No, this isn't about global warming. It's about church warming, as the glacial pace of progress moves forward.
A couple of nights ago I began my three-month training to be a small group leader in our church. With a congregation of several thousand, many people don't have a personal connection to the church. Small groups provide that connection: to people, to mission, to God.
What is meaningful about my own participation is that I made it clear the mission focus of my group will be LGBT advocacy. I wasn't sure if I could lead a group, as a member of staff. But everyone involved in this ministry is all for it.
The new leaders met for the first time this week. We gathered in a circle to tell why we were there. I told them that our church was known for its general welcome to the community; everyone nodded. I said I felt called to provide a specific welcome to people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender; I want us to show grace and hospitality to a group that doesn't often get it.
Most in the group smiled. The faces of two men a little older than I froze and lost their smiles. But only two. This is a slow process, but it is progress. When I speak up, I always get someone supporting me in comments later.
Another wonderful event occurred a couple of weeks ago, when our senior pastor invited a former staff member and his husband to speak to our pastoral and program staff (at my request). The two men told their story and the floor was opened to questions. I was silent, since this wasn't my show, but I wanted to be sure one question was asked. I am happy to say another pastor asked it instead: how do we move this church from being just "welcoming" to being a truly safe place for LGBT persons?
The group listened as the men named the small sorts of acts that would show the congregation that we are a loving and affirming church, such as baptizing the child of a gay couple; seeking LGBT individuals in our mission work; studying books by gay authors and on subjects that address the struggles of LGBT persons, etc. It seems so obvious, doesn't it? But unless you've really thought about it, it may not occur to you.
The couple was well received, and I and four program staffers stayed behind to talk some more. This group is really supportive, and they give me the strength I need to continue. It seems I may have the rudder of this huge ship on this particular issue. May God guide my hand.