Til Everyone’s Doing It

Til Everyone’s Doing It November 19, 2013

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


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  • Mary Luti

    wonderful wonderful wonderful

  • Patrick B Gawne

    You are truly a minister of Jesus’ word and way.

  • Mark Anderson

    We definitely got more work to do.

  • Imaqtpie

    Thank you for being a good person. I’m an atheist who was forcefed christianity for 18 years, and ended up leaving the church because the majority of the people were more concerned with gossiping about others and making themselves look good, rather than trying to be what Jesus is depicted like in the bible. I saw them as the pharisees whom Jesus would warn people about, and it repulsed me.

    In the wise words of John Lennon, ‘all you need is love,’ Love everybody no matter what. It will make your life much happier, along with the people who surround you most likely. :^)

  • Robert Boehlert

    Thank you for your words of wisdom. I was orginally fearful and now realize there is nothing to fear. Only after working with and being friends with different livestyles did i learn how much we are alike. We all take different paths to GOD and will be judged by him. We can not judge, only try our best to live a moral life, as best we can. Since we/I still have a lot to do with ourselves, we/I should concentrate on that. I’m only bothered by those who attempt to force their beliefs on me.

  • melissia

    I enjoyed reading your heartfelt, earnest, and gentle response. I doubt I would have been so gentle as you, but then I suppose that’s why I’m not a reverend. The gentleness made it far more powerful.

  • firedrake

    Beautifully said. Thank you for responding in a fashion that will hopefully bring the message home to him.

  • Steve Flower

    Thank God for people like you, Rev. Erin. As a deacon in a DoC church in Springfield, MO (ground zero for the world headquarters of the Assemblies of God) I can tell you that the Disciples of Christ churches have been the most “come-on-in-it’s-no-big-deal” kind of welcoming communities I could have imagined. As one who has been shown the door in other denominations and seen SO many others booted from fellowship here in town, I can only say thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks. Preach on, Erin.

  • A beautiful post.

    “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. ”

    Very true, Erin.

    And there’s more. Too often we have been so deeply hurt that we no longer trust God Herself, our own spirituality, or anything having to do with Jesus. It’s is a powerful wound, a wound of the soul.

    And the tragedy is compounded because Mr. H. doesn’t have the slightest inkling that he is injuring much loved expressions of God, and doing so in Her name. But She is forgiving, and by Her example we can learn to be as well.

    That’s why I cry every single time I read words like yours, words of compassion, words of empathy, words of healing. Thank you.

  • Curious

    I am curious about your interpretation of the scriptures when it comes to homosexuality. Do you believe the Bible states homosexuality is a sin?

    • Erin Smallwood Wathen

      Curious, I have gotten similar questions from other readers and friends based on this and other posts I’ve written. I’m working up a response re: biblical interpretation in this conversation. STay tuned…i’m hoping to post something up tomorrow.

    • Marian L Shatto

      This “Letter to Louise” has been around for more than a decade, but it is still very helpful in answering that question, I believe. https://christiangays.com/articles/louise.shtml

    • Anton

      Like most progressive Christians, I’m not surprised that there are scriptural admonitions against homosexuality. These verses were written for a much different society than ours, and they betray the concerns and prejudices of their time. A more inclusive interpretation of the Bible is necessary for our day and age, if we value the spirit of our faith and not just the dogma.

      Furthermore, there’s also a clear warning in Leviticus 19:19 against wearing a garment made from two different kinds of material. As often as I’ve wondered about the significance of that brief verse, I have no qualms about wearing a cotton-wool blend. Do you?

  • Theresa Brownfield

    When asked this question on a discussion about LGBT in the church comes up I refer back to a few things. Many similar to what you have said Rev. so right on!!! Also, for the nah sayers I also remind them of a few words “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” John 8:7 or one that just to make them think is Matthew 7:3 “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own?” Basically it is not on us to pass judgment but to love and care for all as Christ has entrusted us. I love my friends and family that are LGBT very much and wouldn’t change them for the world. It is their choice as long as you always keep things respectful! 🙂 Blessings and Peace!

  • Karen Knap

    Dear Rev. Erin Wathen.. I thank you or the message you send, and the acceptance you inspire! Some of us LGBT are here anyway… trying t set the example we hope to one day experience… and that I have had the pleasure of enjoying much of the time.
    Peace in Christ

  • kcbrewster

    are they who are tolerant of the intolerant.
    Nice job Pastor.

