Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Welcoming and Gracious -- General Assembly Reflection #9

Late Tuesday afternoon, after much anticipation and anxiety, a full convention hall took up the Sense of The Assembly Resolution GA-1327.  It's entitled Becoming a People of Grace and Welcome to All.  The point of the Resolution was to call upon the Assembly to declare openly that when we invite all to the table, we mean all -- and that includes persons who are LGBTQ.  It's a difficult discussion because not everyone is on the same page.  For many in the church, welcome is one thing, affirming is another.  But who do we welcome a person if we can't affirm them for who they are as a person?

We had 24 minutes of debate, with each side getting 12 minutes.  It's not a lot of time.  But it was all we had.  It was only 24 minutes, but we've been debating this for years.  But today was the day that we'd reached a tipping point.  There was passion on both sides.  Scripture was quoted on both sides.  In the end we voted, and the ayes had won the day.  Of course this is a "Sense-of-the-Assembly," which means it isn't binding on anyone.  And yet, it sends a signal to regions and congregations that the Church is moving in a new direction. 

To quote the "Be it further Resolved" section:

"The General Assembly calls upon the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to affirm the faith, baptism and spiritual gifts of all Christians regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and that neither is grounds for exclusion from fellowship or service within the church, but we celebrate that all are part of God's good creation."

What is key here is that as Disciples we've declared, at least as the church gathering in Assembly, that however we view sexual orientation, we should not see it as a barrier to  the Table or to service in the church.  The Gifts that our LGBTQ brothers and sisters bring to the church no longer need to be put in the closet.  I hear this as a word to the broader church that we need to move beyond the very unhealthy pattern of "don't ask don't tell."  It didn't work in the military and it doesn't work in the church.  Not talking about sexual orientation doesn't make it go away.  We only had twenty-four minutes of debate time, but we've been debating it for decades.  The time for discernment had come to the point of making a declaration, and we did. Was it unanimous?  No.  But there was an overarching consensus to move forward -- and to move forward will will have to build bridges for those not yet ready to cross to come when they are able.

Today was historic, but we still have much work to do.  We took a giant step, but the conversation hasn't ended.  In fact, I think it's only just begun, but now we'll do it more openly.  But ultimately "all means all"

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