31 August 2007

Inclusive -- one person at a time?

There's another side of the coin to what Giles posted today. In addition to the prevalent practice of relegating GLBT people to the closets of our churches, we often manifest an unconscious bias in favor of nuclear families with about two children, a minivan, and maybe a pet or two. Consider this example:
I had been attending a new church for a little over two months, when something changed. I was active in this church, attending Sunday school and participating in the hand bell choir, among other things. During that time a few people made me feel very welcome, especially those people who sat around me or who were in my Sunday school class. Then, one Sunday, I was welcomed with a fervor I had not seen before. I was offered a name tag, asked to sign the guest registry, and asked my name more often and with more enthusiasm than had previously been the case.

You might be wondering what changed that week, but I don't have to wonder. It’s not that people began to see that I might have some gifts to offer the church. No one seemed interested in the fact that I had taught Sunday school at my previous churches, or that I had served as deacon at those churches, or that I preached at those churches, filling in for the ministers when needed. No one seemed interested that I am a well-educated, 30-something male, despite the fact that churches say they clamor for this demographic group. Most churches, you see, don't really seek out people in that demographic group - unless they’re married, that is.

And that should explain what happened that Sunday. The woman l was dating, who happened to live in a different state, was visiting me. Thus, I was no longer all of those things I mentioned above; I was a part of a couple, and now the church actively sought me out and almost begged me to return.
I saw this in my weekly Leading Ideas email, which I recommend. And I also recommend that we consider what it means to be inclusive. It's much more than just being "gay-friendly," though that's a good start. To be inclusive means no more and no less than welcoming all of God's children. All of God's children. Even when there's no minivan involved.

(Vignette from “A Single Voice” by Kevin Brown, first published in The Clergy Journal)

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