Red sky at night, sailors delight.
Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.
What’s next for me.
What’s next for AWAB.
What’s next for the church.
What’s next for the intersection of all of these.
When we picked the theme for the AWAB Retreat (June 29 in Kansas City) I was not yet in discernment about completing my time as ED for AWAB. The planning team was thinking about the deeply pivotal moment that we find ourselves in as an organization, as a faith community and as a movement in general.
For many people within the LGBTQ community the Holy Grail has been marriage equality for well over a decade. As we await the decision on marriage equality by the US Supreme Court next month many are planning their celebrations, their weddings and receptions, and their family recognition rituals. This is a day long in coming that has changed our society for better in so many ways.
Red sky at night, sailors delight….
Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning….
What I see in all of this is the grey fog of invisibility that permeates all of our lives. It is the fog of nuance and complexity, the grey of change, and the invisibility of people who live beyond the effect of marriage as the legal recognition of a relationship. This is the place that I know I remain called to move towards, the place that I believe the church has always been called to serve and cry out on behalf of. Let me share a little of what I find in this fog of invisibility.
Add to the the reality that young people are now coming out in High School and Jr. High, pushing the pressure and struggle of gender and sexual identity discernment into the time in a person’s life that is the most challenging. Kids shun Gay Straight Alliances unless they are ok with being out and too often parents discount their struggle as a phase or something to be cured. Sadly, there are few safe places where the young LGBTQ person can discover healthy ways to come into themselves that doesn’t involve becoming hyper sexual or self hating. And while I commend the It Gets Better campaign and all of the other media attempts to let young people know that they can survive and thrive in the world, this is not changing the statistics that show the epidemic of at-risk and homeless LGBTQ youth in this country.
I believe what is next for our AWAB members is a call to share our particular gift with the future based in our identity as Baptists who are welcoming & affirming of sexual and gender minorities.
- If there is no LGBTQ shelter in your area, might your church be called to start one?
- If you have families with space and capacity, might they be called to become foster families for these throw away kids?
- If there is no LGBTQ center where younger and older LGBTQ people can meet, could your church become the home for such a gathering place?
- How can your youth ministry become explicitly LGBTQ friendly and accessible?
I believe what is next for our AWAB members is a call to share our particular gift with the future based in our identity as Baptists who are welcoming & affirming of sexual and gender minorities. For over 20 years we have witnessed to the wider church about the beauty that affirming all people brings to our congregations, to the community and to the world. We have shown that affirming families of all stripes is a blessing and that children raised in our churches are free to be whole from the day they arrive. We must share this with the world and stop hiding this light under our bushels!
I also believe that we must continue to love our denominational bodies even as we press for “neutral” within our governing structures. Many have abandoned our denominations as irrelevant in this so-called post-christian, post-colonial, post-denominational era. I see this as shortsighted because I believe that the “church” is eternal even if this church is not.
In our highest and best selves, we Baptists have a way that honors diversity while seeking to serve together in humility, power and grace. I have been talking for the last few years about the need to move our structures to “neutral” and not a fully inclusive denominational stance because I fundamentally believe that if our governance is neutral on dogma and doctrine each church is fully able to live into its call without fear or threat. No congregation or fellowship should be afraid to come out as conservative or liberal, Calvinist or Universalist if this is who it is.
Our AWAB member congregations know full well how it feels to be a minority and to suffer persecution or shunning because of who they are. Amazingly, most of our congregations have remained in their denominational families and continue to love their fellow members sharing ministry and missions even as they disagree on a diversity of theologies and practices. This is yet another gift that we give to the church that we need to use as yeast for the leveling of the whole.
And ultimately, I see a future where we must grapple with the reality that we have power, that we have the ability to change the systems and communities in which we reside. We know how to discern deeply what it means to be church, allowing ourselves to be changed and shaped into the beautiful gems that God desires us to be. We know what it is like to come out of the fog while staying in it. We know what being faithful feels like even as everything around us feels murkey and grey.
There is a new day dawning and I can’t say if the sky will be red or not. What I do know is that AWAB as an association of churches needs all of you, all of us, to determine what we are being called to next. AWAB, as a community who believes that all people are made in the divine image of God, needs to take this moment and discern together what is next, to listen to the mind of God for the ways that our agency is needed for such a time as this.
Will you join me in Kansas City next month for the AWAB retreat? If you can’t be there will you commit to pray that we enter Wisdom’s gate and drink deeply from Her well that we would catch a glimpse of what is next for the church and for AWAB. And when we catch that glimpse, will you commit to doing your part to navigate through the fog?