December 17, 2017

Another Look: Why Even I Am Welcome at My Church

Everyone Welcome. Photo by Fiona in Eden

An imagined , but entirely possible, conversation:

Concerned Christian: Chaplain Mike, if you were a pastor, would you allow gays to attend your church?

CM: Sure. If they wanted to come to church, why shouldn’t I?

Concerned Christian: Well, doesn’t the Bible forbid homosexuality?

CM: Let’s say it does. Wouldn’t church be a good place for sinners to come? In fact, I can’t really think of a better place.

Concerned Christian: But aren’t you concerned to keep your church pure?

CM: I don’t think I’ve ever been in a pure church.

Concerned Christian: But shouldn’t those who come to church be trying to be pure? To overcome sin? To learn how to walk in God’s ways?

CM: I thought they came to seek Jesus and receive his grace for their lives.

Concerned Christian: Well, of course, Jesus is central, but once we believe in him, aren’t we supposed to change and be different?

CM: I suppose so, but every church with which I’ve been involved is filled with people who have a lot of changing to do. Take my church now: We have some unkind people, some worriers, gossips and others who can’t control their tongues. We have folks who have trouble being honest, some rebellious children and angry parents, people who don’t have their theology straight, lazy people, gluttons, jealous and envious people, some who struggle with pornography, teens who’ve had premarital sex, divorced folks, and probably some spouses who have been unfaithful in one way or another. We have a whole host of sinners at our church! (We even have Republicans! — sorry, that’s a joke.) In fact, I’m pretty sure the only kinds of people we have at our church are sinners. Why should we single out gay people?

Concerned Christian: I don’t think I’d like your church. Sounds like the world to me.

CM: Except you know what? We all come together and Jesus is there. We sing and pray to him, confess our sins. We listen while the Bible is read and preached. We come forward and receive his Body and Blood at the Table. He sends us out forgiven and renewed to love our neighbors.

Concerned Christian: Wait a minute. Are you telling me you would let a gay person take Communion?

CM: Why would I want to withhold Jesus from anyone?

Concerned Christian: Doesn’t the Bible say a person should examine himself before taking Communion?

CM: That’s exactly what it says. People should examine themselves. It doesn’t say I should examine them. That’s why we confess our sins and receive the words of absolution together when we worship.

Concerned Christian: But don’t you think you ought to confront their sin and challenge them to change?

CM: Seems to me the Gospel says God’s kindness leads us to change, and that his grace teaches us to become more like him. I can’t think of a better way of “helping” people than by welcoming them into God’s household, where Jesus is, where the Good News is spoken and enacted in worship each week, and where we try to love each other with forbearance, patience, and mutual service. I don’t think it’s my job to change anybody.

Concerned Christian: Well, I think a pastor ought to be a stronger leader than that. He should preach against sin from the pulpit and have programs and ministries to help people change and overcome sin in their lives. They ought to be warned and challenged and confronted regularly.

CM: Look, I don’t want to sound smug, because I have a lot to learn, but that sounds like trying to control and manage people, and I would rather simply and regularly invite them to Jesus. What you are suggesting sounds more like living under the law than the Gospel.

Concerned Christian: I don’t agree. Give people that kind of freedom and they will abuse it every time.

CM: Maybe you’re right. Thanks for talking. Please know you’re always welcome here.

• • •

Photo by Fiona in Eden at Flickr. Creative Commons License

Comments

  1. For husband and wife, the bridal chamber.
    For gays–a public toilet.
    Looks like your church is in the toilet!

    • Like sooooooo many marriages follow that ideal pattern.

    • senecagriggs says:

      Question: Is the self described gay individual CONTENT with his/her homosexual activities or are they striving against it?

      • Question: is the self-appointed judge of the matter concerned more with the person or the adjective? Because there’s a lot of condescension in the wording of the question that the Gospel doesn’t warrant or permit.

        • Nice!

        • I don’t think so. His question has less condescension in it than your judgement of his question. That is a perfectly reasonable question applicable to all kinds of people struggling with all manner of sin. If something is a sin, repentance is not simply an option for the Christian. It is the way of life.

          • Agreed. However the caps lock and the “self identified” phrasing is condescending. Communication matters as we relate to others rather than sitting in judgement of them. How we understand sin is perhaps less important than how we show love for the sinner – and intentionally include ourselves in that group.

      • senecagriggs says:

        Is it fine if I’m a CONTENTED serial adulterer attending your church?

        • Attending? Absolutely. If you’re not in my church (or any church) you probably have zero chance of hearing a saving word. I might not ask you to teach a class on marriage though.

        • Clay Crouch says:

          apples and oranges

      • Marcus Johnson says:

        Are you going to stand at the front door to the church on Sunday morning and try to assess whether or not people are CONTENT with their sins before letting them in. Just saying, you’re going to have a traffic jam on your hands. Also, I’d suspect you’re not very good at it anyway.

    • Meanwhile trillions of the innocent are unborn each day. When will you step up and say something, Frank?

      • Frank is a known troll who does not engage in meaningful discussion or embody any virtues of Christ.

        Block, ban, report, ignore.

  2. even in aa where every “reforming” alcoholic is welcomed
    there are basic rules laid down to be followed
    and whilst we should welcome each and every lbgt to the saving grace of Christ in the church
    and even though the sacrificial blood of christ is free one should not cheapen it with such disdain as you have shown..

    .

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > and whilst we should welcome … one should not cheapen

      This construct is absurd; if you believe the presence of the guest contaminates your home, you have not welcomed them.

    • Did Jesus cheapen it when he shared the Last Supper with Judas, knowing what he had done and was about to do?

    • Jesus said that contamination was an internal matter, not an external one – and when HE brought accusations of uncleanliness, His main targets were the Pharisees.

    • –> “even though the sacrificial blood of christ is free one should not cheapen it…”

      …by not capitalizing Christ!

    • –> “even in aa where every ‘reforming’ alcoholic is welcomed
      there are basic rules laid down to be followed”

      Perhaps that’s what separates AA from the Kingdom of God, eh? Rules.

      • Don’t kid yourself. God has plenty of rules. Jesus is one of the most stringent teachers of morality in the history of man. Any other takeaway does not come to terms with the majority of his teaching. Of course, he wasn’t one of the most punitive teachers of morality, but he did set the bar way higher than most.

        • I seem to recall His only really emphasizing two…

          • Read more carefully. He gave several lengthy discourses on morality. The two to which I think you are referring is not a reduction of morality, but a summary under which all other morality is assumed. Also worth noting is that he said nothing more than Moses on that count, so if you’re point is that Jesus agreed with Moses, we are still dealing with some pretty strong ethics.

