Friday, March 6, 2015

Align Yourself With Love

I spent too long staring at a blank page this morning, trying to figure our what I want to say about the Just Church Resolution, which was submitted earlier this week.

Why? Because honestly I just want to say AMEN! and click PUBLISH.

I think Joanna Harader sums up many thoughts and feelings that I share when she writes:
I believe clear and strong language is needed. Those who support exclusionary policies tend to invoke “sin” and “clear Biblical teaching” while advocates of inclusion use phrases like “differing perspectives” and “congregational discernment.” This can give the impression that those who wish to exclude LGBTQ people are passionate and convicted and Biblical, while those of us who seek full inclusion just have a kind of quirky idea about church we’d like to try out if you don’t mind. 
We don’t want inclusion because we think it might be a good idea. We want inclusion because we passionately believe it is what Jesus wants for his church. We believe inclusion is supported by the witness of scripture. And we believe that as long as the church—which we love—continues to teach false doctrine regarding sexuality, it sows damage and despair in the world rather than healing and hope. That is what we believe. And we are allowed to say it. And it might hurt some people’s feelings. And that is OK.
I’ve signed on to this resolution, and I hope you will consider doing so, too.

In the coming months there will no doubt be lots more conversation about this topic. I admit, lately I’ve chosen to tune some of it out. In my focus on local church concerns, reading open letters and opinion pieces and arguments in comments sections has been too much for me, time-wise, but also emotionally and spiritually. I’ve chosen to keep my head down and do the work in front of me.

As we get closer to convention in Kansas City, though, I’m lifting my nose from that grindstone.

I’m tired of talking in veiled terms. This week I looked backed at my last column for MWR and thought, “Do people even know what I am talking talking about there?” When I ask, “Are we really willing to turn our backs on God’s family, on our own spiritual kin?” does it occur to anyone that I am calling out this history of violence and exclusion? As a church, we have turned our backs on our kin, and it is long past time to repent. A 600 word column rarely leaves me room for such specificity, but I’m being specific now: based on the way we’re behaving as a church, it appears we’d reject Jesus himself if he walked through our doors. Our unmarried, unexpected, dark skinned, queer savior from the wrong part of town -- a God who resists classification and binaries, divine and human, a union without confusion, who calls us to love one another with our whole hearts -- would his body be welcome among us?

As Joanna said, we believe inclusion is supported by the witness of scripture. Surely no Mennonite reader here is surprised to hear me say that; you all keep asking me to write about the bible, after all, so you must know I take it seriously. Though I’m uncomfortable with the language of “calling” for more reasons than I can count, I know this: in some inexplicable way I have felt for a long time, and continue to feel, called to be a righteous pain in the ass to people in power when it comes to the exclusion of LGBTQ folks.

Causing trouble is sometimes godly work.

I am a radical feminist, not the fun kind, as Andrea Dworkin once said, and I’m grateful for the Just Church Resolution, which doesn’t mince words, but gets to the heart of things, confessing our corporate sins -- the violence of which we are guilty -- and proposes a way forward.

How many times have I been welcomed by those who are not welcome in many of our churches? My whole life. My whole life, it seems, I have received the love of those the church I hold dear rejects. If that does not break my heart, what can? If that is not a reason to do the hard work required for change, what is? I am committed to this work for the sake of others, but for my own sake, as well. I continue to feel that my life depends upon it. Isn’t that how it should be, in the body of Christ?

I wonder often whether I might someday be a pastor in this denomination. In recent months, I confess I have despaired as to whether that hope might ever become reality, of whether MCUSA is a place that would empower me to serve faithfully, or whether I will continue to choose, as I do now, to explore ways of ministering without formal credentials. I want the freedom to love as I believe I am called to love.

We are, supposedly, a church that embraces a diversity of opinions. While it breaks my heart that there are churches in my own denomination that would never hire me because I am a woman -- much less a young, single one who loves Taylor Swift, Judith Butler, and bowties -- somehow, in a way that is beyond my own comprehension, I love that those congregations and mine can coexist. (I still pray constantly that y’all will open your eyes to women’s gifts of preaching and pastoring, but that’s a topic for another day.) Women’s leadership is a separate and not perfectly analogous example, but it highlights the question I am left with today: If we can bear with you, can you not bear with us?

There is nothing I want more in this moment than for MCUSA to commit itself to care for those who identify as LGBTQ. We can do this, and we should. So please, sign your name. Have the courage to align yourself with love.