From Pastor Weber
Saint Andrew’s is in the process of discerning becoming an RIC congregation. Pastor Weber’s reflection below reflects his feelings about this, and it does not represent an official position of our congregation.
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From Pastor Weber
Thursday, February 10, 2022
As I share my reflections on the community of Christ at Saint Andrew’s, I first want to frame everything with an underscored thanksgiving for all the love, care, compassion, and unceasing prayers you all have showered upon me in the midst of these major medical interventions. Being held well by all of God’s people is the manger in which we are invited to enter—to surrender ourselves to the mercy of God and the love of God’s people. Thank you for holding me well in this time. I am blessed by God’s grace through the ministry of all of you.
I have had much time to reflect, to pray, to practice the most difficult challenge—not only to recover from multiple surgeries, but more importantly, to day by day keep surrendering my life to the love and will of God. There is no pain medication for surrender other than to take in the presence of Spirit which makes the impossible, possible. My reflections have centered on the community of Christ at Saint Andrew’s—the state of the union, the issues and opportunities that we face, and the core question: “What does it mean for all of us to live under the cross of Christ….while we live, breathe, and make decisions with each other?” This is the grounding place for the Christian community and must remain solid, firm, and dynamic in our lives.
So, some of my reflections: I have reflected on the historic diversity of our congregation—diversity in thought, spirit, history, sentiments, values, persuasions. We have lived with good spirit for years with this multicultural diversity—not only in how we appear, but in how we think in our minds, hearts, and souls. Often it is easier to accept overt differences, but we can easily divide on more covert issues that we feel strongly about, but might be reluctant to share. This diversity across the spectrum of many issues is fundamental to our dynamic life. We are a “tissue sample” of multicultural diversity in how we appear and in how we feel and think. And we continue to work on expanding the range of that diversity. My core concern is how to support and strengthen this diversity with hospitality to many different points of view gathered under the one cross that unites us all. The tendency of the world is to stomp out those who differ because their opinions agitate and disturb and upset. The other tendency is to take any issue or program or cause and elevate it to preeminence as a “litmus test” for true membership. Unity is under the one cross, not under any other issue.
Walter Bouman, an ELCA theologian who died several years ago, but who was a major contributor to Lutheran theology wrote that the LGBTQ issue “is not the gospel which unites the church.” As we deal with this issue at Saint Andrew’s, then the corollary question is what happens to those who have different sentiments? Do they “just get on board” or leave? Are they coached into the right thinking? Do passionate subgroups spawn and grow and infect the church? Bouman notes that the church needs “the power from the Most High (we cannot do this ourselves) and the infusion of the Spirit so that our passionate diversities are “welcomed” and the respect and compassion prevail? It’s one thing to have a “Welcoming Statement.” It’s quite another thing to practice the courage and patience of hospitality to those in our midst who hold different sentiments and beliefs. I want that kind of church in practice, not just in our statements, but in the real, open, human disclosures and interactions in all aspects of our life together.
As an example of hospitality for full spectrum of the common good and keeping the cross central, I refer to the official logo of RIC (Reconciling in Christ initiative) which has the cross planted in the center of a rainbow of colors that surrounds it. The intent of this logo might be good, but the impact further alienates those of different sentiments on this issue. Furthermore, it elevates the gender/sexual issue to prominence over the many other concerns, missions, subgroups, ministries of the church. Finally, the cross doesn’t stand alone; it is overshadowed by the symbol of an issue that instantaneously can polarize. The cross of Christ self has the power to unite us under the gospel and welcomes the diversity of “all” people (our mission statement).