  • Iowan42

    Beautifully and simply written.

  • Becky

    Very beautiful. I would add one thing. I walked away from organized religion i.e., my life long church after I saw things happening there that went against every single thing I’ve ever believed about my Lord. Instead of worrying about being judged or rejected in a church, I decided to live my sermon – working with the poor, the wounded, those without hope and modeling the very behavior that I hoped to see in those around me. I just happen to love a woman. A woman who loves the Lord and was brought into my life during one of my lowest points. The blessings I’ve received in working alongside people who “hate” gays has been very rewarding because while the work is being done they have no clue about my life, my love, my happiness. After working beside me and getting to know me, and watching my commitment to lift others and help those in need, when they meet my partner it doesn’t matter. It’s just one human being connecting with another to make a difference. Sometimes actions educate those who judge far more than words ever could. It’s none of my business who decides to judge me – there’s only One who has that right and when the day comes I will face Him humbly and feel very strongly that He will judge me first and foremost on how I treated and loved His children – all of them. Until that time, I will preach that sermon daily – through actions, love, and unconditional acceptance of everyone.

  • Linda Siegwald

    Well said, Erin! It is important to publicize that some churches are open and affirming, especially at a time when Rev. Frank Schaefer is on trial (literally, but through his church) for the crime of officiating at his son’s same-sex wedding! I feel so blessed to belong to a church that, when it was announced in worship that one of our same-sex couples had just gotten married, broke into spontaneous, joyful applause. Thank you for all you did to gently guide our congregation to such inclusiveness!

  • Wonderful, beautiful and fan-freakin-tastic!

  • UnionAvenue Christian

    Amen and amen …

  • Jody Furnas Wright

    Great job!!!!

  • Cliffhanger24

    I am proud to be a member of a church currently in dialogue to become Open and Affirming and part of a region, the Northern California-Nevada region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) that is publicly stating its position as an open and affirming region. I enthusiastically voted in the affirmative at our recent General Assembly in Orlando and will proudly do so again and again until each of us realizes that “All does mean All” in the most inclusive sense.

  • indy_girl

    What a great letter. Cheers from a Kentucky Unitarian!

  • Jonenred

    The Heresy of Protestantism on display

    • Because the Catholics have a spotless record when it comes to civil liberties. Not to mention protecting children in their own walls.

      • Jonenred

        yes, the abuse of children by homosexuals in the church was bad.

        • Congratulations, you have completely made a fool of yourself by indicating that all abused children in the Church were male (they weren’t) and that only gay men abuse boys (straight men do as well, as verified by every reputable psychological association in existence).

          Thank you for contributing to the cause of atheism. You are the reason your criminal organisation is collapsing in on itself.

          • Jonenred

            ~95 % were homos going after young boys. Why are you defending these abusers?

            In any case, Catholicism is the one true faith. The biggest charitable org. in the world. It does more for poor people than any self centered heathen like yourself could dream about.

          • Erin Smallwood Wathen

            There is no need for name calling, Jonenred. I’m with Irish Atheist up there, pedophilia and homosexuality are two different matters.Also, I agree that Catholics do a great lot of good in the world; but most Catholics, unlike yourself, are intentional partners in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. I hope that others don’t judge all Catholics based on your behavior and shortsightedness–the way you seem to judge all homosexuals based on the behavior of some abusive priests.

          • Jonenred

            he brought up abuse in the catholic church, not me. I didn’t judge all homosexuals, just stating a fact.

          • melissia

            “I didn’t judge all homosexuals”

            Don’t be dishonest.

            It was not so long ago that it was those of darker skin color that were compared with pedophiles by right-wing religious groups; before that, it was those of Jewish faith, whom supposedly raped and murdered children as part of their faith.

            Your words betray your beliefs, just like many others within fundamentalism, whom have bought in to the (false) idea that homosexuality and pedophilia are intrinsically linked. But they aren’t. Most pedophiles are straight men– yeah, that’s right, they’re heterosexual. Their pedophilia is a mental problem.

            To explain:
            “The distinction between a victim’s gender and a perpetrator’s sexual orientation is important because many child molesters don’t really have an adult sexual orientation. They have never developed the capacity for mature sexual relationships with other adults, either men or women. Instead, their sexual attractions focus on children – boys, girls, or children of both sexes.


