In starting to make my way around the Emergent and Missional circles, I’ve started to notice two things especially about the Emergent movement:
- It tends to be really, really white.
- There is not a lot of talk on being gay.
I will get back to topic number one another time, but I wanted to focus on topic number two. In doing some reading of books and blogs the whole topic of homosexuality seems marginal at best. I wonder why that is. Maybe I’m wrong on this. Any response from the peanut gallery?
Of course I have a reason to think about this since I happen to be gay in a relationship and I’m a pastor to boot. But as much as I am thinking about that, I am also thinking about how many religious gays tend not be so interested in being church to others.
Let me explain. One of the driving forces behind creating Community of Grace was to become an Open and Affirming congregation. We thought then (as I do now)that this was important in our Christian witness. I still think it is good for churches to publicly declare they are welcoming of all who pass through their doors. What we did wrong was to leave it at that. We thought if we hung a sign that basically in effect said, “Queers are welcome” that folks would be chomping at the bit to come. That didn’t happen. We placed ads in the local gay weekly and in the resource section of the state gay rights group and again, nothing happened. Very few of my fellow gay friends came to our services. Many had bad experiences with church for obvious reasons and nothing was getting them back to a church.
What I did notice is that at the same time we were having worship services on Sunday evenings, one of the local gay bars was hosting Showtunes. (I know, how sterotypical.) The thing was, people came there and had a beer and chummed around with friends. I had been to a few of these events and could see that people were having a good time.
Something interesting was happening here. Community was taking place. People would meet new friends, people would reconnect with old friends and so on.
I sometime think that gay Christians who are involved in advocacy groups within various denominations are doing a good job working for justice for gays. But while they are doing a good work, I worry that they miss something. Time and time again, I have heard some activists say that this decision will in effect, bring gays back into the church. But the fact is, even if there are gay clergy who can freely serve God, or a place where gay members are accepted, many mainline churches still lose members. I tend to think that part of the reason is that many of us are still stuck in the old view of church as some kind of holy Lion’s club. But the fact is, many gay men and lesbians are still passing us by.
I think those of us who work for inclusion in the church only have it half right. Yes, we have to work for justice, but the God we serve also wants to share the Gospel with others in the local setting. I think we need to do more to go into the places where our gay brothers and sisters live and be church to them. It means sharing the Good News in word as well as in deed.
Community of Grace was right in trying to be Open and Affirming. But that alone is nothing more than getting Mohammed to the mountain. The thing is, a culture where the church doesn’t have the same cultural pull it once did, you need to bring the mountain to Mohammed.
I wonder what would have happened if we had Bible Studies at some of the local bars. I don’t know if we will ever know, but I do think that any new church has to be different. We have to be in mission to and with the local community and not simply think that we can attract gays by saying we like them.
Just some thoughts before bed…