I am familiar with a Lutheran congregation in Palm Desert, CA. It is not an RIC congregation. But it clearly is a welcoming congregation to all people—LGBTQ, the marginalized, all ages and economic subgroups, ministers actively to the diverse neighborhoods in which the church in embedded, and is attentive to all persuasions as this congregation must be if it is truly “welcoming.” The rainbow logo is display on the church’s campus. But the cross stands center and above, announcing that the cross of Christ alone is the gospel which unites. A congregation can be welcoming without polarizing. The “common good” is a spectrum, not a position. I have been a part of conversations at this church which might be “hot”, elevating differences, but maintain the disciplines of respect and compassion. This is the Spirit that we are given. This is the Spirit of God whose name is “mercy.” This is the Spirit which this congregation is challenged to receive and practice. This is the Spirit which can be and should be a witness of bright light to the world that is so hungry for “the gospel which unites.”
I read Pastor Weber’s piece over a week ago and responded to him directly. Until this morning I had not seen the string of responses, but I’ve shared below what I wrote to him last week.
This RIC initiative and topic has troubled me, and my internal conflict has not been easy to understand, much less put to words. I agree with Pastor Tim that the gospel message and our mission as a Lutheran Church cannot be subordinate to a point of view on human sexuality, or any other social issue…regardless of mine, or anyone’s personal stand, or opinion on the subject. Neither do I believe that having a congregation vote on how we line up on an issue serves to unite us, but instead creates lines of division. However, this is not to say that we should be ambivalent about these issues. In fact, by raising conversation and inviting different perspectives, it seems to me we invite opportunity for the Spirit to work among us and find ways to inspire, call and instruct us to action.
In the past few polarizing years I’ve come to more fully appreciate that when we come together in worship I can sit in the pew beside someone with whom I have relationship knowing we may differ on any number of issues, politics, or priorities, but because we share faith in Christ’s saving grace in a safe place where the cross is our purpose for being a community, we find common ground, loving connection and friendship. I also appreciate how people can be inspired to a calling that supports marginalized people by advocating and seeking justice for all of God’s children. And, there’s no question that we’re in a “moment” where there is a platform to address social justice inequities that endure to elevate some at the cost of others….on purpose!
I love how we have many in our congregation who are passionate about these things and feel called to address these issues. And yet, to think about how much God has done over the years through people of Saint Andrew’s Lutheran for so many, but, never with unanimity, or a majority vote required yet uniting us in many ways nonetheless. It is in this way that SALC has been an incubator for impactful outreach. In the process, many of our members have found opportunities for spiritual growth and been themselves sources of evangelism.
As Pastor Weber said, it’s “the gospel which unites”. I’m thankful to be reconciled in Christ through baptism and confession of faith – definitely not earned, not deserved. Thankfully, this reconciliation does not depend on a vote of the congregation, but a single vote cast on the cross and validated by an empty tomb.
I was just recently made aware of this conversation and read everyone’s comments this morning and I am heartbroken.
When I read Tim’s first, and later comments, I heard someone who is reminding us that the cross is central and the cross is what unites us as a body of Christ. It is our job as Christians to invite everyone into the community of Christ.
Pastor Tim took the time to share a different perspective on how to look at the decision of becoming an RIC church. He did not state that he has any issue with the LGBTQA+ community. Yet, from reading the comments, it seems to me that assumptions were made and the point Pastor Tim was making was completely missed. For me, his clear concern was is what is actually happening, his opinion and ideas are not welcome. Especially because he is a Pastor. (Isn’t he allowed to share his thoughts also? He is a Christian and member of SALC, and his job is to teach and challenge us. This is what he is doing.)
What does this say for others who may think differently? Is Saint Andrew’s welcoming only to people who agree with your perspective? Does this help create conversation or stifle conversation? Will it create opportunities for leaning in and understanding different points of view and even possibly changing another person’s mind one way or the other?
God wants us to be in relationship. What does this mean? I believe it means we have compassion for one another, we listen to one another, we practice caring and understanding, we check ourselves for assumptions, and we offer grace in all things.
Maybe this is the time to step and back and continue the conversation. Table the vote for now, until church is completely open and everyone is able to see each others faces. Zoom, email, and chat are not conducive to open conversation. Think outside the box. How can the Saint Andrew’s family be welcoming in an outward way without alienating others along the way? Maybe this is God’s challenge.
