Today was the day for which I have prepared for over a year. I sat down with our senior pastor and told him I want our church to be intentionally welcoming to the gay community. I wasn’t nervous—I had a mission—but I had no idea what the outcome would be.
In a church of this size (over 4,000 members), we have a large staff. It is a rare occasion for me, a Sunday School director, to cross paths with the senior pastor without an appointment. I am part-time, so I am not privy to the large staff meetings. Therefore, I had no idea how he felt about the whole subject. It was time to find out.
Briefly, I told him that I believed there were many in our church who believe as I do: that we need to open our arms to the gay community, to be a counterpoint to the ugliness being spouted in the name of Christianity against people who are gay. While I have never had a problem with the subject of homosexuality, I have been guilty of not wanting to make a fuss. But I know there are people in our congregation—as yet undiscovered—who would be willing to follow the lead of someone who would guide them toward a grace-filled welcome. I am willing to be one of those leaders. It’s long overdue.
“Pastor” described our congregation kindly as “traditional.” In his former church, he said, it was much easier to broach the subject and engender acceptance in those willing to be led. We both acknowledged that there are those who will not be swayed.
I believe it is a three-pronged decision for a Christian: Sin or no sin? Grace or no grace? Me or not me? Even if we cannot agree on sin—forever flinging Bible verses back and forth at each other—we can come together on grace. This is the central issue. And agreeing as we must on grace for all, without limits, the final choice is to decide whether we are capable of that grace. It is the role of the church to show them how. Differences fade at the foot of the cross.
Pastor told me in no uncertain terms, “Everyone is welcome in my church. Everyone.” He wants to explore with some of the other pastors (yeah, we have a lot) the strategy to approach this in a way that leads to success. Coincidentally?—I think not—he has a meeting tomorrow with four members of our pastoral staff to discuss offering for the first time a support group for families with children who are gay. Well!
All I wanted was his blessing and funding to attend a seminar in August that teaches a nonconfrontational way to introduce the matter into a church. I’ve got the go-ahead. Then I asked permission to bring along some like-minded members who are friends of mine. (One happens to be my husband.) Pastor wants to discuss this with staff further before turning it into a task force, but hey. That’s fine with me.
I am heartened and eager to get to that seminar. I’ve got a lot of reading to do, and that’s not even the texts I’m supposed to be reading for school. Yikes. I’d better get more organized.
I’ve got a ton of online sources bookmarked: Soulforce, Welcoming Churches, HRC, GayChristian, Whosoever Magazine, Convenant Network, Family Equality Council, MyOutSpirit, Shepherd Initiative, Turbulent Cleric, and dozens more. I have found most of these sources from referrals, so I will ask you: What source do you think is important for me to see? What books are important for me to read? I may have seen it already, but I want to know what I might have missed. Give me more homework. And let’s do this together.
Graphic courtesy of glenkirk.blogspot.com