Who Will You Welcome?

As I begin writing this article, Jennie, Mason, Kaia and I are in Florida representing you at the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the U.S. and Canada. Some years ago Sharon Watkins, our General Minister and President, unveiled a new identity statement for the denomination at an assembly much like this one. The idea is that this statement “should” serve to guide our thinking about who we are as a church. In case you don’t know it…

We are Disciples of Christ,

a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world.

As part of the one body of Christ,

we welcome all to the Lord’s Table

as God has welcomed us.

As I mentioned in a previous article, one of the more “volatile” issues of this assembly was a resolution concerning the scope of one word in that statement, all.

The Sense-of-the-Assembly resolution passed. The majority of votes on that day encouraged the church to “become a people of grace and welcome to all God’s children though differing in race, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, physical or mental ability, political stance or theological perspective; and to affirm the faith, baptism and spiritual gifts of all Christians regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that neither is grounds for exclusion from fellowship or service within the church, but we celebrate that all are part of God’s good creation; and as a people of grace and welcome, to acknowledge their support for the welcome of and hospitality to all.”

What does that really mean? Can we be a church that truly welcomes ALL people to the table?

I pray that we can. But, I don’t want us to stop there. I pray that we will be a church, a community of faith, a body of Christ, that can welcome all to the table. But, being a movement for wholeness is not a simple task. And welcoming some may make others uncomfortable. I imagine that there are some of us who fall on both sides of this issue. That is OK. Actually, I believe it is better than OK, it is essential to our continued mission and witness as a church.

Some participants at the Assembly mentioned the potential fallout of the passage of a resolution like this. Though, because of the way our church is structured, we don’t have to do anything differently because of this resolution, there will likely be some individuals and even churches, who are so uncomfortable with the idea of welcoming “those people” (whoever “they” are) that they will leave the fellowship.

And, that makes me very sad. We need to hear those are voices. We cannot be whole if we fragment over these (or any other) issues. And that fragmentation hinders our witness in a world that is already fragmented.

All of that goes to say this: if you have strong feelings about this resolution and about how it may affect us as a congregation, please come and talk with me. I believe that many of these issues are best discussed face-to-face, or in a small group. I have also had a few requests to host another service of healing and wholeness and will be planning that for the near future.

I look forward to being back in worship with you all as we work to be a place where all people are welcome to develop in their relationships with themselves, with one another and with God.

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