Peace be with you.
Hi friends, I recently read the ELCA’s Social Statement on Human Sexuality adopted in 2009. The Church “agreed to disagree” on the topic of same gender relationships, and I think this passage from page 20 speaks to Pastor Tim’s concern that polarizing topics have the potential to drive a huge wedge between families in our congregation:
“Although at this time this church lacks consensus on this matter (same gender relationships), it encourages all people to live out their faith in the local and global community of the baptized with profound respect for the conscience-bound belief of the neighbor. This church calls for mutual respect in relationships and for guidance that seeks the good of each individual and of the community. Regarding our life together as we live with disagreement, the people in this church will continue to accompany one another in study, prayer, discernment, pastoral care, and mutual respect.”
Link to the ELCA document: https://www.elca.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Statements/Human-Sexuality
I watched Pastor Tim’s sermon from Sept. 19th of last year and encourage everyone to do so before the Annual Meeting. About 10 minutes in, he speaks clearly to this issue. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUSKQD7Mlrc
It is my opinion that we can do all three things: reach out to marginalized groups AND remain respectful and loving of congregation members that do not share our views AND keep the Cross central. I don’t think our vote is for one or the other.
I firmly believe that marginalized folks who are shopping for a church, need to know they are welcome here before they feel safe visiting. The way to do that is by joining other RIC churches so we appear in their directory, and by publishing a welcome statement on our web site and in our bulletins. As far as I know, the RIC logo will not appear in our bulletins, just the St. Andrew’s logo.
I have very little to add, and certainly nothing which can improve upon, what has already been stated by so many of you here. I am grateful for and inspired by each of you for speaking sincerely and bravely and in direct opposition to Pastor Weber’s comments.
But as the chair of the LGBTQ+ Inclusion Task Force, I feel compelled to not only oppose Pastor Weber’s comments in general, but directly correct a specific one. Pastor Weber stated (in point 3 of his first reply to Maria) that the guest leader of one of our forums shared a story about “someone who disagreed with RIC, and it was suggested that they might want to go elsewhere.” This was NOT the story our guest shared. The actual story was shared by Pastor Rick Pribbernow, the director and chaplain of Open Door Ministries for over 30 years, and who sadly died suddenly in August of 2021. As he is no longer with us to correct the record, I will. The actual story was that a woman stood at a church meeting and declared she would NOT attend a church that was RIC. And another member quietly replied that she was sure the woman would find somewhere else to welcome her then. The only person “suggesting she go elsewhere” was the woman herself. And Rick’s point, that I heard him make time and time again, was that it was her threatening, bullying stance, not her beliefs, that should not be tolerated.
This may seem like a small point of contention, but I feel it speaks to the heart of this issue: Becoming an RIC congregation expands our community and makes it publicly more inclusive, not less so. It affirms the rights of all to feel safe, welcome, and loved. Where is the division in that? If we truly are a congregation who loves and serves all people, then we must say so, and DO so. “For faith without works is dead.” James 2:17
I just now came back to this open letter, and found your reply here Michele. Thank you so much for clearing up what happened to the “someone who disagreed with RIC”. I have heard people claim that pro-RIC people want to push people out of the church, but I have never heard a pro-RIC person actually pushing people out of the church or initiating such a suggestion for people to leave the church. In fact, every pro-RIC person I’ve talked to has expressed that they want everyone to stay and be together. We all want to be a united church; that is the very purpose of the RIC process.
Sorry, meant to say “Beth”!
From Pastor Weber—overnight dreams and visitations by angels–leads me to reiterate some simple points.
