Monday, January 2, 2017

On This Ninth Day Of Christmas, We Pray That The Church May Embrace Its Closeted Members

“Come to me all of you who are tired from the heavy burden you have been forced to carry. I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you.  Learn from me. I am gentle and humble in spirit. And you will be able to get some rest. Yes, the teaching that I ask you to accept is easy. The load I give you to carry is light.”  
- Jesus, Matthew 11:28-30 (ERV)

This piece isn’t meant to address the controversial question of whether the church should receive same-sex couples in committed relationships as members. That’s an important concern every congregation needs to face, to be sure, but this post is about the church being truly pastoral in the way it cares for all of its already committed members, including that silent minority of gays and lesbians among them who wait to be welcomed as a vital part of the church’s conversation on this and all other issues.

On this ninth day of Christmas I am praying that our congregations become totally safe places for people to come out of any imposed isolation and fully walk in the light alongside the rest of us. It’s about our freely loving and fully embracing everyone, celebrating God’s image in each.

We all know cases of sons and daughters of our fellow members, including those of our church leaders, who have either suffered in silence year after year under our "Don't-ask-Don't-tell-and-Don't-talk-about-it" policy or who have quietly left the church and in some cases entered into some kind of partnered relationships. By now most of us realize that differently oriented persons make up around 3-5% of our number, that they are not going away, and that there is growing evidence that they are who they are through no choice of their own. Yet they seldom feel free to tell us what it's like to be in their shoes.

The results have often been tragic, with good people struggling with feelings of intense isolation, self-doubt, spiritual turmoil, social estrangement and even suicide. Our heterosexually dominant church communities are often experienced by these members as unfriendly, inhospitable and rejecting. We have stressed being Biblically correct while failing to demonstrate a heart that is broken over the suffering of another, thus inflicting deep hurt to those who are born different from us. I know many of them personally, some who have poured out their hearts to me in the privacy of my office and elsewhere. They are our sisters and brothers.

So please join me in praying that as a church we will finally pledge, loudly and clearly, that nothing anyone discloses to us about their private life or their secret longings will make it worse for them for having done so. That our love and acceptance, our willingness to walk and talk with each other and to lovingly encourage each other toward faithfulness, will not be affected in any negative way.

We are, after all, all flawed and needy people, each of us in our own way. We need each other's help--and God's help--to work things out, no matter what it takes or how long it takes. We are dedicated to finding Jesus' way, and how we can together take on his well-fitting yoke.

Click here for some past posts on this subject, and here for a blog on how I see this issue affecting the church.
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