come out come out: WWSS (what would sweetie say)

This post is a part of an ongoing set of posts that is an email exchange between a friend and me. See here and here and here and here (in that order) for previous posts and comments (or just scroll down to earlier posts, but don’t miss the comments). Thank you SO much for lending your voice to the conversation.

So, have you wondered to yourself: WWSS (what would sweetie say) about all of this? Well, wonder no more. This is what she has to say, offering her 2 cents, to this conversation.

Thanks everyone for this great and challenging conversation.

Reading through all this made me go back and actually look at our soapbox sermon where this all started. A couple of things strike me:

My main point in my part of the sermon was to give back the gift that the Porch has given to me. I noted that our sermon stemmed from Doug’s request to answer an email about the Porch, “because he thought it would be better to have an answer from people within the community rather than his answer.”

I like that you, Doug, walk your talk. I know what I will get from you. You don’t claim to be chief-in-charge and you are consistent in your words and actions. You have opinions and you say what you would or will do. And you often encourage me to have my opinions and do what I would and will. I think the set-up of the Porch as a holistic community and the style of Doug’s leadership (as well as other structures at the Porch) are critical pieces for this conversation. If SP was a church that was organized hierarchically or more traditionally, with an “I’m the leader” leader at the helm, I might want more of that from Doug. But that’s not what I was told I’d get, it isn’t what I find, and so it is not what I expect. When considering the Porch, I think it’s important not to compare with general notions of “church.” Things—big, important things—get lost there. It’s hard for me to hear “churches should …” and lump the Porch community into that. It just doesn’t work for me—and that’s a faith challenge that I need and one that is helping me to grow in new ways.

I am struggling with things said here about the responsibility and call to all Christians to advocate for and act on behalf of the oppressed. That seems right-on to me, but I can’t translate that into a need for the Porch to generate a public statement of LBGTQI affirmation. I wouldn’t be upset if a public affirmation happened, but it feels like a plasticized version of something already going on at the Porch … hmm, I’m not sure I can explain this thought-feeling. It’s what I was trying to say in our sermon here:

“The porch community seems like the most real expression we’ve ever had of real people struggling with real issues, celebrating real joys, and actively practicing Christianity in a real way–in spite of and along with whoever each of us are.”

In my re-reading of our sermon, I also noted that our whole email (and sermon about it) was predicated on the fact that we couldn’t—or wouldn’t—answer the question posed: “if the porch was gay and lesbian friendly and accepting” in a simple way. Rachel said, “I hope its okay, but the best way for me to answer is a sort of a round about way.” Here is another place where big important things about the Porch community would be lost had we simply said, “yes: the Porch is gay and lesbian friendly and accepting.” Our roundabout story is more authentic, more compelling, and contains both the happiness and love we feel and the warning: if you need a public statement, you won’t find it. But the people are awesome and that’s worth coming to see for yourself.

I love what Adam C. says. Right on, Adam.

I find these conversations to be much like trying to convince people who don’t like Brussels sprouts that they are really good. No amount of butter, bacon, and cheese in the world is going make someone like them if their taste buds say otherwise. We all need things from our communities—some we can choose to go without, some we can rationalize away, and some we won’t live without. Rachel’s conversation partner says, “I am no longer willing to be in communion with people who won’t take a stand for the oppressed.” Awesome to know and articulate what you must have. We should probably all spend more time figuring that out and going places where we find what we need.

The one thing I believe will change the world on LBGTQI issues is young people: kids and youth. And they aren’t reading the Web site or the church sign. They are watching and asking questions. Young people—like all of us—are taught to hate and taught to believe.

I’d much rather have all the folks at Solomon’s Porch commit to monitoring and directing the media intake of children (theirs and any with whom they have influence), reading to them, telling them about the world with open minds and hearts, and answering their questions, rather than forming and publicizing statements of affirmation. I hope that Sweetie and I are doing our part to create a better world by holding hands at the Porch and giving joyous sermons. I hope some kid notices.