            • “The two to which I think you are referring is not a reduction of morality, but a summary under which all other morality is assumed.”

              Correct, and He was much more concerned about how someone did on those summaries overall than how precisely they fared on the particulars that were important to His contemporaries.

        • –> “God has plenty of rules. Jesus is one of the most stringent teachers of morality in the history of man.”

          Umm…NOT the Good News of any gospel accounts that I’ve read.

  3. Thanks for this Chaplain Mike. My initial response is that the imagined conversation addresses gently and respectfully some common concerns about how the church should deal with the issue of homosexuality. I am not the first to respond on here. Although some will clearly disagree with the view expressed in the post, I hope we will all be able to maintain the same degree of respect in our responses that CM shows in the post. These issues concern real people who are loved by God and by their friends and families and who can be hurt by what is written on here.

    • By all means, JennyT. We should respect those who may hold more traditional views than we may, and those with more traditional views should understand that, when they talk about these things, there are LGBTQ people in the room listening to the conversation who deserve just as much respect.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > We should respect those who may hold more traditional views

        That would be me. My views on human sexuality remain unchanged from my Evangelical days – even ‘worse’ I often feel Evangelicals are missing the point and are too ‘liberal’ in some ways [many things get an unspoken pass] regarding the pelvis.

        *BUT* I don’t see how that translates to adversarialism solely on pelvic issues. I’m also for a high standard of honesty [uh oh!], charity [uh oh!], rigorous standards of conflict-of-interest [Evangelical church I’m looking right at you – I know your dirty insider secrets, I was there], hospitality [ironic!], …

        Being morally rigorous is not a problem. Using the church as the hammer for one’s moral axe-to-grind – and isn’t there always that ONE issue – is the problem. That is not what The Church is for.

        • Honest question after a thought struck me this weekend: is a lot of evangelical pushback against homosexuality because of Adam and Eve? A binary couple, male and female, and clearly only able to be into each other?

          Without that, it seems to me to be a lot more obvious that there are a spectrum of sexualities and probably even genders.

        • –> “I don’t see how that translates to adversarialism solely on pelvic issues.”

          PELVIC issues! Oh, my…that’s hilarious! Love that phrase!

        • Being morally rigorous is not a problem.

          Respectfully, I disagree. Being morally rigorous is not the same as being a person who is has charity and the Holy Spirit and the fruits thereof. In my experience some of the least “morally rigorous” people I’ve known are the most filled with Jesus and shining with grace and love. Neither I nor they would have met the standards you put forth.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > Being morally rigorous is not the same as being a person who is has
            > charity and the Holy Spirit and the fruits thereof.

            I did not say that it did.

            Moral Rigor is something one points at oneself, and no, I do not see a problem with it. Moral Rigor remains something I applaud.

  4. Ha Ha, I thought I was courting controversy dealing with eviloootion…
    Concerned Christian (CC): But didn’t Jesus say John 8; “Go and sin no more…”
    CM: Do you think she never sinned again the rest of her life?
    CC: I’ll be she never committed adultery again.
    CM How about you? Did you go and sin no more?
    CC: Well some things I overcome, but other things I do time after time after time…
    CM: Are you like Paul in Romans 7; 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good?
    CC: I guess I am.
    CM: Well good thing, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1

    • “bet she never committed adultery again” Dag nab it.

    • Nice additional point, Mike! “Go and sin no more” can NEVER be lived up to. And he didn’t condemn her!!!

    • Isn’t this the ‘original sin’ of Augustine and Finney? That if God said “go and sin no more”, God would be a liar if that person weren’t able to literally go and sin NO MORE? Hence, Christian Perfectionism, which is the most logical interpretation.

      Let God be true and every man a liar, etc.

      • Two things:

        Augustine and Finney in the same sentence? Have you lost your mind?
        But seriously, their concepts of sin were radically different. Finney is closer to Pelagius, as you noted above.

        And second: That whole story is quite possibly extra-cannonical. We shouldn’t build dogmatic sandcastles on that sky alone. It’s a great story, but there is good reason to believe it was added later. Best taken with a grain of salt. Kind of like this:

        “Go an sin no more” is not an absolute mandate, so much as, “See, I have forgiven you of this. Don’t do that now.” Because otherwise it might be inferred “See, I have forgiven you of this, therefore it’s ok.” Thus “go and sin no more” is a restating of the “your sins are forgiven:” IOW, that thing I forgave you of is, for the record, a bad thing.

        Of course, Jesus also said “Be thou perfect…” so in one sense, he DOES demand perfection. That’s what the law does. But Christian Perfectionism is theological OCD. Only for those who feel a compulsive need to damn themselves to hell, since they will never be perfect.

        • Yeah I brainfarted and corrected above.

          Extra-canonical is certainly possible, all we have is what Augustine tells us, and we know he’s about as unbiased as the Biblical authors. But Christian Perfectionism is no joke, I’ve known many people who sincerely believe in it. Including the “be ye perfect”. God would be a liar and therefore not God if it wasn’t possible to do what he commanded.

  5. CM, a question: When you ask, Why would I want to withhold Jesus from anyone?, referring to Communion, do you mean anyone who is baptized, or anyone at all?

    • I tend to err toward being generous. It seems to me that differences in interpretation about this tend to revolve around whether or not we should see Jesus’ actions in feeding people and sharing table fellowship with them during his ministry (and not just the Last Supper) as something to be considered when offering Communion. I can see both sides of the argument.

      I see Communion as a family meal, and as such it is most appropriate for the baptized. But what family would sit and eat while guests sat at the table and went hungry?

      • –> “I tend to err toward being generous.”

        Seems like a good direction to err to me. Let God sort it out.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        This is pretty much where I have ended up. I think the best approach is to make a general statement of what we believe Communion is. Being Lutheran, in my case this means we work the phrase ‘real presence” in there and don’t worry too much about it beyond that. This in turn is followed by an invitation without limitation. If anyone who reads the first part and isn’t OK with it, to the extent of not being comfortable taking Communion with us, that’s OK too.

        • Have you met one of those unicorns who thought “I was going to take communion, but then I read their statement, and I thought, ‘whoa, I really shouldn’t go there, even though they clearly don’t mind!'”?

          I mean, they aren’t entirely fictitious, I actually have met a few. But having worked in a church where people who rejected our teaching regularly communed for years, I can’t help but chuckle at the idea that such general statements accomplish anything meaningful. If they don’t have to believe what you believe to commune with you, why bring it up?

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            I’m not sure how the opportunity would arise for me to know one way or the other. We don’t conduct exit interviews asking why individuals didn’t take communion. Nor do we think the point of the exercise is to try to cull out the wrong sort of people, and therefore need to assess the program’s effectiveness.

