Last Sunday the sign language choir led the congregation in worship. They signed the song "Crucified Arose." The members of this group had worked over several weeks to learn the ASL signs, and were doing a wonderful job. I sat in the front row, watching the group minister to our congregation and I let my focus wander from one choir member to the next. And then it dawned on me. All the members of the sign language choir are also part of the LGBTQ community at our church.
I was overcome with emotion. "I love this place..." I thought. "The carpet of welcome and acceptance is plush and wide at FBC Moorestown."
I remembered a time in my not too distant past that I was connected to a church who felt very differently about the LGBTQ community. In that setting, being Queer was something to be overcome. A condition. An illness. A lifestyle choice. A sin. So while I celebrated the extravagant acceptance of our congregation, I wept for the wider Church; and for those who we still shut out of our sanctuaries.
I thought about the conversation I had just last week with a pastor who was in a quandry about what to do with the 'very nice gay couple' who have been attending his church, now that one of them wants to be baptized. The pastor was truly struggling.
Theolgically, he didn't feel he could perform the baptism, unless the man admitted that he was trying to "work on his sinful lifestyle." But, his strong sense of pastoral care and a deep desire not to hurt this couple had him seeking help from our clergy group.
While I wanted to be able to talk him into doing "the right thing" I realized that he was doing exactly what we all hope for when up against a theological wall. When we find ourselves face to face with brick- a rock solid teaching or belief that we have been taught to believe is "right," yet, in order to uphold it when real people are involved, means shutting someone out of the kingdom. That to hang on to that belief means hurting people- and we find ourselves spewing out teachings of exclusiveness and conditional acceptance, the likes of which none of us like to admit we ascribe. When faced with that type of wall, the hope is that we ask why. Why have we hit a wall- what lies beyond it- and why have we put it up around God? The hope is that we don't just accept it for what it is... a big brick wall... but that we seek understanding; from God, from scripture, and from others we trust. (Even if and especially if, they have a different view than ours.)
So, as I watched our wonderful LGBTQ Sign Language Choir, I thought about all of the theological walls that had to come down in this community for this place to become what it is today. I thought about facing some of those walls in my own journey of faith. I thought about the walls that still have to come down, here and around the world in order for us to live into the Kingdom of God.
Just food for thought...