I make no statements demeaning or denigrating the LGBTQ community in my statements, in my clinical work, in my life of faith. Quite the opposite–I have spoken and preached on the power of the cross which, at its heart, is about inclusion. The power of Jesus’ love was that it broke down the barriers of exclusion and smashed the prevailing notions of who is in, and who is out. The cross is about inclusion
I make no statements against RIC anywhere in my opinion piece. I offer a point of view, but not an attack on RIC. The point of view is that a community of Christ (and I give an example) can be courageous, loving, welcoming the marginalized, the stranger, the outcast without being RIC. RIC is not the litmus test for being a bold, faithful Christian. Our stance in this..one way or the other…is not the gospel which unites. My point was this. Either way, up or down, RIC does not define our unity together or the integrity or lack of integrity of the sentiment.
I say these two things because its seems by reading the responses, that I have violated these statements in my opinion article. I hope that what I just wrote is clear and clear. This is my belief and my practice. I regret that the points were missed. So, what are they?
The cross is central, core, and bottom line for the Christian community. We are Christocentric in our faith and practice. The cross doesn’t need any help from us. We simply need to live under the power and spirit of the cross and reflect that power in this entire world that God loves. My concern was that in the RIC logo, the small cross is embedded in the large rainbow. I was concerned about the message..and that concerns extends to the Lutheran Church and The Christian Church in North America–the dilution of the cross as central to our faith and practice….and the power of other issues, sayings, logos, props that because our “causes” whatever those causes might be. In our world the cross can easily be overshadowed by the energy, anger, dedication, passion we pour into our particular sentiments…and then these sentiments become the dominant narrative insidiously. The church is a target for this virus.
Finally, what I said about the spaciousness of opinion in the community of Christ in no way denigrates the RIC cause. What I preached in a sermon in January, 2021….and then in September, 2021…and then in December, 2021…all are tied together——We are wrapped in Christ…..that is the gospel that unites, that is what is essential, that is the full measure of our life together…and we need to keep coming back to our foundational identity.
In the January, 2021 sermon I referred to the disputes at Marburg, Germany and the summit meeting that took place there, adding Rupertus Medinius’ quote–“In the essential unity, in the nonessential liberty, in all things charity.”
My concern for St Andrew’ is that the gospel of Christ that unites becomes not enough….that the nonessentials (all other issues) are not managed by liberty, but but judgements against those who hold different ideas…and that in all things…the gift of charity becomes the swap of disgust.
What I said in my opinion was simply this…..that true power and privilege are exercised when other points of view shared with respect are denigrated and the holders are judged as less Christian, less courageous, less loving, less of most things. That may not have been the intent…but it felt like the impact. A robust congregation with have the courage and the strength of love to welcome all, to engage with respect (compassionate conviction) and will have their ego under the control of the Spirit so that contemptuous conviction does not propel the seed of darkness within the community. Whatever the RIC vote is will be secondary to how we manage our opinions openly, lovingly, patiently, with the “suffering love” (agape) that Christ has called us to and that the Spirit empowers us with. God’s peace be with us all. Pastor Tim
From Pastor Timothy Weber–
Thank you for your responses. The only thing better would be a greater conversation in the same room with all of us…and more…present. But, alas, that cannot happen now. So my comments will be succinct and brief.
1. As you know I am a Clinical Psychologist. My practice is full of a diversity of people including individuals and couples of different genders, sexual orientations, and transgenders. This has been true for years. They are beloved children of God and my work with them has been full of love given and received with touching friendships between us in full bloom. This is a core part of my work, my love, my relationships. I extend the wide circle to St. Andrews–this friendship, this hospitality, this welcome, this care. It seems that somehow the message was conveyed that I was against RIC. What I was saying was that, in my opinion, and RIC identity (and I gave an example of this) is not necessary to see a lively, uplifting congregation that welcomes the marginalized, the poor, the neglected. RIC is not the standard for being a follower of Christ! The shocking love of life in Christ for all–and I mean all–can be extended in freedom and courage anyway. Whatever the vote is within this congregation on RIC will not extinguish the deep love for all, including the LGBTQ community that are brothers and sisters with us in Christ.