  6. flatrocker says:

    CM – in the exchange you and the concerned christian seem to share a significant common perspective. Namely that homosexuality is a sin. Both sides in the discussion appear to take this as a presupposition. What you differ on is should that person be welcomed into the church.

    I wonder how different the conversation would have gone if you were to take the position that being a homosexual is not a sin. Or maybe that homosexuality is not sinful per se, but the practice thereof is. These scenarios strike me as a more realistic dialog as opposed to the rather simplistic scene you described.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > These scenarios strike me as a more realistic

      Why? I am confident this exact “simplistic scene” has played out tens of thousands of times. I have overheard it at least a few.

      Perhaps it is regional. CM’s scene is, I am confident, common in the mid-west/’heartland’. Perhaps the the scene you propose would be more common nearer to the coasts? Different churches?

      The fissure between clergy and the congregation seems to be widening every day, across the board.

      Barna group: “Only 8 percent of adults say they are interested in hearing pastors’ views on issues such as same-sex marriage, LGBT rights, abortion, guns, tax policy, climate change, drug policy or religious freedom, …”. I’m not generally a booster for clergy, given my own experiences, but recent conversations and experiences – I have increasing sympathy for where many of them now find themselves. It is so easy to tell *other people* to be courageous.

      Interesting times.

      • flatrocker says:

        > “Perhaps it is regional. CM’s scene is, I am confident, common in the mid-west/’heartland’. Perhaps the the scene you propose would be more common nearer to the coasts?”

        Ah yes, if only those heartland rubes were more sophisticated like their coastal betters. Maybe then we could actually have a conversation of substance. We can only pray.

    • Flatrocker, I think in the conversation CM said “Let’s say it does.” meaning let’s say the Bible forbids homosexuality. My understanding is that he didn’t want to get into that discussion at this time. He perhaps was saying regardless of what you believe about homosexuality we should not forbid anyone to come to church and encounter Jesus there.

      • That’s right.

        • But there is a world of difference between “you are welcome to come here” and “you are welcome to commune here.”

          • Whose difference – yours, the church’s, or God’s?

            • I don’t know about you, but I do not consider myself a member of every religious experience I happen to visit or observe. I’ve never been told to wait outside, but neither to I presume for myself the full benefits of membership in things I do not even understand.

              “Come” means to be physically in the same room for worship. “Commune” means fully partaking in the worship. I’m not sure what you’re missing.

          • Burro [Mule] says:

            There is world of difference between what you allow and what you celebrate.

          • Miguel, I just don’t think its mine to withhold, it’s the Lord’s table. I am not saying I believe it benefits everyone who partakes, as you said earlier re: Judas. However, I think withholding it from those who come takes sacramentalism too far and leads us to think it is our job to protect the table in a way akin to the OT priesthood and temple. I don’t think Jesus is at all worried about contaminating himself by coming into contact with sinners, even unrepentant ones.

            • In historic Christianity, fencing the table has not generally been considered a matter of protecting its purity. It is done for the benefit of the person who comes unprepared.

              Denying someone communion can be an act of judgement in cases of unrepentant sin, but this is also a part of pastoral care.

              Forgiveness does little good to the person who does not think they need it. Paul has a few things to say about that, specifically when it comes to the manner of one’s life. Sure, we are not all to be self-appointed “fruit inspectors” judging who is or is not worthy of the table. Nobody is worthy.

              But for a person who claims union with Christ yet wills to live contrary to his teaching, it is pastoral malpractice to knowingly look the other way.

              • Miguel, I’m just not convinced, and never have been, that the table is the place where church discipline is to be meted out. I don’t see it in Scripture and throughout church history it has led to too many power plays on the part of the clergy. And I do think it has contributed to an overly magical view of the sacrament. Pastoral and ecclesiastical discipline IMO should be taken care of most of the time in private settings, not public worship.

                • The table is exactly where it needs to be meted out. Else it devolves to highly arbitrary lines drawn by political factions. Church discipline must be inherently Christological, or it cannot amount to much more than partisan bickering.

                  And you absolutely do see it in scripture. You just said so in your response to Kyle. Sure, the sin was very specific. But there it is!

                  Saying that it has led to power plays, therefore we shouldn’t do it, is like saying you will avoid food and drink because of fat and drunk people. The misuse doesn’t negate the importance of a right use.

                  There is no form of church discipline that is immune to human sinfulness hijacking it for wrong purposes. But with the table, church discipline means something. If you reject the teaching of Christ, you cut yourself off from him.

                  And yes, it is nearly always, in sacramental and Cathodox circles, to the best of my knowledge, dealt with in a private setting. Excommunication is ALWAYS a last resort, and we strive with tears and pleading for reconciliation in order that it should not get there. Come on, I learned that in dispensational Baptist bible class.

                  • Miguel, I think we’re talking past each other and I think we’re talking apples and oranges when it comes to Paul’s admonitions to Corinth and later church practices of fencing the table. He disciplined them for the conduct of the supper itself not because of sin in their lives or for having a wrong doctrine of the sacrament. In fact these are the same Corinthians he criticizes in the rest of the letter for being worldly and immoral and doctrinally ignorant. Nowhere does the issue of abstaining from Communion come up except in the passage where the abuse of the supper itself is the subject. That’s church tradition not Scripture. You simply don’t see anywhere else in the NT where Paul or anyone else forbids someone from the table because of sin in their lives or a different opinion on the meaning of Communion.

              • Patrick Kyle says:

                Miguel, Save your breath in these threads concerning the Lord’s Supper. Most here believe the Supper is either a commemoration or symbolic. Most of the rest who hold a higher view cannot conceive that misuse or misappropriation of the Supper might incur judgement on those who do that, regardless of what the Apostle Paul says. I guess they think his warnings concerning the Supper are cultural baggage, or an example of superstitious or magical thinking. Or they just can’t accept that the Lord would be so mean as to make them subject to judgement, much less make someone sick or even kill them for blaspheming the Supper. I guess they get a Pass from the Lord for allowing anyone without any examination to rush headlong into the Supper, judgement be damned. Next to Racism and Homophobia, being mean by telling adults that they are unprepared for something or actually have no right to participate in something is the next greatest sin.

                • Good strong position taken, Patrick. Can’t see, have never seen that Paul’s words apply in the way you say they do, however. The Corinthians’ sin was very specific: dividing the Body of Christ by excluding the poor from the communal meal. It was the sin of exclusion, division, lack of love at the supper itself. It bears little relation to what we’re discussing today.

