took the time to use the right symbol… And who’s more rejected in churches these days(?), so maybe they do mean everyone.)

    My ask: If you don’t really mean it, TAKE DOWN YOUR SIGN. One particular pentecostal church across the street from me reminds me of this dishonesty daily.

  • http://www.parishofquispamsis.com Chris Hayes

    Sadly, just about anything can be put on a sign. The only real way to know if a church is TRULY welcoming is to go and and see if it is so (or not). Of course, being welcoming is just the very small first step. Befriending, and showing that you truly care about the people in your midst (and beyond) is the true test of a church congregation. A great quote from Michael Harvey of England – “our church is a group of recovering sinners”! Indeed we all are!

  • http://www.10worship.blogspot.com Pastor Dan

    we need a new sign for our church, I might suggest this for the council to look at

  • http://marthaorlando.blogspot.com Martha Orlando

    Love should ever be our first resort. Loved this cartoon as, sadly, it does reflect how many churches have become.
    Blessings!

  • http://theprodigalprophet.com Dylan Morrison Author

    How about this for a church sign

    ‘You’re loved by God and accepted eternally whether you come to this church or not!’

    Counter-productive to the bums on seats obsessed faith enterprises or not?

  • fishon

    Ah David, I made it back. Don’t know why or how, but whatever needed fixed, fixed its self. I am sure some of your folks got a nice rest from me, and dang—”He’s back.”

    Hey, “Everyone is welcome,” yep, no exceptions at the church I pastor. Well, leave your guns and protests at home, but they are welcome. I am the only one that packs. But I find that it isn’t we who can not handle it. It is those who expect us to change what we believe and doctine, so they can be comfortable. They are more than welcome, but there comes a time they don’t like what I preach. So they scream, “I thought we were welcome here?” Does being welcome equal that we have to agree on everything they believe? Yep. They insist on it or leave mad. And we never asked them to leave.

    I am Armenian in bent, but have several Calvinist in the congregation. If a difference comes up in one of my sermons, and the Calvinist disagree with what I have to say, they do NOT claim they are not welcome or not loved–but if someone of a different sexual orientation here me preach something they don’t like, “You are an intolerant bigot” flys right out their mouth. I have had gays leave because they disagree, and never leave quietly, and have had Calvinist leave, but never raise a voice as they leave. Dangest thing! Both disagree with my preaching; one says they don’t feel welcome, the other does feel welcome. The problem; one insists I change, the other does not.

  • fishon

    Christine
    September 26, 2011 | 9:53 am
    I saw an ad the other day for an anglican church that said “Everyone Welcome, No Exceptions“. I heard recently of a united church with a sign that says “Everyone Welcome” with a small rainbow flag image next to it. (Makes me believe they do actually mean LBGT at least, because they took the time to use the right symbol… And who’s more rejected in churches these days(?), so maybe they do mean everyone.)
    ——Hehehehe. I can tell you who is more rejected in those churches today. People who believe like me. I’d be as welcome as the plague at one of their Bible studies.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    Welcome back fishon. It was a bad plugin on my blog that made internet explorer on pc’s, especially windows 7, act up. it’s fixed now. i appreciate you saying something or it would’ve gone unnoticed.
    as to your comment: I know you won’t agree with me fishon, but people aren’t born Calvinists. Many of the LGBT community believe they are. So when you say something a Calvinist doesn’t agree with, really it’s not as big a deal as bringing someone’s orientation and inherent identity into question.

  • fishon

    David,
    Glad you were able to fix it.

    Of course I agree with you: People are not born Calvinists.

    Hehehehe! You mean you are telling me that LGBT’s believe they are born Calvinist???
    Hehehe.

  • Christine

    Hey, fishon. I think we know enough about each other now that we probably could have written each others’ posts on this thread. I heard yours in my head as I typed mine (see, I do listen :)). I knew it would be coming.

    And, to be honest, and much to your credit, I think, I’ve actually given a lot of thought to what “welcome” is or should be, at least to me.

    And I decided on two things: 1. Welcome means more than being allowed to show up – what a person feels when they come matters in this case, and 2. It is not everyone agreeing with me.