Random reflections of Ratchet. [editors note: that’s what we call her at SP and in the company of good friends] Thanks again everyone for this good thinkin’. I’m pretty sure Jesus would like it—all of it—and that the Holy Spirit is moving here.

10 thoughts on “come out come out: WWSS (what would sweetie say)

  1. Right on, Ratchet.
    Fascinating conversation. We are all on different points of our journey with different needs and different gifts to offer. But we all have responsibilities about how we behave, and children and youth take note – far more carefully that the average adult suspects. I thank God for parents who taught me complete acceptance of all human beings. I remember hearing the “humans are humans” lecture around the same time I was learning the “no means no” thing. The blessing was that I didn’t get too many mixed messages from my folks. They walked their talk. I try to, too. I think you and Rachel and most of the folks at SP strive to do that, too. Blessings, and thank you.

  2. I know for sure my kids are noticing. We have lots of gay people in our lives, but you two are one of the only couples they see on a regular basis and they watch how you love each other and respect each other and compliment each other and partner with each other. I love that what they see first and foremost is not a lesbian relationship or a political or theological statement but a healthy, beautiful marriage, one that is everything I hope they find one day.

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  4. Right on my people!!! I personally am wired for definitive statements and structured environments.I am also acutely aware of how hard the ground is on various locations of my face from years of repetitive face planting due to the limitedness of the absolute in the realm of relationships and love. I have been at SP for 10 years and for one who “needs” structure to feel safe, SP are the people that have participated in my life and I in theirs, in the only way that has brought health and stability to me. Calculate that! The blessing and Kingdom of God is that I and my entire family aren’t handed a statement, but get to live out this very complex conversation we call life with people like you. My kids can learn words, but we still have to teach them what they mean. Thanks Friends!!

  5. Hi folks,

    My dear friend Rachel invited me to jump in to this vitally important, truly awesome conversation she’s hosting, and I just spent some time getting caught up on all the wise, faithful, authentic, insightful conversation that’s been going on here. I sort of said to Rachel before I even read the comments or this latest post: I can’t help but feel as if it’s all already been said. Y’all are doing an amazing job of teasing out the real and important and serious complexities of these issues. And then I read Ratchet’s thoughts, and feel like she So. Totally. Nailed it.

    So I’ll just comment briefly, FWIW, but the main thing I want to say is that this conversation has given me a tremendous amount of respect for all of its participants. (Well, some of y’all I already knew and deeply respected.) 🙂 It’s a privilege and a source of hope to be able see this kind of discourse. This is how the church is supposed to argue, I think.

    So the only thing I feel like I could *maybe* add a little more clarity on is an issue which I think Ratchet, Rachel, Jules, Adam C., and others have already touched on beautifully, and that’s the concept of a “church statement” (about *any* issue or topic) and how it relates to a community like the Porch. I’m not all that familiar with the Porch – I attended once when I was in the Twin Cities several years ago – but I have a goodly number of good friends who are or have been Porch folks, and other connections to the community through the (much smaller, but in many ways similar) community I’m a part of, the Common Table (near Washington, DC).

    The problem with a “church statement” on a given issue – if the church in question is like Common Table (and I believe SP is like CT in this way) – is that there simply is no individual or collective body within the church that has the authority to make such a statement. I think it’s about authority, and many “emerging churches” view authority in a way that’s really strikingly different from most other kinds of churches, be they evangelical or mainline, liberal or conservative, liturgical or charismatic, or however you want to slice up the Body. In most churches, today and historically, there have been authority structures in place which enable one person (the pastor), a group of people (pastoral staff or a church board or whatever), or 51% of the people (democratic voting) to speak on behalf of the entire body. In many emerging churches (definitely CT, and it sounds like probably SP too), this is simply not the case. No-one is authorized to speak on behalf of all of us. It’s just not how it works.