                  On a side note, with your interpretation, if making sure that the Table stays pure and people don’t eat and drink condemnation to themselves, why not make the Lord’s Supper a private affair for the holy and ‘fessed up rather than making it an integral part of public worship where anyone can attend? In early centuries of the church they used to dismiss non-communicants after the service of the Word for that very reason.

                  • Patrick Kyle says:

                    It’s not about ‘keeping the table pure.’ Please drop that trope as it has nothing to do with my comments. It is instead recrimination of my supposed motivations.

                    If it is possible for people to eat and drink judgement upon themselves,’ not recognizing the body’ (However you interpret that phrase.), then it behooves a conscientious Pastor to make sure, to the best of his ability, that no one under his care or visiting his church comes under that condemnation. In my mind one of the chief ways of ‘not recognizing the body’ is to barge into a Church and think you have the right to just go up there, regardless of whether you are a part of the congregation, or give a rat’s ass about the doctrines of that particular church. This is the epitome of ‘each one eats his own meal first.’ not respecting or regarding the congregation or it’s beliefs.

                    By your own admission you would not keep the rude and inconsiderate towards the Church or the poor from the Communion table anyway because ‘It’s the Lord’s Supper, not yours.”
                    ” 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.” Seems to me this deserves more thought than, “Y’all just come on up and join us.”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Especially when just the word “Homosexuality” can trigger a psychotic break among Christians.

        “Even the mere mention of the word is sufficient to induce — PANIC.”
        https://youtu.be/EQuieWA3SWY?t=10s

  7. CM,
    Though most here are discussing the issue of homosexuality, it seems to me that there is a larger issue here than homosexuality and that is the issue of whether there are any limits on Christian fellowship. My questions are, is there any sin for which you would tell a person he or she is not welcome, or could not partake of the Lord’s Supper / and do you make any distinction between church attendance and church membership? I understand allowing anyone to attend, as long as they aren’t trying to physically harm someone or disrupt the service. Most people I know take that position. However I don’t agree with allowing anyone to be a member regardless of how they are living or what they believe. Homosexuality is an issue which many people here are sympathetic towards, but what if in this scenario the person being objected to was an extreme racist? Or what if he or she was as person that constantly took advantage of poor people for personal gain? Would that change your responses any?

    • Paul seemed most concerned about sins that were actively divisive and/or hurtful towards other Christians or neighbors. These would get the most disciplinary attention from me.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > person that constantly took advantage of poor people for personal gain?

      Heh, that is a large portion of the board of trustees at the Evangelical church I attended. So..
      There is that. They are called “entrepreneurs” and lauded as pillars of the community. I would never support forbidding them communion or even membership. But laying of on the fanboyizm would be appreciated.

      Other people refer to those pillars as slum Lords and the-boss-from-hell.

      • There is nothing new under the sun. A weekly tithe will get you a pew and a free pass.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          The bigger the Tithe, the freer the pass.

          And if the Tithe is big enough that withholding it would bankrupt the church, you can get away with anything. Bought and Paid For.

      • I think those people need to be called out for mistreating others, or at least the preacher should make it clear in his preaching that doing such things is sinful. But it is a trickier matter in that the line between legitimate business and taking advantage of someone just isn’t as clear as say kicking in someone’s door and stealing their t.v.

  8. I loved this so much. Let everyone come to Jesus. Don’t forbid anyone. Isn’t that what Jesus lived out in his life?

    • Amen and Amen

    • +1

    • But let them come to the real Jesus. The one who constantly drives people away by saying hard things. Let’s not sugar coat him in our effort to be more welcoming than he was.

      • His hard sayings had far less to do with morality and far more with the social cost of being His disciple.

        • I think his dogmatic assertions were the toughest to swallow. I believe those were the ones that got him killed.

          However, stringent morality wouldn’t have stood out to a first century Jew. Christian morality may have one-upped the law on some aspects, but it was generally in the same ballpark. They didn’t live with the kinda of postmodern sexual relativity we’re dealing with today. We should expect Christian teaching on sexuality to be much more offensive to our culture than to the one in which Jesus lived.

          You’ll notice the Corinthians had a bit more of a hard time with it than the Jewish believers did.

          • His dogmatic assertions of Who He was got Him killed, not His morality, correct.

            Christian morality may have one-upped the law on some aspects, but it was generally in the same ballpark. They didn’t live with the kinda of postmodern sexual relativity we’re dealing with today.

            So we’re going to put a hold on discussions of economic and social justice (even though the Bible spends FAR more time on those topics) so we can focus on sexual morality? Just asking for clarity…

            • Right, I was referring to his claim to divinity. The Pharisees were mostly in agreement with his morality, and they would be pretty despised for that today.

              Nowhere have I ever said put a hold on one ethic to deal with another. My whole point the entire time is that you have to take it all. I’m hearing a lot more of the “put sexual ethics on hold so we can focus on economic and social justice,” hence my objection.

        • +1

          We love our “hard truth.”
          We love our “boldness.”
          We love our “scandalous gospel.”
          We love our “if people don’t like it, it’s because their rejecting the truth.”
          We love our “tell it like it is.”

          And in loving those things, we miss the fact that the original scandal, harsh truth, telling-it-like-it-is has to do with the fact that grace is available for outsiders, sinners, people in disreputable social classes — namely, us Gentiles. That’s what would get you killed.

          But after 2,000 years of Judeo-Christian influence, forgiveness is assumed, the church is led by Gentiles, so we need to make up something different in the name of boldness so we can feel like we’re being bold, tell-it-like-it-is religious people.

          • You don’t seriously expect the moral teaching of Christianity to be found palatable by every culture, do you? Just because some see a need for a prophetic challenge to society doesn’t mean they get their self-righteous jollies out of it, especially when you consider that the requirements of Christian morality never make anybody look good, but rather, are an elusive target to be continually sought after.

            • Yeah, “loving your neighbor/enemies as yourself” has never been a big priority to any culture. Except that’s what Jesus asks of all of us.

              • You don’t suppose Jesus means anything particular or specific by that do you? Anything at all? Last I checked, people of all stripes were quoting this executive summary to bolster support for just about any moral agenda. But nobody wants to take it within the context of the sum total of Christ’s ethical sayings.

                No joke, I once had a co-worker, who was dishonestly obtaining sex from the single mother next door, say to me, “The Bible SAYS to ‘love thy neighbor.’ I’m just giving her some love!”

                Which may be hyperbolic even for a real life example, but let’s not kid ourselves. We all have our own, special, sacred definitions of what love of neighbor looks like. Nobody likes being beholden to a standard more difficult than comfortable.

                Jesus could have left it with those two sayings. But he didn’t, so let’s not pretend.