2. I heard plenty of disappointment. It saddened me that there seemed to be an absence of appreciation for an opinion directed toward wellness in the community of Christ. I wanted to overtly state a point of view I thought was directed “to all people”…by suggesting the challenge is also to invite diverse thinking, diverse opinions diverse ideas…as a way of “welcoming all people”–our mission statement. What I experienced is that when that is done..watch out! If the opinion differs…it’s not only different, but its lesser and contaminated with power and insensitivity. This is exactly what I am referring to–an experience of dismissiveness. If we welcome as a church, do we really welcome?
3. This is not a last minute, uninformed opinion. Misty and I participated in all the RIC Discipleship hours. At one point there was a story, I believe by the leader, about a person who disagreed with RIC, and it was suggested that they might want to go elsewhere. Being a welcoming congregation full of hospitality for “all” people has a different end to the story. I believe I briefly commented on this. In fact that comment by the leader in part sparked some of my thinking in the September 12 sermon. My concern about the full continuum of opinion on all matters has been alive and cooking for years and most recently for months, interrupted by five surgeries on my aorta. This is not last minute. It is not a new idea. And we have engaged in the presentations and discussions.
4. Again, months ago, in my sermon on September 19 (I hope you heard it or read it)…I stated once again as I have done many times at St. Andrew’s including a Sunday morning class on LGBTQ years ago…I stated that what marks the community of Christ is compassionate conviction, not contemptuous conviction that finds a way to demean, undermine, label, discredit the other. This has been a deeply heart felt commitment of mine for years–at St.Andrew’s, in my clinical practice, in life–to support the full, direct, and different openness of the community, the family, the couple, the organization. The September sermon was a crisp summary of the theology behind what I am saying. Did it not have an impact? If you want to know what I believe about the cross the life and the church, read the sermon again. This is what I am talking about….the full exposure and disclosure of thoughts and feelings. To remark that I am suggesting that we not vote because of different opinions seems like a comment from someone who has not heard or read anything that has come from me…shocking! Tom knows better.
5. I am in full support of a diverse congregation and there is work to be done. I am also in support of a congregation that meets, that allows time for many points of view, that supports differences without contempt, that welcomes the true diversity of humanity. I believe that there are many voices that have not spoken, that have not been heard, that feel intimidated that there is a “right way”…and if that way is not honored, then the other way is less than Christian, unwelcoming, maybe vile. For years, we have sat together in worship, in love in care with all our differences…remaining mostly silent..often because people anticipated the consequences of overt opinions.
I would encourage us in some way to test out the notion that we are an open community of safety with diverse opinions welcome. Hopefully I am wrong.
I would welcome a Sunday morning series on this very topic with real people present. My hope was that my sermon on September 19 was deeply grounded in the cross, enabled us to experience the power of the Spirit that is greater than any one of our opinions or best intentions. May the cross be our light, our guide, our power, our forgiveness, and most importantly our unity. Exchanges like this have a way of keeping people from moving toward each other in love and truth. Will this happen here? Let’s test it out.
May we all have a peace…that truly passes all understanding, and that is much bigger and better than any one of us. Pastor Weber
In 1945, philosopher Karl Popper attributed “paradox of tolerance” to Plato’s defense of “benevolent despotism,” and defined it in The Open Society and Its Enemies.
“Less well known [than other paradoxes] is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.—In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”
On a more personal note, I just want to say, I don’t want to push anyone away from my church. I only want to welcome everyone in. I don’t understand why anyone would feel pushed away by RIC, or a rainbow, or a welcoming statement. I just want to be able to exist as my true self when I come to Saint Andrew’s Lutheran Church, and I want that for everyone else who is LGBTQ+. I am non-binary, and I am bisexual. If Saint Andrew’s Lutheran Church were RIC, then such a statement would not feel nearly as scary to type out. But the reality is, it is scary. It is scary to be LGBTQ+, at a church, no matter how friendly and kind and welcoming the congregation is. Because it is easy to hide my LGBTQ+ identity (referred to “going stealth”), and I do not know if their friendliness and kindness will fade away and disappear once they know my identity, or that they may attempt to change my identity, or deny that it is my identity.