    But if it’s neither just coming, nor agreeing, what is it? To be welcome is to feel wanted, valued by the people already there. To feel cared about. And I think that can happen whether a church believes in full equality for the LBQT community or not.

    Welcome means I don’t feel pressured to hide my orientation, or get dirty looks or awkward stares. If there’s equal respect for me as a person, even if there’s disagreement, that’s a start. Likely I wouldn’t stay a member of a church that didn’t embrace full equality, but that’s not necessarily the same thing. I could find a place welcoming of me, but not the right fit for me either. I could feel welcome to visit, but not feel comfortable with “membership” for a wide range of personal and theological reasons. Leaving is not necessarily an accusation of unwelcoming behaviour.

    But I’ve been to “everyone welcome” congregations where they mean “welcome to come seeking reparative therapy”. No respect or love for who you are, only what you “could become”. I’ve sat through not sermons on what the bible says, but ones that imply that gay people (the distinction being that it is now personal, about me), or at least their rights, are what’s wrong with society. That is bigotry and homophobia. Even if people smiled and shook my hand at the door, this is NOT “everyone welcome”.

    I might actually find your church welcoming, fishon. Couldn’t know unless I actually came. But not all churches that let LBGT people show up and claim they are just sticking to their belief in what the bible says are what they say they are. Some (perhaps not you at all) are using that as a cover to keep believing very specific and terrible things about actual LBGT people and to spread those opinions (which have nothing to do with the bible) and then cry foul when it’s pointed out that that’s what they’re doing. These churches have “everyone welcome” signs too. They’re just in denial about what being welcoming means.

  • Christine

    Of course, feeling welcome might not be the ultimate priority (for welcomer or welcomee). I just feel that there should be some brutal self-reflection before putting out such signs, which seem to be erected thoughtlessly. i.e. If I were [insert identifier here], how would I feel about coming to this church? What of the unwelcoming bits (if any) are crucial to our view of Christ, and which are just personal insecurities masquerading as Christian devotion?

  • fishon

    Christine
    September 26, 2011 | 7:22 pm
    To be welcome is to feel wanted, valued by the people already there. To feel cared about. And I think that can happen whether a church believes in full equality for the LBQT community or not.
    —I agree.

    Welcome means I don’t feel pressured to hide my orientation, or get dirty looks or awkward stares. If there’s equal respect for me as a person, even if there’s disagreement, that’s a start. Likely I wouldn’t stay a member of a church that didn’t embrace full equality, but that’s not necessarily the same thing.
    —Christine, maybe you would leave and not holler “Unwelcome,” or “Bigots,” Intolerants,” but my experience is, though admittedly limited, that those words are actually thrown around because of us not believing as they do. I suppose you disagree, but I suspect that that happens in a great many cases. The fact is neither one of us can site good stats for that.

    But I’ve been to “everyone welcome” congregations where they mean “welcome to come seeking reparative therapy”. No respect or love for who you are, only what you “could become”. I’ve sat through not sermons on what the bible says, but ones that imply that gay people (the distinction being that it is now personal, about me), or at least their rights, are what’s wrong with society. That is bigotry and homophobia.
    ——Christine, then I guess by your definition I am a bigot and a homophobic. But putting the shoe on the other foot, I hear and read on a constant bases that those of my belief and worldview, about this subject, are the ones who are “what is wrong with society.”

    I might actually find your church welcoming, fishon. Couldn’t know unless I actually came.
    —I have taken a few minutes to think about that. I would hope you would feel just as welcome as anyone who came and visited the church I pastor. However, the dynamics of this subject, the passions that are involved are so strong, on both sides of the issue, that I believe that you would not stay with us. But I expect that you would have tried to learn something about us before you attended [most people do do that with any church], and you would make the decision not to attend. My real issue is with those who know before hand the teachings and doctines of a particular congregation–disagree with them, and go just to make a point.

    But not all churches that let LBGT people show up and claim they are just sticking to their belief in what the bible says are what they say they are. Some (perhaps not you at all) are using that as a cover to keep believing very specific and terrible things about actual LBGT people and to spread those opinions (which have nothing to do with the bible)
    —Christine, what specificly are you alluding to as terrible things that are actually opinions?