                • “The Bible SAYS to ‘love thy neighbor.’ I’m just giving her some love!”

                  “Dude, you’re exploiting her for your own sexual pleasure. Whatever you call that, that’s NOT love.” A little vocabulary clarification goes a long way…

                  Nobody likes being beholden to a standard more difficult than comfortable.

                  Agreed. Which I think is the reason why so many evangelicals want to sidestep the major OT/NT emphasis on social and economic justice. IMHO.

                  • I’m sure some probably do. Everyone has commandments they’d prefer to ignore. In conservative religion, it may be as you say. In the broader culture, it is most certainly issues of sexuality. So one one hand, the church has to be prophetic. On the other, she needs to clean house. This seems to always be the case, whichever the specific issues are.

                    My experience with Evangelicals on the issue of social justice is that they tend to be the most generous people I have known. They just do it on a personal level, not a political one. SJW’s, on the other hand, seem to have precious little tolerance for dissent and call on the government to address every grievance. So I’m not really sure if this caricature of the stingy Evangelical is really accurate, or a popular straw man of the left.

                • In what way was his obtaining of sex dishonest? And what does her being a single mother have to do with it?

            • “the requirements of Christian morality never make anybody look good”

              Are you kidding me? Pursuing the very character of Christ himself doesn’t make someone look good? Being people that are called by the scriptures to have upstanding, above-reproach reputations among outsiders is somehow equated to being unattractive? I don’t understand that at all.

              And I’m sorry, but “getting their self-righteous jollies” is EXACTLY how I would describe some pockets of Christendom. See anyone who video records their street preaching, and revels in their “persecution.” Their are hundreds, maybe thousands, of examples like this. Some of these people feel like they are putting in a better day’s work for the Kingdom when they are being attacked and criticized, rather than actually drawing people to Jesus in a helpful way.

              • Sean, no matter how much we pursue the character of Christ himself (a commendable endeavor, kinda my point), we will always fall short of his teaching. Nobody ought to measure themself by Christian morality and conclude, “I’m doing pretty darned good!” That is completely counter to the entire spirit of it all. After our best efforts, we must recognize that we remain but unworthy servants.

                The people you describe sound to me like fundamentalists. I’m sure that is a very real factor in our religious landscape, but there is a mirror tendency on the other fringe to write off anyone trying to maintain a consistent teaching on Christian morality (the expression of Christ like character) as a narrow-minded fundamentalist who needs to mind their own business.

                I think I’ve seen what you describe very clearly, in people who seem to have something of a martyr complex. However, not everyone trying to keep their church faithful to the totality of Christ’s ethical pronouncements fits that description.

      • –> “…the real Jesus. The one who constantly drives people away by saying hard things.”

        Good grief, Miguel. Who has possessed your body? The people THRONGED toward Jesus. They LOVED the Good News he preached. The ones driven away were the religious leaders who were couldn’t handle the grace and mercy he was preaching.

        • Patrick Kyle says:

          It’s not an either/or but a both/and. Trying to slide by, saying that ‘other sins were worse than sexual sins, so lets not worry about them,’ is a non starter. Though, from the sounds of the comments you guys wouldn’t have any trouble with slum lords or crooked businessmen side by side at the Communion rail with you and the unrepentant adulterers.

          • –> “…from the sounds of the comments you guys wouldn’t have any trouble with slum lords or crooked businessmen side by side at the Communion rail with you and the unrepentant adulterers.”

            My view is this: I don’t care who is side by side with me at the Communion rail. We’re all sinners, whether they’re known sins or hidden sins. Regarding the people you mention….I probably won’t invite them over for dinner, but everyone is welcome to kneel alongside me during Communion. After all, I’m a sinner just as they are, only I have my masks set firmly in place so no one knows how broken I am.

            • You don’t care if the people kneeling beside you at the communion rail are Christians?

              That can’t possibly be what you meant. I’m pretty sure you value evangelism.

              So it DOES matter then, doesn’t it?

              And why exactly are you too good to share a meal with such sinners? Wasn’t the example of Jesus quite the contrary? You’ll share the Lord’s supper with these people, but not your supper?

              I’m pretty sure I don’t have to tell you this, but Rick, you are not just a sinner. You are also a Christian. As Christians, our brokeness is an undeniably real component of our life experience, but it no longer defines our identity. Jesus does.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Though, from the sounds of the comments you guys wouldn’t have any trouble with slum lords or crooked businessmen side by side at the Communion rail with you and the unrepentant adulterers.

            Remember: the Christian vote went 82% for Trump last November.

        • Patrick Kyle says:

          Rick Ro,
          Yeah, except at the end of John 6 or in the Garden before His arrest. Even Jesus chided the crowd on one occasion saying they were there not because of Him, but because they ate the loaves and were filled.

          • Yes. But those were rare instances in the four overall Gospel accounts, and far from Miguel’s “the one who constantly drives people away” comment.

            • Yes, Rick, you got me on that one. Disproportionate I was, in my haste.

              But I highly doubt Jesus hesitated in those moments. He was always true to who he was. He never hated anyone enough to beat around the bush. When something is important, he isn’t primarily concerned if the truth is palatable. I’m sure his personality was nonetheless, when he wasn’t literally cracking a whip.

        • Read more carefully. Jesus did not pander to the crowds. The sick and the lame flocked to him, as did sinners. But he didn’t say whatever it took to keep them around.

          Jesus stuck to the truth whether people liked it or not. Sometimes that put him in agreement with the Pharisees. Other times it made them hate him. Sometimes it drew the crowds thirsting for mercy. Other times it left him with only the 12. Sometimes it cost him his life.

          Jesus is simultaneously welcoming and very exclusive. He’s not going to fit in our progressive-affirming box, nor in a judgmental fundamentalist one.

          Everybody wants Jesus as the poster boy for their cause. Nobody wants to take his word when it cramps their style. This grids my gears. I want a Jesus who doesn’t agree with me all the time. If he did, I wouldn’t need him.

          • –> “Read more carefully. Jesus did not pander to the crowds. The sick and the lame flocked to him, as did sinners. But he didn’t say whatever it took to keep them around.”

            I’m extremely familiar with the gospel accounts of Mark, Matthew and Luke, having just led Bible studies in them over the past several years. While he didn’t pander to the crowds, it is clear that what he was telling them BROUGHT THEM IN DROVES. What tended to tickle their ears mostly, in most of the accounts I remember, was how DIFFERENT he was than the religious leaders at the time. So whatever he was telling them about sin and the Law was so different than the scribes and Pharisees that they came to hear him speak. Take one of his “moral” teachings – “you say that adultery is sleeping with a woman, but I tell you it is EVEN LOOKING AT A WOMAN” – why didn’t that push the common people away? Because it was him saying, “Look, you can’t do the Law! Stop making rules and more rules. This is why you need me!”

