Delivered at First Christian Church on July 14, 2019
©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie
Sermons are written to be heard rather than read.
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Is all of that really what we want? Yes, I know that we want a just world, but do we really want all of the rest?
Sometimes I think that what I might really want more than to love God with all of my heart, is to know that God loves me even more than my heart is capable of. And welcoming all, loving all—those sound really good, really admirable, positions to aspire to, until I think of who and what it really means.
I’ll start with an example from the national gathering of the United Church of Christ, which happened just a couple of weeks ago. Maybe it will speak to our Disciples hosts today as they prepare for their upcoming national gathering this coming week.
Let me start by saying I was not at this event, so my account comes from reports made by the UCC and by colleagues of mine.
The story is that a group of youth representing one of the regional bodies of the UCC proposed a resolution that would ban a UCC interest group, for lack of a better term, from having a booth in the General Synod marketplace. The marketplace is just what it sounds like: an enormous space with booths that include national ministries and seminaries as well as fabric artists and booksellers. Anything remotely connected to the UCC or of possible interest to UCC-ers is there.
The group under fire is called Faithful and Welcoming Churches (of the UCC). The Faithful and Welcoming Churches organization describes itself as a space that encourages “churches, pastors and members who consider themselves evangelical, conservative, orthodox or traditional in their views to stay in the denomination.” Now, I can place myself into most those categories, so this group could be for me and for many of you here.
For example, I consider myself evangelical in that I give witness to my faith outside of church; I am orthodox in centering my faith on scripture; and if you’ve been in our worship down the street, you know I have a strong streak of the traditional. I’m not conservative in any way I can think of, but I’m still at three out of four. So why would pastors, churches, and members of the UCC like me not want to stay in the denomination?
Their answer is in the fine print: The tenth item in an eleven-item list says that “Faithful and Welcoming Churches advocate for an historic understanding of sexuality and marriage.”
The snark in me responds to that with something like, “Oh, they must be interested in returning women to the status of property and advocating for the polygamy and sexual violence of the Bible.” But of course, that is not the sexuality and marital arrangements they are talking about: it is the gays in our great rainbow of variations.
The Faithful and Welcoming Churches want not only to hold onto but to promote pre-Stonewall, pre-DSM IV, pre-United States v. Windsor readings of scripture and practices of liturgy. In their materials for the discussion around this resolution, the group states that they support queer civil rights and have “no objection” to historically underrepresented groups having a voice throughout the UCC, they just want to make sure that what they feel is their own “under-represented voice” is not silenced.
So what do you think? Should the Faithful and Welcoming Churches of the UCC be allowed to have a booth at the national gathering’s marketplace? Why or why not? What do our vision, mission, and purpose require of us?