With LGBTQ issues so much in our national conversation these days, I feel like it's time to have some new congregational conversations around these issues in my church. My congregation is theologically diverse, with a tilt towards progressive (but with several members who lean more conservative/traditional), situated in a progressive area of the country. Although other mainline congregations in our city have come out as welcoming and affirming in some way, what that means varies from church to church (one church has an openly gay pastor on staff; another displays the rainbow and calls itself "welcoming" but does not perform same-sex unions). When my congregation had conversations around these issues in the late 1990s (before my tenure), they were handled poorly and did not go well; the congregation has been hesitant to tread that ground again .
I feel like it is past time that we have some intentional conversation and maybe make some difficult decisions about where we stand as a congregation. I have some ideas about how to have some honest and difficult dialogue around this, but I'd be very interested in hearing from any of you who have successfully navigated this issue with your congregation ("successfully" doesn't have to mean that it turned out exactly the way you'd hoped, but that the process was healthy and honest and respectful). I'm especially interested to hear about what your process was for having conversations and making decisions as a congregation. Anything you thought went especially well? Anything you'd do differently if you could do it over again?
We have one response to start the conversation rolling, this morning -- looking forward to YOUR perspective, your hopes, your planning.
Our responder writes --
Our responder writes --
I have not led a congregation through this particular decision process, but I am aware of what has worked well for me in helping people to explore this topic together. I have found, first, in recent years that I have an increasing number of one on one or small group conversations about this topic initiated by the other parties. When this happens I take the opportunity to talk freely and openly as well as educate these who are often the ones open to learning and changing their views toward inclusivity. I also find that providing class/teaching opportunities to gather together to talk are important in the process. This was particularly powerful in one of my congregations where the gathered group included a mother who had lost her son as one of the first AIDS deaths in our state, and a man who was blatantly and vocally anti gay/lesbian and thought those with AIDS only got it from these relationships. In short, opportunities to learn and discuss are paramount precedents to congregational votes.
Shalom, Rev Red.
We're looking forward to your thoughts on what happens next -- have you thought about the next stage in a congregational process? "What would you plan if you knew it couldn't fail?" (or whatever stimulus works best for you!)
As always, your questions, quandaries and quibbles are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org!
All blessings, everybody!