LGBTQ+ people are not a gospel, and are not trying to imply anything of the sort. “LGBTQ+” is not a gospel, or a message, or a political ideology, or a ‘sentiment’, or, as Pastor Tim refers to it in this letter, an ‘issue’. We are people. Just people. We don’t stop being LGBTQ+ when we attend a service, when we pray, when we sing hymns. We simply…are.
If anyone has differing opinions on the RIC process, then we should be able to talk them out with each other as beloved neighbors in Christ; this is built into the RIC process itself. We want everyone to feel heard.
But if anyone has a ‘differing opinion’ on my gender identity or my sexual orientation itself… What am I to do then, Pastor Tim? What would I do? Remain quiet and deny my true self that the Lord gave to me, for the sake of a false “unity”? I can’t lie to my fellow worshipers, in the house of the Lord. I want a genuine unity, and I am willing to do the hard work to achieve it.
I sincerely ask you, Pastor Tim, to reach out to me whenever you have time, and perhaps we may talk about this. I am in a fortunate enough position that I have the time, energy, and support network at home, that I can talk through hard conversations like these, even though it is so personal a conversation due to my own LGBTQ+ identity.
I offer that up to any of my fellow members of Saint Andrew’s Lutheran Church who have read this letter and feel like you are one who “holds different sentiments and beliefs”. My email address is available above this comment.
I am prepared to talk about this with anyone who would like to, because this RIC process will save lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gay and bisexual youths are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide as their straight peers. When I was in high school back in the 2000’s, my LGBTQ+ friends knew 2 teens who attempted suicide; only one of the teens survived. I will never forget that. I don’t want to see another name in the newspaper of a teen who decided there was something wrong with her. I don’t want today’s kids to have a school assembly where faculty explain what happened, and everyone leaves messages of love and support for a bereaved family. I don’t want one more life ended early.
What if things were different? What if we as a community stepped forward, even though it feels uncomfortable? With support from their community, LGBTQ+ children are healthier, loved, fed, housed, and a part of our beloved community. They survive.
I want every LGBTQ+ child at Saint Andrew’s Lutheran Church to survive.
Thank you so, so much for reading. God bless.
Oops, I thought it would show my email address.
You may reach me at: email@example.com.
When I read Tim Weber’s post, I had two types of reactions. The first was to the RIC topic itself. Most of that Scott Lester has addressed far better than I ever could. The only thing that I would add is that what we will be asked to vote on at the annual meeting is three specific items, the most important of which is the welcoming statement. We are not adopting any new logos or pictures. If you haven’t already, I urge everyone to take the time to read the specifics of what we will be voting on, and even go back and watch the recordings where the topics related to this were presented, discussed, and debated. If you are more interested, you could even ask committee members for copies of printed or web material on the issue.
The other reaction I had was to the way this was presented. As Scott Lester mentioned, there have been meetings about this going on for over a year. To come in now, in the eleventh hour, after not having actively participated in any of the many opportunities that were offered, to do so in a forum that doesn’t truly support active discussion and debate, and to do so presenting an opinion from a position of power, as opposed to as one more congregational member interested in presenting a point of view on a topic being discussed, feels inconsistent with the fair, open, honest approach I have observed being used at Saint Andrew’s in order to address topics.
