I collected my mail today after being on the road for a little more than a week. Although I had received an email from the church office regarding a letter that had been sent from a group calling themselves “We Love Wilshire,” I was truly not prepared for the actual content of the letter.
To give a brief history, Wilshire appointed a study group to undertake an exhaustive study of the implications and premise for becoming an “affirming church” – that is a church that embraces the inclusion of LGBT+ people without qualification or restriction on their role in the church. After extensive study and conversation, the group issued a “majority report” to the board of deacons recommending that the church move forward toward greater inclusion. A “minority report” was also drafted by the few dissenting voices of the study group.
While my bias really goes without stating, I would like to call attention to one major concern I have with the letter that I just read:
At what point does the love of “church” – with it’s traditions and structures – override the biblical mandate to “love our neighbors”?
The argument set forth in the letter was primarily political; citing the implications of what being a church what welcomes LGBT+ brothers and sisters not only to join in worship, but also in leadership and the sacrament of marriage, would mean for Wilshire’s standing in the Baptist General Convention of Texas. It also puts forth an argument for upholding “traditional” views of marriage – traditional, not necessarily biblical!
It is prudent to remember that it was not so long ago in the grand scheme of history that church tradition endorsed the institution of slavery. It was even more recently, and still a reality in many bodies, that church tradition dictated the oppression of women and prohibited them from taking on teaching and leading roles.
Tradition is a misleading measuring stick for truth.
As I understand the events, it was the issue of the role of women in the life of the church that led to the separation of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship from the Southern Baptist Convention – a fact which has made it neither difficult to attract new members or qualified staff. The letter also fails to address that Wilshire’s standing in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship will remain untouched by a decision for inclusion.
As a member of Wilshire and a member of the LGBT community, I find it both disappointing and demeaning that my future in the body of Christ would be so blatantly politicized. As a seasoned church professional and Bible student, I find the departure from concern for pillars of our faith such as love, grace and compassion in favor of political affiliation, membership numbers and recruiting initiatives to be nothing short of pharisaical.
As this issue comes before the deacons and potentially the congregation, you may be called on to express your opinion in the form of a vote. As you contemplate that action, I call you back to my original question. Let’s take this opportunity to declare Wilshire a place that puts obedience to Christ’s direction that we be known by our love for one another over ambition for political or financial power and influence. Please don’t think if it as step to lead any one group or groups based on doctrinal alignment or geographic proximity – instead think of it as a step to free our church to love as God intended us to love.
Read the letter from We Love Wilshire, but also read the reports and work of the study group. Don’t make this decision in response to the catastrophic fears set forth in the letter, but out of a broken and contrite spiritual conscience fully informed and surrendered to God.
Today is a special day in my life. I’m celebrating the release of my first book. It’s my own story of stepping away from structure and tradition and embracing a God who is bigger, more powerful, and more beautiful than the box I had learned to hold God in would ever allow.
My deepest, most sincere prayer is that others be allowed the same journey.
For the wholeness of us all,
Laura Beth Taylor