Tuesday, April 28, 2015

How to Be Welcoming to All

Last night, on the eve of the beginning of a Supreme Court case that may make historic decisions about marriage rights, my church council discussed what it would mean to be a Reconciling in Christ church.

Before I get lots of nasty comments about how I'm not a true Lutheran, let me remind everyone that my ELCA church is part of an ELCA synod that is a Reconciling in Christ synod.

Reconciling in Christ congregations declare themselves to be welcoming to all, specifically to transgender, homosexual, lesbian, and queer people.  Some might wonder why that welcoming stance needs to be articulated.  Some of us know that churches might declare themselves to be welcoming, but they really aren't. 

There is some part of me that wonders if we are very late to this conversation.  Many younger people aren't wrestling with this issue, the way that their elders are.

When I look at our church, it doesn't seem to me that we have a struggle with being welcoming to gays and lesbians.  In fact, we've had a transgendered person as a member for a few years, and although that situation was very new for many of us, we rose to the occasion. 

I certainly don't mind going through the process of being a RIC congregation and declaring ourselves to be welcoming.  But part of me thinks we're spending a lot of time and energy on what I suspect will be a non-issue. 

Instead, perhaps we should be talking about how to be welcoming to the mentally ill.  I wrote this blog post about our experience in church on Sunday.   It's much harder to be welcoming to the disruptive mentally ill than it is to be welcoming to most gay and lesbians who come through our door.  After all, most of our gay, lesbian, and transgendered visitors and members have been very similar to the rest of the congregation.  But the mentally ill may not be.

It's hard in modern society to know how to be welcoming and open and how to keep us all safe.  There is some niggling part of my brain that whispers, "God did not gather us together to be safe."

Our church insurance company would not like to hear that whisper.

In many ways, my thoughts this morning trace back to the burden of having a building to care for.  Did Jesus die on the cross so that we could discuss insurance issues and how to install a ramp for the handicapped and how to keep the roof from leaking?

I've written about this issue before, like in this blog post.  As I've said before, I don't have the answers.  A church building is both a blessing and a curse.  A community of humans will have different ideas of how to be welcoming.

But it is good to be wrestling with these issues together.  We have a better chance of embodying the light of Christ when we combine our flickers into a brighter flame.


Anonymous said...

Your 'church' the ELCA is not a Lutheran Church. They don't take the Bible as God's true word and they no longer follow Lutheran doctrine.

Please change the name of your blog. Call it Methodist or Disciples of Christ ... something other than Lutheran.

John Flanagan said...

The ELCA is as far from Apostolic Christanity as Cleveland is from Mars. Taking a pastoral view of sin, we cannot condemn the sins of others, however, we cannot celebrate sin....as ELCA does, Explicit verses of God's word are ignored and dismissed by ELCA clergy and congregations in order to arrive at the sad state of affairs this church has embraced. ELCA is part of the immoral and pagan culture of America and unfit to call itself a Christian church at all.