  • fishon

    Christine
    September 26, 2011 | 8:13 pm

    Of course, feeling welcome might not be the ultimate priority (for welcomer or welcomee). I just feel that there should be some brutal self-reflection before putting out such signs, which seem to be erected thoughtlessly. i.e.
    —I have no doubt there are those who do put out the “All Welcome” sign, and it is the ultimate trap. I detest anything done for the good of the kingdom of God that is done underhandedly. Nothing good comes to the kingdom that way, only shame.

    I would never make a good televangelist. No way could I sell tapes, books, etc, and ask for a “love gift” to receive them. I’d be straight up front. “This is my book. It costs….” Love gift my….

    Well, good talking with you again. I hope you MAKE IT a great tomorrow.
    jerry

  • http://samscoville.blogspot.com/ sam scoville

    First Church of the Crippled: all lame-ass and overtly pathetic are welcome. All the rest: take yr worship elsewhere please, you won’t be comfortable here.

  • http://www.wheneftalks2.blogspot.com/ Eric Folkerth

    This one is AWESOME! I am definitely saving and sending along….thanks, David.

  • http://www.wheneftalks2.blogspot.com/ Eric Folkerth

    Just reading back through this thread, I thought about a follow-up sign that would be cool to see:

    “God loves you, whether or not you ever visit our church.”

  • http://dmergent.org/2011/07/12/reclaiming-the-issues/ Doug Sloan

    The following extended quote is excerpted from an article by Richard Elliot Friedman and Shawna Dolansky, authors of “The Bible Now”:

    - – - – - – - – - – - -

    We are scholars, not politicians. Our job isn’t to score points for a side, push an agenda or to re-size the Bible to fit our personal views.

    So here’s the text and a summary of the evidence:

    “You shall not lay a male the layings of a woman; it is a to’ebah” (offensive thing)
    Leviticus 18:22.

    “And a man who will lay a male the layings of a woman: the two of them have done a to’ebah (offensive thing). They shall be put to death. Their blood is on them”
    Leviticus 20:13.

    We acknowledged that many people have recognized that these two texts pretty clearly do prohibit at least some kinds of male-male sex … The law really means what pretty much everyone has taken it to mean for centuries. Whatever view one takes, one must address the law fairly in terms of what it says.

    So we sought to contribute another perspective that we believe can be helpful on this subject. The text identifies male homosexual acts by the technical term to’ebah, translated in English here as “an offensive thing” or in older translations as “an abomination.” This is important because most things that are forbidden in biblical law are not identified with this word. In both of the contexts in Leviticus (chapters 18 and 20), male homosexuality is the only act to be called this. (Other acts are included broadly in a line at the end of chapter 18.) So this term, which is an important one in the Bible in general, is particularly important with regard to the law about male homosexual acts.

    The question is: Is this term to’ebah an absolute, meaning that an act that is a to’ebah is wrong in itself and can never be otherwise? Or is the term relative – meaning that something that is a to’ebah to one person may not be offensive to another, or something that is a to’ebah in one culture may not be offensive in another, or something that is a to’ebah in one generation or time period may not be offensive in another – in which case the law may change as people’s perceptions change?

    When one examines all the occurrences of this technical term in the Hebrew Bible, one finds that elsewhere the term is in fact relative. For example, in the story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis, Joseph tells his brothers that, if the Pharaoh asks them what their occupation is, they should say that they’re cowherds. They must not say that they are shepherds. Why? Because, Joseph explains, all shepherds are an offensive thing (to’ebah) to the Egyptians. But shepherds are not an offensive thing to the Israelites or Moabites or many other cultures. In another passage in that story, we read that Egyptians don’t eat with Israelites because that would be an offensive thing (to’ebah) to them. But Arameans and Canaanites eat with Israelites and don’t find it offensive. See also the story of the Exodus from Egypt, where Moses tells Pharaoh that the things that Israelites sacrifice would be an offensive thing (to’ebah) to the Egyptians. But these things are certainly not an offensive thing to the Israelites.

