I just read an article in the Washington Post about the conflicts between Christian religious sects over territorial and sacramental claims concerning a The Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Ironically, as the article points out, the gate and key keepers of the church since the 12th century have been two muslim families – assigned to the task to help keep the peace among the Christians.
I also read another Post article about Jen Hatmaker, Lifeway Christian stores and the backlash over her statements in support of same sex relationships. The narrative in the article also pointed out the risks women in evangelical communities are exposed to when they seek to “wield influence” by anything other than their “storytelling and persona.”
We had a “conference” at church yesterday (read that as a “very large meeting”). We took turns stating our positions either for or against a resolution. The resolution is focused on what roles, rights and privileges will be available to LGBTQ in the church people moving forward. But that’s not what I’m really writing about here.
The honor of the opening statement was given to a spunky 96 year old lady who, although she opposed the resolution, affirmed her place as part of that body of believers regardless of the outcome of the pending vote. For a moment, the questions of affiliations and membership numbers and staffing and budgets that have dominated this conversation of late gave way in my mind to a simple and ancient declaration:
“Hear, O <Church>, The Lord your God is One!”
I had not committed to saying anything, but I had written at letter that states the same sentiment as hers albeit from the opposite side of the issue. On hearing her statements, I knew I had to affirm her intent. I didn’t have time to read the whole letter so I decided to publish it here. Whether you are part of that particular community or not, my thoughts apply to you. We have differences: it’s what makes us whole, strong and beautiful as a people. But differences should never stand in the way of unity. My prayer is that we move forward with a church offering grater inclusion and safe places for LGBTQ Christians to grow, learn and serve. I believe I will see it in my lifetime. But in the meantime, my prayer is that we are able to live in fulfillment of Christ’s plea to the Father:
“May they be one as we are one.” (John 17:11)
It wasn’t long ago that I made this church my home. It really wasn’t much longer ago that after 25 years in ministry and church work, I firmly believe that there was no a space for me in the church among God’s family. As I reconsidered who I am, how God made me and how God desires me to interact my spiritual family, I slowly began to see this idea of church in a brand new light.
As I travel to various places visiting churches of all flavors, I often have the honor of being the first intersex transgender lesbian Christian many have met. I consider that very sacred space as I get the opportunity to introduce people to a more beautiful, complex and creative understanding of God then they may have had cause to consider.
While I often see changes in these churches and the lives of the people in them, I didn’t chose Wilshire as a home in order to change it. I didn’t feel like I needed to wait for a vote to know if you as a body would embrace me; to know I am home here. I chose this body because of the unabashed ways you were willing to ask the right questions – tough questions, but the right questions.
The answer to the question on the table that has been reached is perhaps he most loving, compassionate and redemptive answer to this question I’ve encountered: One Class of members. Its a simple concept that embodies so much of the grace Christ calls us to.
I’m a terrible politician. The older I get the less ashamed of that I am. I think it would be redundant with my very existence to tell you how I would desire for you to vote on this matter. It feels odd in fact to be sitting in the cross hairs of what has in many ways devolved from a question of truth, faith and spirit into one of process, economics and strategic planning.
But just as I desire to not be politicized or accepted conditionally – nor do I desire to only offer grace and friendship with any conditions or strings attached – in essence politicizing my acceptance of any one person in this fellowship as my family in Christ. Regardless of the outcome of this vote, regardless of where you currently stand on this issue, my desire and intent is to continue to live among you as I have been called to do – giving the grace I desire to receive by leaning deeply into the grace I’ve been freely given. To be available: for the conversations that might need to happen, the service that will need to be done, and the care that needs to be given in order for each of us to live deeper, love stronger and engage one another with an ever greater sense of hope and compassion.
I don’t need a vote to tell me I am your joint heir in God’s kingdom, but your vote to affirm a single class if membership will help to re-define for the next generations the meaning of being Christ-like and living it boldly for the world to see.