May 14, 2008

Together

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

15 comments:

Java said...

Wow. So glad the meeting went so well. Did you get the impression he was in favor of your proposal? Or that he was being politically vague?

I'm curious about the support group for families of gay children. What is the emphasis? Accept the children, or try to "fix" the children? Not knowing your church, I of course can't tell. But I've seen so much hate come out of churches in the name of Jesus, stuff that rips apart innocent gays. I hope your church isn't like that.

Bill said...

I'm so glad that you had this meeting with your pastor, and happy that I read this tonight.

I have no doubt that you will need no task force to accompany you to that seminar. If you have travel companions, that would be a bonus, but you may be more nimble on your own. Either way, getting the go-ahead to attend is HUGE!!! Congratulations!

You mentioned Soulforce, which is the website I would have recommended. Keep us posted! It's very exciting!

One of the saddest things I read not long ago was on another gay alcoholic's blog. For many, recovering from the disease of alcoholism is based on faith in a Higher Power. This fellow wrote that he had been raised in a traditional church. When he heard the church opinions on homosexuality, he felt that the church had turned its back on him. He translated this to mean that God had turned his back on him. This is a horrible, empty way to feel. Unfortunately, it is very common.

Treat the other man's faith gently; it is all he has to believe with. His mind was created for his own thoughts, not yours or mine. - Henry S. Haskins

Birdie said...

Java, he is definitely in favor. His greatest concern is doing this well, without rancor. And I understand that the support group is to welcome the families and the children as they are, with no intention of changing them.

Bill, your friend's example is exactly the reason we need to speak up. It is so important for him to know that acts of men are NOT always acts of God, no matter what they may say. He needs to learn about the nature of God and determine for himself if men truly represent Him.

Father Tony of the Farmboyz said...

Good for you! You've already won the day, in my book. Sounds like your pastor will need a series of constant gentle proddings. There's a yiddish word for this. I wish i knew how to spell it, but it's pronounced "grizhah". Doing grizhah is turrning the screw a little every day, nattering but not harping, always reminding someone of what they said they'd look into or explore. It's being pushy, but in a softer subtle way. Winning little by little. I love yiddish, but you are my word for heroine.

Birdie said...

Father Tony, I'm well-known for my persistence. I'm a bulldog with a smile. Thank you for your compliment; it means a great deal.

tornwordo said...

I admire your push for acceptance. It seems ironic that the church has to be convinced of it though.

somewhere joe said...

This is important, timely work, B. A great ministry and mission for you.

A believer is a believer. After 2000 years we still don't get it...

"I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Godspeed and blessings.

Birdie said...

Torn, this has gone past irony to shameful. I believe that this is the next great civil victory to be had; those believers who understand grace will see that this is a spiritual victory as well.

Joe, you have put it in a nutshell. That commandment says it all, doesn't it? And yes, this is a ministry and mission for me. I don't know yet how my role will play out, but I look constantly for opportunities to throw seeds on fertile ground.

seriouslyflippant said...

OMG! I'm so glad to know about this place! You're linked and I'll RSS you when I get back home!

heartinhand said...

Good job Birdie!

The judgment part of Church has always been a huge stumbling block for me.

Birdie said...

Welcome, Flip! I'm glad you found me. I'm looking forward to your seriouslyflippant comments.

The condemnation kept me away for a long time too, Heart. I wanted no part of wrath and hateful judgment. When I turned toward the faithful people who made me feel loved, I knew I had found my path to the true nature of God. My circle of friendships keeps growing, and the spiritual connection can be powerful.

bigislandjeepguy said...

"bulldog with a smile"...i love it.

i can only echo everyone else's remarks and sentiments. you are one of the people on the front lines, fighting to help. that kicks ass!

i find it sad that what the church does not realize (well, not EVERY church, but i hope you get what i mean) is that so many people are turning or have turned away from a relationship with God because of their judgmental "YOU are doing wrong" attitudes. i am still amazed by how many christian people think being gay is some decision i had a choice in. as i have said to others before, "why would i CHOOSE to live a life where people would hate me for who i love? who i would like to share a life with?" i'm not trying to destroy anyone's life or relationship; i am just trying to live my own. and telling me that if i pray hard enough i can change is NOT a solution. i have done that.

people like you give me hope. thank you.

Birdie said...

Jeepguy, hope is a commodity we must never run out of. It is the fuel of change. We have to accept that there are those whose minds will never be changed. But we can change the minds of many more as they finally learn the truth.

Greg said...

Bless you, dear Bird, for your efforts on this front, when you might be justified in focussing solely elsewhere! For too long have we been discouraged from our faith by those who would apply their own opinions and judgements to the will of a god.

Birdie said...

You are so right, Greg. We all struggle with discerning God's will; I believe we can recognize it when we see the results. The God I know loves every single person exactly as he is, fully and without requirements. What a freeing joy it is to be able to pass that on.