Church was created to be a safe space for all people.
I never considered church scary until I was no longer welcomed in with arms opened wide. I never thought church could be uncomfortable until I walked through the door for the first time after being asked to step down from my leadership roles when they found out I was dating a woman. I never imagined church could be anything other than a safe haven full of ridiculously fun games at youth group and fantastic (though at times, theologically concerning) music.
My church was my home.
Some of my friends tried to tell me. They tried to explain the shame and fear and heartache they experienced in the same sacred building where I discovered restoration. But I couldn’t hear it. I didn’t want to hear that my experience was not everyone’s experience; that my favorite place in the world was someone else’s least favorite. I didn’t want to know that the place which showed me the fullness of God was capable of causing my friends to all but lose their faith–whatever type of faith they had.
Looking back now, I can see how much I hurt others by not listening to them, by insisting church could be good for them too if only they would keep trying. I never realized how painful and detrimental that can be for a person–until that person being broken apart and shaved down in order to fit into a pretty little box was me. Maybe it’s been you too.
The Church has a long history of taking a hard stand on who’s in and who’s out based on everything from skin color to socioeconomic status to gender identity and sexual orientation to our perceived level of faith (or lack thereof). We have used the Bible to justify slavery and child abuse, to shame women into submission, and to cast children of God out of their own homes and churches because of who they love.
Let me be clear: I don’t say this out of anger. I don’t hate the Church. I love the Church–despite our rocky past. I say these things because I still love the Church deeply and I know we can do better. I am not condemning; I am challenging. Challenging us all–the entire Body of Christ–to be more loving, more radically welcoming; to be more like Jesus. This is not about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s not about watering down the Gospel or “cherry-picking” the parts of the Bible we like while tossing the rest out the window. This is about how to best represent the God-Man we claim to be following. It’s about how to become the true Body of Christ, the one God was envisioning at the beginning of time, the one not at all homogenous but which reflects the glorious and diverse Kingdom of God.
Today, we stand at the same crossroads countless other generations of the Church have occupied centuries before our own time, and the decision placed before us is really quite simple: to include or to exclude. To extend a radical welcome with overwhelming love or to hole up in our homogenous communities in the name of preserving sacred spaces. To be gatekeepers or to follow in the way of Jesus.
I don’t know about you, but I choose Jesus. Every time, I chose the way of loving-kindness. I’m convinced it’s the only way forward: together in love.
If you’ve been hurt by the Church, we’re here to listen to your story. If you’ve been excluded from church leadership or fellowship, this community we’re building here is ready to welcome you in–no strings attached. And if that’s not you, if you have not been oppressed, silenced, and marginalized in the Church, welcome. It’s time to get to work.
Using these ABC’s, we will:
- Learn about experiences different than our own.
- Live as Jesus has called us to live: full of hope and love.
- See the Kingdom of God more fully and accurately represented here on earth.
- Create a rich and vibrant, fully inclusive faith community in your own corner of the world.
- Build a global Church fully inclusive of all people, no matter who they are or where they’ve been in this life.
Join me, won’t you? Join me in this hard and holy work of #MakingRoomOnThePew for the misfits and outcasts. Here, I’ll move over a bit. There’s more room, more room for us all.