    Now of course, to a certain extent that’s hogwash. CT and SP both have websites, and we say stuff about ourselves on those websites. SP has a pastor (CT doesn’t), and no matter how much he disclaims the authority to do so, people inevitably see Doug as speaking for SP. But still: my sense is that Doug can say “I think” or “I believe” all he wants, but is much more limited (like, maybe completely limited) in his ability to say “SP believes” – due to the very nature of the community.

    In other words, Doug, or the SP church board (I forget what y’all call it), or any body within SP would be no more able to make a definitive statement for the entire community than the US Senate would be able to pass a law unilaterally without the House or the President. That’s a poor comparison, but my point is: it just doesn’t work that way. Doug can make a position statement that represents Doug, and he can make a descriptive statement that describes his experience of SP, but *no-one* can make a position statement that represents SP as a community. The mechanism, intentionally, just doesn’t exist. (Part of the genius of Adam C.’s proposed statement in a comment on the previous post is that it is descriptive, not positional.)

    That said, I know that as a straight ally myself, I have been *deeply* convicted lately that I need to be much more intentional about making my personal positions public so I can make a difference. I imagine that the same is true of Doug and other straight allies at SP. We should all get off our arses and do that. Now. And as others have suggested, it sounds like there are opportunities at SP for folks (especially straight allies) to organize in like-minded groups and start speaking and acting in ways that are more powerful than what an individual can do. But that’s up to y’all.

    And that’s all I have to say. Again, thanks to all involved for such an exemplary conversation.

    Mike Croghan

  6. I feel like I’m being that stubborn obstinate kid who won’t quit banging her drum. I’m sorry! I’m doing my best to understand where folks are coming from, to listen, and I don’t mean to keep trying to make you eat brussel sprouts if you’re just not going to like them. 🙂 After this, I’ll take myself out of the conversation, because while I do feel that I’m being heard, I don’t want to keep pushing myself in. I really RESPECT what the SP community is trying to do and thank you for your graciousness in allowing me to be here. If any individual does want to dialogue with me further, you can email me: ajkilleen [AT] gmail [DOT] com.

    But there’s one (set of) question(s) I keep trying to bring up that I feel like is being sidestepped:

    Does the SP community see injustice as a systemic problem? If so, is the best response to injustice still only within an insular community and individual people? How does society change? What role does/should SP have in changing the larger world? Would Jesus want churches to have a role in working for change in the larger world?

    I guess I’m not really looking for an answer to any of these questions here on this blog. More than anything, I hope this starts a conversation within the SP community on some of these issues. In the meantime, the rest of us here on the outside will continue waiting, watching, and hoping: because it’s effectively issues like these that keep people like me out of your community.

  7. I’ve really enjoyed the conversation and hearing the different point of views and suggestions. The greatest thing is that this has remained a respectful and civil dialogue – that alone is a testimony to be proud of.

    It is wonderful to hear how SP practices inclusion within their community but I am still hoping that SP will brainstorm to try and come up with creative ways to allow their inclusivity to reach beyond their own walls to inform and change the world we live in.

    I thought Adam C’s statement was beautiful and that perhaps others might want to craft their own short statement about this issue and SP could share those statements when the infamous question is asked or share them on their website somewhere.

    I feel that Alison asks a very important set of questions

    “Does the SP community see injustice as a systemic problem? If so, is the best response to injustice still only within an insular community and individual people? How does society change? What role does/should SP have in changing the larger world? Would Jesus want churches to have a role in working for change in the larger world?”

    IMO these questions should be thoughtfully answered…not so much here (although that would be great and I would enjoy that conversation) but within our communities of faith.

  8. Alison,

    You are most certainly not obstinate, and I am grateful for the drum your are a’bangin’. The questions I am still chewing on were in your comment two posts ago (not to ignore your current question, I just take a long time to percolate in thought):

    “My question is this: does Solomon’s Porch exist only to be the church for its insular community, or does it also wish to be a Church for the larger world? Does it want to have a public face, or are its positions only available to the people who attend church there? And perhaps more broadly: is the Church/are Christians called to change the world? And more importantly, how?”

