Our church wants to be able to say “we are welcoming and affirming,” and mean it. On the whole, this feels like a good thing to me, especially since it is often true. I’ve begun to learn that I have enough reservations about the project and the way we’re going about it to fill a matched set of luggage, though. There’s some irony in that, since I think I personally qualify as one of the objects of the radical inclusiveness initiative.
So what “inclusiveness” or “welcome” or “hospitality” really means has been on my mind. And while I do not have a definitive answer, it occurs to me that there are a few things that really get in the way of “being welcoming,” and of “feeling welcomed.”
Disapproval. Disgust. Contempt. Rejection.
Saying things that clearly communicate the assumption that any half-way decent person would not have your [wrong, obviously] ideas, commitments, values, or practices.
“Dealing with” the problem you just caused, or are, and explaining to you how you can avoid making us have to do that next time.
You don’t need to be LGBTQRSTUVWXYZ to experience these things from other people at church. You just need to be one of the kind of people that everyone else has a hard time being delighted to have around.
As one of our honest members said after we’d pre-viewed the video on inclusiveness training yesterday, and were discussing whether it would really be appropriate or helpful for the congregation, “I think I’d have an easier time welcoming a trans person than a Republican these days.” Our membership and attendance rolls over the past couple of years suggest he’s not the only one.
Then, there are the people who bring toddlers to church. Or admit to not reading books. Or like praise music. Or panhandle. Or bring the wrong food to pitch-ins, back in the days when we HAD pitch-ins. There aren’t too many training videos for radically including those folks. But the challenge may be even more real.
My guess is that preparing to say “we’re welcoming and affirming” and mean it requires us to confront and deal with our actual disapproval, disgust, contempt, and rejection, of whoever actually provokes that, whatever its roots. And with our inability to take delight in the various people who are not doing anything more wrong than messing up the comfortable way we like things to be.
Which brings us back to confronting and dealing with what keeps us from being able to love people, the way Jesus did.
That old thing.