            That’s the message we need to convey to people these days, and one that would bring people to him in droves.

  9. For whatever it’s worth, here is the “Invitation to Communion” printed weekly in the bulletin of the Episcopal Church I attend once a month for the Communion and the Said Service:

    “Everyone is welcome to receive communion. There is no one who is too old or too young, no one who has too many doubts or too few beliefs. This is the altar prepared by a loving God for all creation by the power of Jesus Christ. You, who are part of that creation, are welcome.”

    I might quibble with calling the table an “altar”, but it seems to me this says what it says, “Everyone is welcome.” They let me in, never saw anyone turned away. I was once turned away in a Missouri Synod church. Thirty-five years and it still rankles.

    • flatrocker says:

      But Charles it’s not that simple. If you read the “Articles of Religion” which are the doctrinal statements of faith from the ECUSA Church’s book of Common Prayer, we come to the following Articles:

      Article 28: Of the Lord’s Supper – Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.

      Article 31: Of the one Oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross – …Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said, that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits.

      Article 33: Of excommunicate Persons, how they are to be avoided – That person which by open denunciation of the Church is rightly cut off from the unity of the Church, and excommunicated, ought to be taken of the whole multitude of the faithful, as an Heathen and Publican, until he be openly reconciled by penance, and received into the Church by a Judge that hath authority thereunto.

      It would seem from these articles, that a Catholic who openly adheres to the doctrine of Transubstantiation would be in a non-apologetic, non-repentant, open embrace of a belief that is repugnant to Scripture, illicit in the overthrow of the sacrament and superstitious. Furthermore, a Catholic who is a true believer in the tenets of the Catholic Mass seems to qualify as a willing participant in blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits.

      So wouldn’t it then logically follow that, in the eyes of the ECUSA Church, an openly practicing Catholic would also be repugnant, illicit, superstitious, blasphemous, dangerous and deceitful? And doesn’t it also follow that a person in open denunciation of the beliefs of the ECUSA Church (per Article 33) must be cut off from unity with their church until such time as that person openly recants (a.k.a. ex-communicated)? And by definition, ex-communicated means no communion, I would think.

      My question to you (and for Episcopalians/Anglicans in general) is how can the ECUSA, in light of their own Articles of Religion, make a statement of “Invitation to Communion” to an openly practicing Catholic without being completely disingenuous? For a denomination that appears to pride itself on unity and inclusion, open table communion seems to come with a lot of prerequisites for admission.

      • Most Episcopalians, especially the clergy, don’t frankly give a hoot for the dogmatic assertions of the 39 articles, other than to find them an artifact of history. Being progressive means being unencumbered by such historic dogmatic strictures. Also, it is a moot question in the first place, because any faithful, practicing Catholic knows that their church does not permit them to commune with any Protestant congregation, whether that congregation welcomes them or not.

      • I suspect many would say the quadrilateral is more important than the articles. There is a reason the current Book of Common Prayer calls the articles historical documents and doesn’t state they are binding.

        • IMO, everyone does the quadrilateral. We just weight the components differently. Mainline progressives give reason the upper hand, pentecostals give experience greater significance than the rest of us, Cathodox give tradition the final word, and confessional protestantism leans on scripture the most. Evangelicalism kinda floats around between those four, though tradition is probably their least fav.

      • Yeah, Flatrocker, it is that simple. I skimmed over all your doctrinal gobbledygook enough to recognize that it has nothing to do with me nor with Jesus. I am not an Episcopalian, I am a Child of God in service to Him thru the Lord Jesus of Nazareth and answer directly to Jesus as King and Messiah and Brother. I do not answer to you or the Episcopal Church or any other church on this planet. This particular church I attend once a month allows me to attend with no pressure for membership and no strings and welcomes my fellowship. I am allowed to participate in communion along with everyone else with no distinction made. The priest looks me in the eye and says, “Charley, this IS the body of Christ which was given for YOU.” Are you going to deny this to me? Is Miguel? There certainly are a number of churches who would not welcome me to their table, and I do not attend those churches. Let them explain their exclusion as best they can on the other side when their term on this planet is evaluated. I don’t have time for such foolishness.

        • But Charles, it’s not “my” doctrinal gobbledygook. It’s simply the doctrinal statements from a church that prides itself on its open table communion. My point is not about your personal relationship with our Lord, nor on the absence of any potential for a practicing Catholic to partake even if it was available.

          My question involves the inconsistency and somewhat disingenuous offer that this church makes when it states “Everyone is welcome to receive communion.” Their very own Articles of Religion are seemingly in conflict with their inclusiveness and supposed open table.

          Miguel’s and Erp’s response above was more to the point on how the ECUSA actually reconciles this perceived conflict – by simply ignoring their doctrinal foundation. Problem solved. Which probably leads to another discussion on what doctrinal foundation the ECUSA actually does stand upon – but that’s for another time.

          If I have touched a nerve, my apologies. This was simply a question on how the ECUSA resolves a rather significant hypocrisy.

          • Flatrocker, you are assuming that what is involved here, and in the church at large, are doctrinal issues. From one point of view you are correct. It has been doctrinal issues such as discussed today that have split the Evangelical Church in the last decade and left it lame and limping, while those who Miguel would be more comfortable with now call themselves “Anglicans”. In the local church I attend, these matters just don’t come up. It’s a homogeneous body of mostly white boomers who are decent, caring people that would likely not bat an eye if a black couple or a gay couple or a Muslim couple showed up and got in line for Communion. Yes, the priest had to vocally affirm his belief in the official doctrine when he was ordained and even sign his name to it, but the congregation is probably mostly happily ignorant of the thirty-nine articles, tho likely they heard them mentioned somewhere along the way.

            I have no desire to study or even read this body of doctrine. It is irrelevant to why I attend this local church once a month. I am welcomed, I am allowed to speak my viewpoint along with others, I have never been questioned as to my personal beliefs or practices, I experience the Presence of God in Spirit amongst the congregation, and in the spoken words of the officiants, and in the physical sharing of bread and wine, along with the Communion of the Lord’s Prayer and of the Passing of Peace. This is why I take the trouble once a month to set my alarm and get up in the dark and drive twenty miles, along with the fact that on the first Sunday of the month they have a spoken service with no hymns, my cup of tea.

