This blog represents the thoughts of the author. While they may reflect the theological position of The Renewal Fellowship, they should not be seen as an official statement.
For the record, I welcome everyone into my congregation, no matter what you’ve done or who you’ve done it with. You are welcome to join with other less-than-perfect people as we confess, pray and worship together.
I welcome everyone because all people are created in the image of God. All people are sinners and require redemption. All sin is equal. With the exception of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, all sin can be forgiven.
I adhere to orthodoxy. Though I once believed differently, I now accept the clear teaching of Scripture that God designed sexuality to be shared only between two people of the opposite gender.
I and a few others of like mind were warmly welcomed at Knox Waterloo a few years ago by people who knew exactly what we believed. Knox Waterloo affirms a different stance on marriage and promotes a different LGBTQi agenda. While I did not agree with what was preached and did not join in with the responsive liturgy or sing the songs of inclusion, we sat respectfully near the back during worship. I took it in and learned something.
Understanding others is essential if we are to love them. Even if we do not agree and never will.
Recently, PCC denominational staff announced a workshop entitled “Rainbow Pathways: exploring LGBTQi2 welcome and inclusion.” It will be led by two individuals: a pastor and social worker who identify as a “Queer Trans Masculine person of faith” and a “femme lesbian.” Here’s an opportunity to hear first-hand how others think, I thought.
Then I read the fine print. It’s aimed at those who not only want to make their congregations “welcoming” but also “inclusive.” In other words, you need to believe same-sex marital unions are in God’s will. And because it’s a small participatory group capped at 20, there’s no way I could simply blend in and observe.
So I wrote to the organizer.
“I considered asking whether I could sit in on Rainbow Pathways, but upon reflection I don’t think that would be appropriate because I’m not sure to what extent I could participate. In good conscience, I have to stay true to how God is speaking to me. Of course, if you are willing to have me sit in as a mostly silent observer, I can do that.”
Anticipating the response, I added this:
“As an alternative, what if you were to offer a workshop for those who adhere to traditional views of sexuality who want to understand the LGBTQ orientation and lifestyle? There are many of us in orthodoxy who do welcome everyone, no matter what, and want to be accepting without agreeing or supporting. The more we hear stories first-hand, the better we can love.”
The response from a Life and Mission Agency staffer came a few days later. Observer status wasn’t going to work.
“I hear your concern about not being sure how much you could participate in good conscience and not every resource is useful in every context in a denomination like the PCC. The nature of this course does rely on active participation in class discussions so it would not be beneficial for anyone registering as a mostly-silent observer,” the organizer wrote.
Fair enough. But it was tacit acknowledgement that those who don’t adhere to revisionist theology were not welcome.
I felt excluded.
The Rainbow workshop is offered in the spirit of healing, flowing from the moderator’s 2018 letter of repentance of homophobia, says the LMA. However, our essential doctrine on sexuality has not officially changed. Rainbow Pathways is offered in a way that suggests otherwise because it carries an ideological barrier.
I would understand if it were developed by a special-interest group. But the organizers are paid by the denomination’s congregations through their Presbyterians Sharing dollars. They are expected to serve everyone. Point 2 in the LMA’s Guiding Statements proclaims that “The Life and Mission Agency will continue to strive to be of service to all congregations.”
To be fair, the organizer did appear to be open to my suggestion for workshop that wasn’t exclusive.
“This course is only one resource and I’m working on compiling others that will be available on the PCC’s website, including an assortment that I think will be in line with your suggestion of highlighting stories from LGBTQI+ people and their experiences,” the organizer added.
In that light, I hope and pray that the “other resources” being developed are not only open to all but are of the same interactive nature. A static resource – such as a booklet or web page or even something spoken and recorded – would not be same thing.
I will extend some grace and wait and see.