This coming Sunday, the church where I serve will be voting on whether or not to become what is called "Open and Affirming" in our denomination, which means accepting all people into the full life of the church, including LGBT people. Over the last few months, people in our church have been sharing their perspectives on why we should do this, and I've been meaning to post them here, but I just never got around to it. With a little less than a week to go, however, here they are. This one was in our church newsletter on November 9.
The Administrative Board has approved the following change to the church by-laws that outlines what our church means when it seeks to welcome all people. This by-laws change will be voted on by the congregation at the Annual Meeting on November 21.
“First Christian Church of St. Joseph is open to and affirming of all people whatever their gender, race, age, culture, ethnic background, sexual orientation, economic circumstance, family configuration, or difference in ability. All who seek to follow Christ are welcome into our community to share fully in its life and ministry.”
The statement, if taken seriously, is a challenge to our church as we seek to welcome all people as Christ welcomes us. Such a welcome may mean moments of discomfort, changes to policies or even facilities and potential for misunderstandings as we seek to welcome the groups of people mentioned above, but such a welcome also offers us possibilities for joy as we experience the grace of Jesus Christ in new ways. This week, life-long member Reva Fields reflects on what her mother, Virginia Magner, would say about this by-laws change. Virginia, who died in early 2007, was a member of FCC since 1946.
I Wish She Were Here
by Reva Fields
I wish she were here. I miss her. I miss our conversations. My mother would know what to say. She had such a way with words that I don’t possess. Many of you knew, respected and loved Virginia Magner for her gentle wisdom, her strength, her devout faith and her generous loving nature. Those of you who may feel uncomfortable or afraid, I wish that you could speak with her. I will try to share with you some of the thoughts that she shared with her family. This is her journey and what I believe she would say if she were still alive.
“I was surprised when my daughter told me that she was a lesbian. I didn’t know what to think. At first I doubted myself. I wondered what her father and I had done wrong. I thought back over the years, searching for a sign that we were at fault. I concluded that we did nothing wrong and that she was raised in a loving Christian family. I knew that she was the kind and compassionate person that she was raised to be. I knew that she loved Christ and considered herself one of God’s children. I knew that I loved my daughter dearly and always would, but still I knew what I had always been told.
“As the title of one book puts it, I began asking, ‘Is the homosexual my neighbor?’ I found myself in a quandary. I said to myself, ‘Look, Virginia, you are an intelligent woman, you can handle this.’ So I began to study. I went to my Bible and read the scriptures. I prayed. I read everything that I could find on the subject of homosexuality. I returned to the Bible. I pondered the words in my heart. I prayed. In the end, I discovered that yes, ‘the homosexual is my neighbor.’
“Those of you who are uncomfortable or afraid are not alone. With this decision, we as a congregation move into unknown territory. However, we have done this before. As a congregation, we have taken difficult stands on poverty, the nuclear arms race, the death penalty, and other issues. We have spoken out for world peace, racial equality and human rights. Let us continue as a congregation and disciples of Christ to read, listen, discuss and pray about our fears and discomforts. The homosexual as the stranger, the outcast is also fearful and uncomfortable. However, if this stranger is our neighbor, we are required to share God's radical hospitality with him or her.”
I am confident my mother would have embraced the by-laws change for First Christian Church. She was open to and affirming of my sister not only because she loved her, but also because she understood that was the right thing to do, just like this by-laws change is the right thing to do. This is an opportunity for our church to stand up for who we are and for people who need to know we accept them for who they are. Please vote yes for this bylaws change.