In November, I posted about the Diocesan Standing Committee’s survey of vestries and clergy. You can read about that here.
We held a meeting at Grace on November 19. Here’s the letter of explanation I sent to the parish: letteronssbs. About thirty people attended the meeting that was marked by lively conversation and careful listening. The vestry and I sent our separate responses to the Standing Committee after the December vestry meeting. That was all we were asked to do. However, at the November meeting, most of the participants urged that Grace Church make some sort of public statement about our commitment to the full inclusion of LGBT Christians in our congregation and our desire to support their loving and life-giving relationships with the church’s blessing and the congregation’s support and care.
I prepared a draft statement, distributed it to everyone who attended the meeting in November (as well as several who were unable to attend but expressed interest) and to the vestry. We discussed that document at our December meeting as well. I proposed that we have a second meeting where we might discuss the draft statement as well as the next steps we might take. The statement includes the following paragraphs:
There are at least two important reasons for making such a statement. First is a common misconception in our culture that Christianity stands for intolerance and bigotry and that contemporary Christians are united in their strong opposition to LGBT people living out their lives with openness and integrity. The second is that our silence obscures our commitment to the full inclusion of all people in the life of our congregation and our desire to offer the church’s blessing to same-sex couples.
Our silence on this issue means that many Christians and seekers might wonder where we stand. They might not know whether they are welcome to join us for worship or become members of our congregation. Our silence means that our effort to share the love of God in Jesus Christ may be ignored or unnoticed by many of those who are seeking God. Our silence means that LGBT Christians who have been members of Grace may not feel fully welcome or full members of the Body of Christ.
We know that many LGBT people have been deeply wounded by communities of faith that have rejected, denounced, or ignored them. We hope that by speaking out we may extend God’s love to people who need it, that through our witness, we may comfort the broken-hearted and help to heal wounds. Our public statement might be a word of hope to someone in despair.
Even as we express publicly our commitment to welcome and include all people in our common life and shared faith, we acknowledge that there are some among us who have different views. There are some who struggle to understand how the full inclusion of LGBT people is warranted by scripture, tradition, and reason, the three sources of Anglican and Episcopal theology. We want to emphasize as strongly as possible that the inclusion of LGBT people does not mean the exclusion of anyone else. As St. Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28, In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male and female.” We believe that Christ calls us to embody an inclusive community of differing views and perspectives, united by our shared experience of Christ’s love and our coming together as one body in the Eucharistic feast. By modeling that inclusion, we may be a witness of God’s love and God’s beloved community in our deeply divided culture.
The entire document is available here: LGBTstatement_revised_01062014
This is a draft and will likely undergo some revision. In addition, we have not decided how the document will be signed: by the Rector, Wardens, and Vestry? By individual members? By a combination of both?