            The priest asks for questions in the time given for the homily, which I have never ever in my whole life seen done anywhere else, and he answers them from a Christian point of view, not an Episcopalian doctrinal catechism. The priest is retired and part time because that is all the church can afford. He is up there with the top pastors of my whole life and a treasure. If he was replaced with a dutiful officiant spouting official doctrine, I would stop attending. Probably Jesus would as well.

            • “that have split the Evangelical Church”

              I meant to say the “Episcopal” Church.

            • There is a Catholic Church closer to me that has a late Saturday afternoon service, they call it Mass, which I would also attend if they did not bar me from their table. I would go to the local Methodist Church if they had a late Saturday or any time during the week service with Communion, except that the pastor there took an instant dislike to me on sight. I would go to a lot of churches if they offered an other than Sunday morning service and offered me Communion and didn’t spout church doctrine and were light on singing. Might be easier to find in a big city but extraordinarily rare elsewhere.

            • Peace, Brother, peace.

  10. Let me ask my Catholic and Orthodox friends here. If someone was baptized and confirmed in the church and grew up to understand that he/she was gay, and if that person was in a committed relationship with another, how would that person be welcomed in your tradition?

    • In this particular scenario they are welcomed to participate in Mass. When it comes to Holy Communion, and if they know their faith, then they would abstain from receiving since their soul, according to the tenets of the faith is not in a state of grace (since the Church considers sex acts, outside of marriage, and the practice of homosexual sex acts, to be a sin). This would be the same for a person living in a heterosexual relationship outside of marriage. But in practice there is no one standing up there examining you when you receive. There may be an issue if the person is an activist and makes it a point every day to state their views in public.

    • Depending what “committed relationship” means in this sense… (Does that automatically involve sex? I know of at least one orthodox gay couple that is as committed as any married couple and share domestic partner benefits, but refrains from sex out of joint conviction.)

      Assuming you mean a sexual one:

      The assumption would be that they’d be honest with their confessor/spiritual parent, and would follow the guidelines that person then set forth, which would probably be to refrain from coming forward to the chalice.

      The only people that’d know would be them and their confessor though – the rest of us would just generally assume whatever happened there was what was supposed to have happened. It is the same with a co-habitating unmarried man and woman who are an economic unit. We have one of those at our church, they are treated like a couple socially, but no one freaks out that they commune: we presume they are all squared away with the only person who knows the details of their relationship.

      Similarly, someone might refrain from communing for any number of reasons, and what it is just isn’t our business . We confess publicly (in that you can just sit in after church and see people are doing it while the sound is drowned out by chanting), but what we’re confessing about it between us and God, witnessed by a spiritual parent/confessor.

      That said, the expectation that your average orthodox person would probably have if you pushed the question would be that most currently sexually people in same-sex relationships, no matter the kind of relationship, probably aren’t communing? There is at least one big parish in America where that isn’t the norm, and that’s seen as scandalous, but not so much that any non-OCA politico people probably know what I’m talking about, it doesn’t make headlines or big news outside our little world.

      In theory, Eucharist aside, anyone should be welcome in an Orthodox parish unless they pose a physical danger to the people there, and in practice I’ve seen non-communicants and even those who never formally joined be important and beloved community members for years. That should apply to s-s married gay people as much as anyone else, but in PRACTICE that varies strongly by region/parish/etc. Some have had a strong influx of Evangelicals who came because they felt their previous tradition wasn’t conservative enough on issues like this, and they tend to have a chip on their shoulder about it that makes life uncomfortable for everyone if someone who even just /looks/ gay shows up – and they don’t always acculturate to the “let the confessor work it out and move on” thing we have going on for a long time or ever.

      We have a mixed reception at the national level, too, though more amongst laity than clergy, and monastics are almost always wonderful! I am often elected to represent our parish at things, and I fit the stereotype of a butch lesian to a lot of people. The other people who come/are sent to such events react to me positively about 75–80% of the time, and 20-25% of them initially react poorly. After a few services together, most of those settle down, and I’d say on maybe about 5% never do. (There is a priest who was temporarily in my own diocese for a few years who will not meet my gaze if we pass in a hallway, has never said a word, and if others try to include me in a conversation he’s in, he will stop participating in it at all. Mostly, we avoid each other successfully.) And that’s on looks alone, mind – I am in fact not sexually active at all and they might not even think of me as gay if they knew more, so this is just talking people’s judgements on looks.

      • Thanks Tokah. This strikes a good balance for me. And it reinforces my opinion that many of us are far too involved in sticking our noses into other people’s business and making all kinds of assumptions.

        For example, I have known many heterosexual married couples living in essentially sexless marriages, in direct violation of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7. Would anyone recommend denying them a place at the table?

        Such matters are private and should remain so, with the exception of their confessors.

        • Not all sexual matters are private. Paul dealt with several specific situations in a very public manner. And harshly, too. No time for kid gloves. He dropped the law so hard the people wept.

          And upon seeing contrition and repentance, he applied the healing salve of the Gospel. But we must not pit these things against each other. They are meant to go together.

          Sins of a sexual nature are always taken seriously by the church. A sexless marriage does not rise to the level of extramarital sex, for example. That doesn’t mean it is ok, but at the same time, it is not a gross violation of the commandment.

          Cohabitation is a public matter. The church has almost always addressed it as such. It is one thing to go sticking your nose into the bedroom of a married couple. It is another to bury your head in the sand, refusing to have the stones to call something out for what it is.

          Christian morality, especially in the area of sexuality, is so stringent and difficult that it condemns us all. The solution is not to lower the bar. We have to stick to our guns on the definition of sin, and even more so on God’s requirement to love mercy.

          The table is not for those who have gotten their act together, but neither is it a place for those who don’t think they need to.

          • Miguel, did you read that post on Slacktivist recently about Ezra and God hating divorce? I’d highly recommend it. It kind of goes hand in hand with this talk.

            And yes, I believe a sexless marriage is equal and on par if not worse than extramarital sex.

  11. The post and discussion are helpful.

  12. To me, the crux of your message and the point that can’t be refuted is this:

    “I suppose so, but every church with which I’ve been involved is filled with people who have a lot of changing to do. Take my church now: We have some unkind people, some worriers, gossips and others who can’t control their tongues. We have folks who have trouble being honest, some rebellious children and angry parents, people who don’t have their theology straight, lazy people, gluttons, jealous and envious people, some who struggle with pornography, teens who’ve had premarital sex, divorced folks, and probably some spouses who have been unfaithful in one way or another. We have a whole host of sinners at our church!”

    Why turn away the “known” sinner while accepting those who’s sin is “better hidden”? And if you think God might bristle at “known” gays being given communion while the wife-beater, the glutton, the gossip and greedy S.O.B. get a free pass, maybe God is a little bit bigger than we think and maybe our perspective of “keep communion pure” is all hosed.