            Typologies of offenders have often included a distinction between those with an enduring primary preference for children as sexual partners and those who have established age-appropriate relationships but become sexually involved with children under unusual circumstances of extreme stress. Perpetrators in the first category – those with a more or less exclusive interest in children – have been labeled fixated. Fixation means “a temporary or permanent arrestment of psychological maturation resulting from unresolved formative issues which persist and underlie the organization of subsequent phases of development” (Groth & Birnbaum, 1978, p. 176). Many clinicians view fixated offenders as being “stuck” at an early stage of psychological development.

            By contrast, other molesters are described as regressed. Regression is “a temporary or permanent appearance of primitive behavior after more mature forms of expression had been attained, regardless of whether the immature behavior was actually manifested earlier in the individual’s development” (Groth & Birnbaum, 1978, p. 177). Regressed offenders have developed an adult sexual orientation but under certain conditions (such as extreme stress) they return to an earlier, less mature psychological state and engage in sexual contact with children.


            For the present discussion, the important point is that many child molesters cannot be meaningfully described as homosexuals, heterosexuals, or bisexuals (in the usual sense of those terms) because they are not really capable of a relationship with an adult man or woman. Instead of gender, their sexual attractions are based primarily on age. These individuals – who are often characterized as fixated – are attracted to children, not to men or women.

            Using the fixated-regressed distinction, Groth and Birnbaum (1978) studied 175 adult males who were convicted in Massachusetts of sexual assault against a child. None of the men had an exclusively homosexual adult sexual orientation. 83 (47%) were classified as “fixated;” 70 others (40%) were classified as regressed adult heterosexuals; the remaining 22 (13%) were classified as regressed adult bisexuals. Of the last group, Groth and Birnbaum observed that “in their adult relationships they engaged in sex on occasion with men as well as with women. However, in no case did this attraction to men exceed their preference for women….There were no men who were primarily sexually attracted to other adult males…” (p.180).”

          • melissia

            Or, if that was too long for you: Psychological studies of pedophiles have shown that pedophilia is not a “normal” sexuality like heterosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality (or any other form of mature, adult relationship based sexuality). It is caused by someone not growing up and developing mature relations with adults.

          • Jonenred


          • melissia

            Such brilliant intellectual debate! I am well and truly awed and cowed by your knowledge and your capacity for logic and rational thought.

  • garybachman

    Bravo. We’ve not been at Saint Andrews other than for a couple of brief visits in the past two years. Diane and I have talked about this. It may be time to wander back in. Thanks for this. Gary

    • Erin Smallwood Wathen

      Come on over, Gary. We’d love to see you.

  • Joseph O Polanco

    Jesus taught, “For from inside, out of the heart of men, come injurious reasonings, sexual immorality (πορνεῖαι) [.] All these wicked things come from within and defile a man.”-Mark 7:21,23 (Bracket mine.)

    Further along we find: “Φεύγετε τὴν πορνείαν. πᾶν ἁμάρτημα ὁ ἐὰν ποιήσῃ ἄνθρωπος ἐκτὸς τοῦ σώματος ἐστιν· ὁ δὲ πορνεύων εἰς τὸ ἴδιον σῶμα ἁμαρτάνει.” -1 Corinthians 6:18

    “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin that a man may commit is outside his body, but whoever practices sexual immorality is sinning against his own body.”

    “ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ἄδικοι θεοῦ βασιλείαν οὐ κληρονομήσουσιν; Μὴ πλανᾶσθε· οὔτε πόρνοι οὔτε εἰδωλολάτραι οὔτε μοιχοὶ οὔτε μαλακοὶ οὔτε ἀρσενοκοῖται οὔτε κλέπται οὔτε πλεονέκται, οὐ μέθυσοι, οὐ λοίδοροι, οὐχ ἅρπαγες βασιλείαν Θεοῦ κληρονομήσουσιν.” – 1 Corinthians 6:9,10

    “Or do you not know that unrighteous people will not inherit God’s Kingdom? Do not be misled. Those who are sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, men who submit to homosexual acts, men who practice homosexuality, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners will not inherit God’s Kingdom.”

    Notice that those passages utilise conjugations of the key phrase πορνεία. Precisely what is πορνεία?

    The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon


    Strong’s Number: 4202

    Transliterated Word – Porneia – Phonetic Spelling – por-ni’-ah


    Illicit sexual intercourse –

    1.1 adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.

    As you can clearly see, with a rudimentary comprehension of the Koine Greek concept of πορνεία , it’s clear to understand what exactly is and is not normal human sexual conduct in our Creator’s sight.