Gosh, who would have guessed the conversation could be so civil, so productive, huh? I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. I’m grateful that you have allowed the conversation to be out in the open, and huge thanks to everyone who has joined us for the discussion.
I think a few points have bubbled to the top for me, and I thought I would just throw them up against the wall like spaghetti and see if they stick.
What is the role of the “church” vs. the role of the the individual when talking about coming out? What does a hard and fast (or even soft and cuddly) statement of faith do for and to a community, other than exclude or include depending on where you self identify—right or left, conservative or liberal, black or white? I love the way Peter Rollins talks about it when he says:
The apostle Paul once famously remarked that in Christ Jesus there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. He does not say that there are both Jews and Greeks, both slaves and free, both men and woman. Rather this new identity with Christ involves the laying down of such political, biological and cultural identities. This is not an expression of ‘both/and’ but rather ‘neither/nor’. Today this idea can seem almost offensive to our ears. In many churches we find flags proudly hanging in acknowledgment of our nationality and we seek to express our political and religious ideas as a vital and irreducible part of who we are. But what if the church is called to provide a space where, just for a moment, we encounter one another as neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free? And what if Paul didn’t just mean these three categories, as if all the others remained intact? What if he was implying that there is neither black nor white in Christ, neither rich nor poor, neither powerful nor powerless? What if we could go even further and say that the space Paul wrote of was one in which there would be neither republican nor democrat, liberal nor conservative, orthodox nor heretic?
What if the role of the church was to be that suspended space, set apart from the rest of the world, or perhaps to even practice how we live that sort of neither/nor beyond the confines of the community gathered? Also, I love that Kati was the one to call SP a “queer-friendly” church. But even her saying that made me feel funny.
Alison asks some really challenging questions: what role does SP have in changing the larger world? Then essentially she asks: WWJD? (“Would Jesus want churches to have a role in working for change in the larger world?”) Now, without falling into the trap of one person speaking on behalf of the whole community (which was really well put in your comment Croghan) I think it is the one place we are really good about saying what we as a community of faith are about and how we imagine ourselves working for change in the world—in both word and practice. While it isn’t an exhaustive list, I like “Our Dreams.” Vague, yes, perhaps. But I know I can see myself in many of those bulletpoints. And I bet the way that I see myself looks different than somone else in the community.
If the community of Solomon’s Porch were to make a public and worded statement about LGBTQI people, I have to wonder, what would change? Not just externally, but within the community that exists? There is a point where I find it really hard to ask someone/something to do something, if I myself am not willing or able to walk along side and offer my support to the change. This I think is the stuff I am wrestling with. I hear the desire to have every single church take a stand—but is taking a stand what God asks of us? I am just not sure about that anymore.
I have been a part of MANY communities of faith in the Twin Cities. Did whether they said they welcomed me make a difference in my walking in the door? Yes, sometimes. Did I send emails asking explicitly if I was welcome? Yes, and sometimes they said yes, but really meant/practiced as a big fat NO. I am not sure about you, but for a long time I’ve become quite good at being able to read between the lines when a church’s statement of faith/purpose/belief/______ reads “your kind ain’t welcome here” or on the flip side “look you bigoted jerk, we love everyone, deal with it.” At the porch I didn’t ask, I just showed up. And I kept showing up. And by showing up I have been not only invited but told to add my voice, which changes the dynamics of the community, which changes the landscape of who SP is. If I had asked and “they” (who is they–Doug? The band who writes our music as a form of expression and language? Is it the artists whose work surrounds the gathering space?) said they were affirming, and I had expectations around that—what would those expectations mean or look like for the community? How are they or aren’t they being met? How much am I responsible for those expectations?
We decided to do a “soapbox sermon” because someone wrote an email to Doug asking if SP was a “gay friendly” church. He passed it on to us to answer (modeling that he is not the chief in charge know it all/has all the answers pastor). We answered the email. That person did show up, once. I have followed up with her, stayed connected on facebook, and generally checked in/lurked on her page to see how she is. She has not come back, I am not sure if she will. Sometimes, that is the way it goes. She is on her journey, just as we all are. I trust that somewhere in the Kingdom/KIN-dom, she will find her place in a community that works for her. I am glad we got to be a small sliver of a place along the way, that could meet her where she was at and say, come, check us out, I’ll sit next to you so you can feel safe.
I’ve got a bunch more stuff rambling around in my head, but I can’t pull it together in a cohesive thought. So I think I’ll just hit the post button and come back for more later.
(Also: Tony Jones posted today what I think looks to be a fascinating conversation, perhaps somewhat related. Check it out.)