    • I don’t know if anybody is really arguing to “keep communion pure.” Fundamentalists tend to be relatively ambivalent about the sacraments anyways.

      It is worth noting, however, that the factual presence of a harmitological panoply around every table does not negate the importance of a congregation to address all sins generally, and the pastoral responsibility to address particular sins specifically.

  13. I had this conversation a while back about churches that advertise themselves as “open and affirming”, in order to promote inclusion. For me, to see an “open” sign tells me that there is a welcoming, full availability of some service or product that I need…in the case of churches…the love and grace and forgiveness of sins offered through the blood of Christ. “Affirmining” is more sticky. It implies tolerating, or even endorsing whatever sin one may be involved with.

    Who am I to contradict scripture when it defines what sin is, or to try to justify sin by using omission (“Jesus never said anything about that…”) as an excuse. Sin is sin, whether it’s adultery, homosexuality, drunkenness, gossip, etc.

    Here’s a line from my homily yesterday…”Frederich Buechner wrote in his book, “Telling The Truth”…”God is the…shepherd who gets more of a kick out of that one lost sheep once he finds it again than out of the ninety and nine who had the good sense not to get lost in the first place. God is the eccentric host who, when the country-club crowd all turn out to have other things more important to do than come live it up with him, goes out into the skid rows and soup kitchens and charity wards and brings home a freak show. The man with no legs who sells shoelaces at the corner. The old woman in the moth-eaten fur coat who makes her daily rounds of the garbage cans. The old wino with his pint in a brown paper bag. The pusher, the whore, the village idiot who stands at the blinker light waving his hand as the cars go by. They are seated at the (beautifully set) table in the great hall. The candles are all lit and the champagne glasses filled. (And when Jesus gives the signal…)the musicians in their gallery strike up “Amazing Grace”…and all the thieves and liars and crooks and meth addicts and bikers and potheads and politicians and people you don’t want be seen sitting next to in the church house belt it out together…”I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see…”

    So, maybe I won’t ever pastor an “affirming” church, but the “open” sign will alway be flashing, in bright red…

    • Haven’t seen you here for a while Lee, good to hear from you.

      • Good to be home, Radagast. I’ve had a period of heavy contemplation, recovering some pieces of myself that I thought were lost…shedding some skin, so to speak.

    • Unfortunately, for many Christians “telling the truth” is more about your second paragraph (gotta focus on the SINS of the world, especially the ones that we can point out in other people) and not about your third paragraph (He delights in finding the one that’s lost almost more than those who didn’t get lost in the first place, and His banquet table will be surrounded by the broken).

      To be honest, I can’t stand that word “truth” any more. It gets so danged distorted by “interpretation” and “personal belief/opinion.” Yes…even my own…

    • Cool Buechner quote. God is merciful. I’m counting on it.

  14. From a Catholic and mixed with my own personal feelings perspective, all are welcome in the Church. For Catholics, that does mean you need to know what Catholics believe. Does that mean every Catholic is in agreement with every tenet? Well, they should be, but the Church does allow members to grow towards some Catholic thought. The idea is that we are all sinners and should be in Church to help strengthen our weaknesses. Eucharist is another issue and that conversation has been had here and should be for another day. It is a closed communion and we are not the only one’s who practice that. It has to a lot more to do with our particular belief system than to punish.

    From my personal experiences I have seen homosexual couples in Church. I can only assume that they understand the tenets but the draw to our faith tradition is stronger. In what I observe in these instances no one is singling them out, they are treated as any other parishioner (although for those of you who know Northeast, predominately Catholic demographic culture, you know how easy it is to be invisible). I have not really focused enough in these situations to see if they take Communion, that is between them and God, nor would I, as I am a Eucharistic minister, deny anyone who came to me to receive.

    • –> “…nor would I, as I am a Eucharistic minister, deny anyone who came to me to receive.”

      Seems like the right approach to me! Bravo!

  15. Dan from Georgia says:

    Nice post CM! And nice that, for the most part, people here in the comments section aren’t shouting past one another as it typical on most blogs that bring up this subject.

  16. I don’t have much to add to the thoughtful discussion above, except to mention a personal experience. When I first visited my present church ( 5+ years ago) and the speaker welcomed the people from the pulpit (before the pastor made an appearance) this listed a huge group of people that were welcomed there. The listed included, “white, black, married, divorced, single, immigrant, undocumented immigrant . . . on and on . . . and then “gay, lesbian, transgender,” I felt a chill go up my spine. I had never heard those words in a church before, not in my years of being and evangelical. Then it dawned on me, why on earth would we not welcome them? Jesus is the physician who came to sick. I’m sick. All those mentioned are sick. It was a Peter on the roof experience for me. It wasn’t like I had not been kind to gays in the past. I have several gay friends and associates, but I just never heard the welcome mat put out like this so clearly. Nice article Mike.

  17. Goatse McGoatFace says:

    Him that can receive it, let him receive it.

  18. One of the challenges for teenagers in churches that point out the sinfulness of LGBT people is that teens who have grown up in the church know a little too much about all of the other sinners attending. They know whose dad is so consumed with pride that his children are nothing but trophies. They know whose mom has a cruel insult for everyone in the family. They know about the people who haven’t spoken to each other for years, the families that lying to everybody at church to hide addiction from one generation to the next. The hear the bitter fights about money, and who in the family owes whom, about who is more successful and how they’ve proved it. And then they see all of these people looking sadly in the direction of that family whose child just came out. How awful. What does that say about them as parents? They seem nice, though. Their other kid is ok. Really, though, can you believe they’ve all come to church together? We’re all trying so hard not to stare at them that it’s almost painful. Does the kid look repentant? What does that look like, anyway?
    When you’re a teenager, that contrast between the way people want to be seen and the way they really are seems so obvious, because you feel it so intensely yourself. I think that sexuality is one of the issues that changes the way young people see the church, because it’s one issue where they see that our talk about sin only applies to certain sinners. They see which people bear the burden of our need to appear righteous and how easy it is to become the next target.

  19. Even more scandalous, what if I respond to the question “Well, doesn’t the Bible forbid homosexuality?”, I would respond “What if just like the BIble isn’t a science textbook in the modern sense of the word, the Bible isn’t a legal list of right/wrong in the modern sense of a book of criminal law?”

    If I were to respond that way, how many churches would deny communion to me?

    • Good question. I know that I would be denied communion in several churches because those churches have certain requirements for taking communion. And guess what? I don’t attend those churches…LOL…

  20. Sounds to me like the pastor in this example waxes neither hot nor cold.