Monday, December 30, 2013

I Couldn't Invite Him

It's no secret that I love God and I love equality and I believe strongly in the faith based ideal of perfect love for all people.

This past weekend, we had a playdate with a schoomate.  This little friend has 2 dads.

One of the dads and I hung out together for the 3 hours of playtime at a local bounce house play place.  And we talked and talked and talked.

And it occured to me that the topic of church could (and did) easily come up - my involvement in my church is pretty central to my life so it often comes up in conversation.

And in most any daily interaction, I could easily work in a little sidebar invite to come visit my church, if you happen to be looking.  

But if it came up... would I be willing to invite this gay couple to my church?

In most ways - absolutely yes.

But in a really big way... no.  Because my church is part of a denomination (United Methodist) that doesn't yet take an inclusive stance on homosexuality.  We've got a rule book for the denominiation (The Book of Discipline) that clearly states that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.

More specifically, the Book of Discipline makes it clear that anyone can be part of the church as a member.  You can take Communion, be baptized, become a member, attend service, be involved.

However, if you're gay, you can't become ordained, can't be a minister.  And if you are an ordained minister in the UMC, you cannot perform a marriage ceremony for gay couples.

I strongly disagree.  So why do I stay?  The main reason I remain a Methodist is that there are many others who also disagree.  And because I believe in the message of doing all the good I can.  And because I believe in the Greatest Commandment - to love others.

I am mostly confident that my church would be accepting of this family into our fold.  There may be some disapproval.  But I think, I hope, I pray that people would invite them in with open arms and open hearts.

But in my heart, I knew I couldn't look someone in the eye who might be new to this God thing, who might have been burned by a church before, who may have had someone use Christianity against them, to enter the doors of a a faith that sees them as incompatible with Christian teaching.


I think that is a terribly harmful word.  Incompatible.  Conflicting.  Opposed.  Irreconcilable.

Can you imagine being told that you are so different that you aren't compatible with your church?  With God?

I struggle in my faith in this aspect.  Why wouldn't I leave my church and go to a church that is inclusive?

Because I love these people.  I love the tenets the United Methodist church was founded on.  I love the lessons of John Wesley in partnership with the teachings of Jesus.  I love my church family.  I love the specific church that we attend and the people who are part of it.

But I very sadly feel like I can't invite anyone to my church.  Well, I can invite anyone to the church that I attend.  But I don't feel like I can invite anyone to become a United Methodist.

And that breaks my heart.  Because God is attainable by everyone.  God loves everyone.  As they are, as He created them.  And if God can love unconditionally... shouldn't I at least try?

Here is what I know absolutely.

No one, absolutely no one, is incompatible with God.

So as I sat with this young man... I knew that if it came up, I could and would talk to him about God.  And that he is loved, just as he is.  But I didn't think it would be fair to ask him to visit a denomination that considers him incompatible.  Especially after we had talked about the fears he and his partner had faced when starting the public school... would they be able to make friends with other parents?  Would parents not include their child because he has 2 dads?  Would the teacher or school treat them differently?  Knowing he already faces these fears in regular, everyday circumstances made me so sad... these are worries I don't have to face because my family fits every societal "norm" that there is, it seems.  White, suburban, straight, 2 kids.

Entering the doors of a church can be such a hugely intimate thing, a big and scary thing.  To already have a level of additional fears and concerns and worries about the judgement on the other side of the doors... judgement that feels insurmountable...

It's a struggle that I continue to pray about.  Because that's all that I really can do.



Unknown said...

I agree with you that "No one, absolutely no one, is incompatible with God."

I want to point out that the UMC's Book of Discipline says that the "practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching (para. 304.3, emphasis mine)," a statement that meshes with my church's teachings (Catechism 2333 and 2357, It is not them, as persons, that is the issue.

Inviting a stranger or acquaintance to church with you can most certainly be an intimidating prospect. I rarely ask anyone to go to Mass with me unless I know them rather well, because it can be confusing and boring from a superficial view, and because until recently I would have been hard pressed to answer many questions about it.

Eternal Lizdom said...

And I think that is the main area of the argument, yes? Because I see your sexuality as part of who you are. I can no more control my sexuality than I can control my skin color or how tall I am.

To me, telling someone it's ok to be gay but because God made you gay, that means you will have to forever be alone... would be akin to saying that I know you have blue eyes and that means you can't ever be in love with someone else.

Alison said...

You can keep writing about it, too. You remind me that there is more than one face to Christianity.

Someday, when I see church marquees that say "All are Welcome," I want to believe it. Because "tolerated" is not the same as welcomed.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this wonderful post. I am a gay non-practicing Catholic man, who has lived with my partner for over 30 years. I can tell you that there is an intense spiritual hunger in the gay community. Hopefully, somehow, someway, a Christian denomination will find a way to welcome and embrace us.

Karen M. Peterson said...

I understand completely what you're talking about here, Liz. People assume that because I'm a Mormon, I hate gay people. Nothing could be further from the truth. And yet, I feel like I can't share one of the most important things in my life with some of my friends because of that perception.

It's hard.

But things are changing. I can feel it.