There are those of us who fear being judged for being completely ready and impatient to affirm and welcome persons of all gender expressions.
There are those of us who fear being judged for being completely convinced it is wrong to affirm and welcome those practicing any other than committed heterosexual relationships.
There are those of us (who probably have not attended the conversations) who are of differing gender identities who fear being judged for being honest about their identities and their questions and their relationship to God.
There are those of us who have friends, relatives, loved ones who have been excluded or have chosen to leave church because of the possibility of being judged for having a different gender identity.
There are those of us who have no close relationships (that we know of) with those of other than heterosexual gender identity, who have questioned the assumptions they grew up with, but have no safe place to talk about those questions in a church setting because of fear of being judged.
And now we come together to try just to talk around tables in the same room and show love to each other, making the assumption that each person at the table, no matter what their position on this issue,
- loves Jesus
- wants wholeheartedly to follow Jesus
- is loved by Jesus
- is on a journey together with all the rest of the people in the room to love each other and love God as well as we possibly can.
- believes that the Bible is our truth.
Certainly many of these practices are very helpful to faith. But when we use them to measure ourselves as to being fit for the kingdom or fit for destruction, we are looking to see who is in and who is out. And sadly, that is what the church in the United States seems to be known for these days.
There are others who stand on the cusp of leaving, sure that God will not be honored if the conversation goes one way or another. The church has become so used to being a litmus test that we can't conceive of being church together if we disagree. This is me too. I have had those thoughts as well, that I can't continue with this or that group of believers if we continue to do this or that expression of belief. I'm guilty too.
How do we become the kind of church that demonstrates the kind of love and acceptance from God that brought me head over heels into the arms of Jesus when I was a teenager?
If I tell you that I need you in my church even though we disagree, that I need you perhaps precisely because we disagree, will my needing you here be enough to make it worth it for you to stay? Will you needing me be enough to make me stay? Can we be church together even if we see things very very differently?
Can we talk about our disagreements but also talk about the ways we see God working in each other? Can we value each other's gifts even as we wrestle with our questions? Can we see our love for each other and the goodness in each other every bit as clearly as we see the differences between us? Can we refuse to put each other in a box labeled 'right' or 'wrong' that conveniently allows us to stop listening or caring?
Is it possible to have a church that includes everyone who wants to follow Jesus regardless of every other difference, trusting that we are all on a journey, that we all do not fully understand, that we all need grace, that we are all chosen and loved by God?
I think I need to get better at living with the questions. If there were answers to the questions, those answers would probably be the kinds of answers we Pharisees would like.