    Now, one might respond that the law here is different because it concerns an offensive thing to God – and is therefore not subject to the relativity of human values. But that is actually not the case here. The Bible specifically identifies such laws about things that are divine offenses with the phrase “an offensive thing to the LORD” (to’ebat yhwh). That phrase is not used here in the law about male homosexual acts. It is not one of the laws that are identified as a to’ebah to God!

    If this is right, then it is an amazing irony. Calling male homosexual acts a to’ebah was precisely what made the biblical text seem so absolutely anti-homosexual and without the possibility of change. But it is precisely the fact of to’ebah that opens the possibility of the law’s change. So, (1) whatever position one takes on this matter, left or right, conservative or liberal, one should acknowledge that the law really does forbid homosexual sex between males but not between females. And (2) one should recognize that the biblical prohibition is not one that is eternal and unchanging. The prohibition in the Bible applies only so long as male homosexual acts are perceived to be offensive. This could involve arguments and evidence from specialists in biology, psychology and culture. They are beyond our range of expertise as Bible scholars. Our task here has been to make the biblical evidence known.

    - – - – - – - – - – - -

    “Are Biblical Laws About Homosexuality Eternal?”
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-elliott-friedman/biblical-law-on-homosexuality_b_911963.html
    Richard Elliot Friedman, Shawna Dolansky
    (authors of “The Bible Now”)
    Huffington Post
    posted 8/1/2011 04:52 PM ET
    retrieved 9/16/2011

  • Christine

    fishon,

    Thanks for the posts.

    I agree with you on your church. I think I would look you up in advance and decide to never show up in the first place. If I went to visit, for whatever reason, it would be knowing what the views there are. I’d keep my views to myself. (Not convinced this is all the right approach, but is what I would and actually do.) I once walked out of a church mid-service (but quietly – and over a completely different issue) and that’s as rude as I’ve ever been in a church. (But this seems very unlike Jesus…) I think I’m somewhat conflict-avoidant – too many scars.

    I’m sure you’re right, too, that many don’t behave that way. There’s a lot of anger out there. But I do believe that anger is justified, under the circumstances. And that in the face of that much injustice, staying quiet all the time is not right or loving, and shouldn’t be expected of anyone. I just chose to do my protesting in other ways (a choice made mostly by fear of confrontation rationalized with a dose of “it doesn’t work anyway” – which is true enough). So, I flip-flop on whether I’m being strategic, or whether I really respect your different views.

    I do respect your right to have them, which is where I think the “persecution” of Christians differs greatly from the actual persecution of the LBGT community. As you point out, there are many that would look at your church or beliefs and say “that’s what’s wrong with society” (I may indeed have said such a thing myself at times). But most people (myself included) are talking about extremism or discrimination, of all sorts, of which a particular belief or practice is one example. MOST of the time, the reference is not to PEOPLE, and not even having strong beliefs, but what those beliefs end up producing. But here’s the big different: Just about all of the time, those same people believe in your absolute right to believe those things. They affirm a freedom of religion (including with beliefs they think vile) because they believe in freedom, basic human right, and equality. Just nearly all the time, while some might prefer to see at least certain religious views die, they are NOT on a campaign to deny religious people their basic freedoms and dignity. Those VERY few that might fall into that category are ignored by society at large. They have o credibility, let alone a mobilized high-funded and targeted set of political campaigns. So, no, you don’t have a right to the same anger, to the same indignation.

    The kind of things, those personal opinions dressed up at pulpits, about gay people – those lies are what keep those campaigns afloat – making those sermons only political maneuvering. Such as:
    - all gay people have aids or will get aids
    - gay people are more likely to be child molesters
    - all gay people are promiscuous
    - gay relationships are less stable
    - gay couples are unfit to raise children
    - gay marriage will result in polygamy and beastiality
    - gay people are out to “recruit” your kids
    There’s nothing in the bible on any of that (there’s so little there to begin with – not that I want to necessarily go into THAT conversation on this thread). It’s scare tactics, that’s all. And to dress this up – this preying on the vulnerable – as being about the bible, is an insult to christianity as much as to gay people.

    You did mention that by my definition above, you would qualify as a bigot and a homophobe. What part of that description did you not pass? Do you have an “everyone welcome” sign?


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