Its probably the angriest I've ever been in a congregational meeting.
We were discussing the ELCA's decision to allow LGBTQ people in committed relationships to serve as pastors in our Church. Hot button topic. What provoked my anger was when a woman, having just cited Romans 1:26-27 as definitive proof that homosexuality was sinful, asked me what the Biblical basis for the ELCA's decision was.
What followed was an incredibly forceful presentation of Paul's full argument and presentation of the Gospel from Romans 1:16 through 8:38 & 39. From "noone who is righteous" to nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. What provoked my anger was the assertion that because something/someone was sinful, it somehow precluded them from service in the Church. My own sinfulness was probably on full display as I came out with both barrels blazing.
It was a difficult time for our Church as many people chose to leave the Church as a result of the change of policy that welcomed gay & lesbians in committed relationships into the ministry of the Church. And some of the people who stayed were somewhat embarrassed by the decision. It was seen as a great liability. We all, in some way, find ourselves seeking to discern our response to such a bold action by our church.
The art of ministry is in taking what is a liability, and turning it into your greatest asset.
And so I find myself, now serving in a new parish, wanting to do just that. We have one of those reader boards out by the road. I'd love to start posting things on it like "Yep, we're that Church who welcomes all, and we mean all."
Currently, I've been greatly impacted by my experience in AA. It's a most inclusive fellowship. "The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking." From pastor to prostitute they come. Some sober, some drunk, they come. Some never have a drink again, others are in and out of the rooms over the course of a lifetime. But they come. And everyone is welcome. We have a common problem, and there is a common solution. "My name is Dave, and I am an alcoholic."
I wonder if the Church ought to be a bit more like AA in that regard. The only requirement for membership is a desire to grow spiritually. Or the only requirement for membership is a desire to be forgiven.
"This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them."
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, *
and renew a right spirit within me."
When we hear that Jesus welcomes sinners do we think of others, or ourselves? When we hear David's prayer "Create in me a clean heart, O God." are we thinking of others, or ourselves? The answer in both cases should be both. We have a common problem and there is a common solution. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and all are saved by the God's grace.
What part of the word "all" do we not understand?
No one is righteous, no, not even one.
What part of the word no one, do we not understand?
And nothing can separate us from the love of God.
What part of the word "Nothing" do we not understand?