Tim talks about overt versus covert. The definition of overt is “done or shown openly; plainly or readily apparent, not secret or hidden.” Some of the synonyms are open, public, and above board. The definition of covert is “not openly acknowledged or displayed.” Some of the synonyms are secret, furtive, clandestine, surreptitious, and stealthy. At Saint Andrew’s, when discussing a topic, I hope that we are overt – open and above board, and not covert – surreptitious and stealthy. We are not perfect people, so we may not get there all the time, but from what I’ve seen, we do a pretty good job of it. When we do discuss topics openly and provide safe, inviting opportunities for questions and discussions, and yet some people still don’t share their opinions, shame on them! Is Tim suggesting that we should not vote on any topic for fear that there are those who didn’t share their opinion? Fear like that would paralyze us, preventing us from ever moving forward. If we have conversations that don’t support safe sharing of opinions, shame on us! If anyone has questions about how this conversation was had, again, I urge you to review the available recordings.
I hope you will all give careful consideration and prayer to this and all topics being decided at the annual meeting.
“Growing Together in Christ to Love and Serve All People.” It didn’t take Saint Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Bellevue long to put our mission statement to the test. Mission statements aren’t written to be comfortable. They are intended to challenge us. They are intended to call us to action. As we explore becoming a Reconciling in Christ (RIC) congregation, we’ve taken our first steps toward living into that mission.
It’s a good conversation to have, though, considering what exactly it means to be an RIC congregation. And we have had that conversation for over a year through the formation of the Saint Andrew’s LGBTQ+ Inclusion Task Force, focused workshops, and discipleship hour sessions focused on this topic.
However, as we come closer to making a formal decision, new voices and perspectives are being drawn into the conversation. It’s human nature that we as people only become invested in the conversation when change approaches, or what we understand as normal and familiar is challenged.
A few days ago, it was one of our own SALC high school youth, who after reading Pastor Weber’s opinion piece, noted that she recognized the language he was using, observing that it mirrored the counter argument to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. She noted that when people began promoting All Lives Matter, it was an effort to draw attention away from a marginalized population because it made a larger white population uncomfortable to think that it was somehow responsible for an injustice. I think she’s right.
If we take seriously the perspective that “for the common good” we can still be a welcoming congregation without being an RIC congregation, we throw a blanket over a very real social topic and injustice. People are marginalized because people in the position of power and privilege allow it to happen, and sometimes without even knowing we’re even doing it. Which brings me to “diversity.”
We are not a diverse congregation. Privilege runs deep with us. We are majority white, have college educations, well-paying careers, own homes, and are largely cis-gendered heterosexuals. In short, Saint Andrew’s is not representative of our surrounding Bellevue community. We should strive for that. In becoming an RIC congregation, we live out our mission statement and acknowledge, in Christ, a willingness to throw off the yolk of privilege and comfort, to lift up as equal, those in our community who are underserved and marginalized.
In a sense, we have already put ourselves in an awkward position. If we embrace being an RIC congregation, we do risk creating a polarizing division in our congregation, and that’s a concern. But what message do we send if we say no? If we decline to become an RIC congregation, we have distanced ourselves not only from our mission statement, “to love and serve all people,” but the guiding tenant of Jesus’ teachings; to welcome the persecuted, to seek-out the lost, to embrace the stranger.
We all have fears and concerns. What does it mean to be an RIC congregation? Most of us don’t fully know what to expect. But by saying no, and taking the easy path, we’ve already drawn a line in just how far we’re willing to go in living out Christ’s appeal for unity.
I am not a theologian, nor am I particularly well read save for my favorite genre and the Bible. Still, I feel called to respond. The one truth I hold above all others, is that when I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior it meant trying to be like Jesus, as much as my sinful self could be. And what did Jesus do consistently? When there was a line drawn in the sand separating “others” from the predominant culture, He stepped over that line to welcome those on the outside. He embraced them and elevated them, showing us what “grace equity” looks like. It is not enough to complacently say we are a nice congregation. We must step outside our comfort zone time and time again, reaching out to marginalized groups of brothers and sisters. Have courage, dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Hear the knock and open the door wide. There’s plenty of room in the pews and at the altar for all.
Beautifully said Michele!