Them Again: Faithful and Welcoming
John Dorhauer printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Apr 10, 2006 at 10:36:36 PM EST
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I wrote about this newest of `renewal movements' within the United Church of Christ a few weeks ago. There is more to say.

Sometimes I forget how important is this work of exposing attacks on our churches from the right. Many people will contact me each week asking me to stop doing this for one reason or another - and I will confess there is a small part of me that wishes I didn't have to do this.

And sometimes you get to wondering if you are not just seeing things that aren't there because you have been looking for them so hard for so long. You wonder if you aren't as paranoid as your accusers say you are.

But while sitting at our Association Council Meeting last week I was reminded why this work was so important.

We were talking about who was going to set up displays at our upcoming Annual Meeting when the question arose about whether or not we would let a renewal group set up a display. Much discussion followed. But for at least one around the table, this was more than a philosophical discussion: a GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bi, or Trans) pastor of a predominantly gay church. Such churches and such pastors experience these attacks in a whole different way than most of us do. There was real fear, real anger present in the concerns raised by this pastor.

And so, yes, there is more to say about this newest renewal group: Faithful and Welcoming.

At there coming out party held on the campus of Eden Seminary in St. Louis on March 16, right smack dab in the middle of their Power Point presentation, a slide appeared that stayed on the screen for quite some time as Brandon Woosley (the evening's spokesperson of this movement) continued to speak: it read "Faithful and Welcoming... TO ALL!"
I did not add or embellish their presentation of those words at all: the ellipsis, the caps, and the exclamation point are all theirs.

Which means this lie they are telling is done all the more egregiously. Choosing not to sell this particular piece of garbage with subtlety, they want to embellish it with emphasis and fanfare. You see, they will not accept into their membership or fellowship any churches, individuals, Associations, or Conferences that have declared themselves to be Open and Affirming.

A brief interruption, if you please: Open and Affirming is the official designation of those bodies within the United Church of Christ who have voted that when it comes to full participation in the life of their church, they will not discriminate based on sexual orientation. It is how the GLBT community knows that they might be safe, loved, and affirmed when they enter a particular church. (I say might knowing that some churches that have voted to be OnA aren't really experienced as such when gay men and women show up there).

And because the United Church of Christ - in its National Settings, Offices, and through its General Synod - has declared itself to be Open and Affirming, and for that reason continues to consistently support movements, positions, and communities that demonstrate justice for ALL and a welcome... TO ALL! (this group means it), Faithful and Welcoming continues to attack it.

One of the handouts given to those who attended their coming out parties (held in 16 locations throughout the east and Midwest - and Hawaii) is entitled "Crisis in the UCC." For this group, the entire crisis is supposed to have been generated around one sole issue: Open and Affirming. For this reason alone, their welcome is modified so as not to include quite as many as ... TO ALL! would imply. And for this reason alone, the UCC is "in Crisis." Which makes the United Church of Christ a lot like Jesus: we too find people willing to kill and destroy us simply for those whom we choose to love and to whom we choose to extend a less calculated, more extravagant welcome. Kind of ironic, isn't it: a group known as Faithful and Welcoming isn't, and is built to dismantle a group that is.

Are kill and destroy too strong words to use for an organization that is `welcoming' and that purports only to want to renew the UCC?

You be the judge. In their handouts and on their website churches are invited to consider, believe, or enact the following:

·    The primary reason for a church to identify itself as Faithful and Welcoming is to distance the local church from the controversial resolutions and marketing of the national and regional settings of the church.
·    Consider delaying a vote to withdraw until after July 2006 in order to connect with other UCC churches and members who share your concerns.
·    Change your church's bylaws to require acceptance of the UCC Basis of Union with Interpretations, Preamble to the Constitution, and Lexington Confession (I will write something about this soon) by pastors, and to disallow avowed practicing homosexuals as clergy and disallow same sex marriages and civil unions in the church.
·    consider redirecting or designating funds marked for the UCC.
·    Refuse to be intimidated! Note the following clear provision in the UCC Constitution, Article V, Paragraph 18 - which includes this phrase: "Nothing in this Constitution and the Bylaws of the United Church of Christ shall destroy or limit the right of each Local Church to continue to operate in the way customary to it; nor shall be construed as giving to the General Synod, or to any Conference or Association now, or at any future time, the power to abridge or impair the autonomy of any Local Church in the management of its own affairs, which affairs include, but are not limited to, the right to withdraw by its own decision from the United Church of Christ at any time without forfeiture of ownership or control of any real or personal property owned by it."

An organization that announces its primary reason for being is to distance churches from its national setting; that asks churches to delay their vote to withdraw until they all gather together in July; to stop funding the denomination of which they are a part; and to remind churches they can vote to leave any time they want and no one can stop them: I ask you, is this a group hoping to renew, or more intent on destroying the denomination of which they are a part?

I can promise you this: for our Open and Affirming churches and for our GLBT clergy and members, this is much more than a philosophical discussion. They have experienced a lifetime of such vitriol - and it matters not to them how slickly and how subtly the hatred is packaged: it feels the same either way.

Sometimes I think that I could use a Secret Decoding Ring to decipher the real meanings of some of the phrases used in these various organizations.

Open and Affirming= Everyone is really welcome.

Faithful And Welcoming= Everyone except GLBT people and those who love them.

Fair And Balanced= Neither. You must be smoking something to believe that!

Sigh... Great post, by the way.

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