    I’ve been thinking about your questions a great deal. Here is some of what I have been thinking about. And please, don’t leave the conversation. I am grateful to have a new friend/voice in the mix.

    Each week at SP we say some words together at the beginning of our gatherings, and then again towards the end. They say something like “for the benefit and blessing of all the world.” We say these words–along with a bunch of others that give this litle blip more context than I can remember off the top of my head–as our opening prayer/call and response/gathering kick off and again right before we share communion with one another.

    So does SP exist only for the community itself–no, we exist to be a benefit and blessing to the whole world. I think more than almost any community I have been a part of, we recognize and realize our interconnectedness, and it is from that place *exactly* that we are unable to make blanket statements as a community. What I hear Ratchet and others are saying is there is no “there there.” SP is not a “church” which is perhaps why the questioning is so frustrating. I mean it is, under the law. And it sure does look, smell and talk like one, but really, it isn’t.

    I have come to think of it as more of a co-op of sorts, like the Wedge or the Seward Co-op perhaps. Just go with me for a second. Does a co-op exist just for its members? No, of course not. It wants to be a voice for holistic food, local farmers, real food, and meeting the needs of the people who are in its community. It is one part of a larger system–but still operates at a very local level.

    You ask about a public face: of course a co-op has one, as does SP. But just being a co-op does not mean that each one you walk into will look the same, act the same, care about the same farmers, issues and types of people. In a good co-op it is the strength of its members and the community to listen and know what the needs are, as diverse as they can be and respond to those needs/ideas, even as they shift and change. And so it is likewise with SP being equated to a church instead of a co-op. The system, the heirarchy, the whole structure is not built to support labels or definitions, but people and lives.

    I hear you, our friend and others asking about what SP believes about X Y or Z. I don’t know for sure but, I think it is possible that there may be as many beliefs as there are are covenant participants (what other communities would call “members”).

    What I can say for sure:
    – I personally have no reservations or fear about inviting people into checking out SP.
    – SP is a community where actions DO often speak louder than words.
    – Yes, it might take some personal risk to step into the space and be vulnerable.
    – And no, its not for everyone. Its messy, and often you can hear someone yelling “clean up in isle 5!”

    But I can also say this: what you will hear shortly after the voice calling for the clean up will something like that of a herd of animals, shaking the ground beneath them, moving towards the center of the pain, the need, the joy and/or the love.

    Also, because this is my first comment in the bunch, I want to echo what I have heard all along, on and off line: I am SO grateful for this kind of dialog, this sort of loving, Ubuntu-esque conversation. from the bottom of my heart, thank you. More to come…

  9. This is part of a comment that my good friend e posted on fb- “The heart and strength of the Porch is the defense and tolerance of individual belief, especially when it contradicts our own.” This sounds and feels a lot like equality for all to me. If so, the question thats been rolling around in my head is: When is equality not good enough? Isn’t this what we are striving for?

    The statement: “We believe in God and strive to live in the Way of Jesus.” leaves the door wide open. Brothers and sisters who disagree with homosexuality ( or anything else for that matter ) are invited to: learn about the Bible, give and receive Communion, lay hands on each other during a prayer, eat fabulous meals with friends, look into each others eyes, struggle with each others beliefs, etc… together in community with those they disagree with.

    I think it’s in that healthy tension where our ideas are challenged and changed one way or another. I also think its more productive than taking a stand on one of many issues and pushing someone out of the circle. Especially someone who needs to change. 😉

    That is not to say that those within the community who wish to take a stand are not allowed to. Organizing and figuring out a healthy way to let Queer folks know that they are welcomed, may be well worth the time invested.

    I would personally like to start the “Move the A in LGBTQA to the front” campaign. They are the only ones in that acronym who have a choice.

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