Sunday, June 03, 2007

What the hell is wrong with the church???

On Friday I went to the Rotary District Conference in Brandon and heard about all the amazing things Rotary is accomplishing both in the District, and Internationally. It was awesome to think that I am a tiny cog in such a great organization that has as one of its foundational goals, the helping of others.

Yesterday I went to the AGM for the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario of the United Church of Canada. It was an interesting contrast to Friday. While the Church struggles to do many of the same things that Rotary does, and it too has much to highlight and celebrate as achievements, what struck me most were two things ...

One was the struggle we continue to have around the inclusion of Gays, Lesbians and Tran-gender peoples in our midst. We like to think that we are a warm and welcoming place that is inclusive of all people. That's what we believe ourselves to be ... after all we support same sex marriages, and in 1988 we decided that openly gay and lesbian candidates could be ordained. But then in the midst of the discussion about envisioning the work that still needs to be done we hear a voice saying - "we are NOT what we think we are ... and this work still needs to be done ..."

I could have cheered when that was said - my only question was - "why does that comment ALWAYS come from a gay or lesbian person??" When will it be heterosexuals like ME who have the courage to stand up and say - "we are not as welcoming of gays and lesbians as we think we are ???"

I should have spoke, but I didn't ...

But what saddens me more is that we continue to have this discussion at all ... when we see and encounter someone who is hurting, do we not have an obligation as people of faith to do something to end the suffering and begin the healing?? Isn't that the whole point of the Good Samaritan parable that Jesus told?? Are we not to transcend barriers and hesitations to help?

Then on the heels of this discussion (a motion which eventually DID pass by the way) I spoke with colleague after colleague who are feeling battered and beaten ... I felt bad because, inspite of my current journey with Monty, I'm in a pretty good place. We've weathered some tumultuous storms, and I'm feeling pretty good about ministry - there is work still to be done, but by and large things are okay ... My colleagues are less fortunate than I ...

One has to justify their time down to the minute with their support committee, one has had their car vandalized, one has had their office window shattered with a rock, one has been bullied and intimidated by board members, one has felt physically threatened after worship, and the litany could continue ... the stories just piled up like the cookies on the refreshment table ...

What unified them all was the sad realization that all of these things are happening in the context of a church that is supposed to be open, inclusive, welcoming and caring ... All of these things have happened in THE CHURCH !!! Some of them enacted by people who believe themselves to be good and faithful members of that church ...

It is a form of clergy abuse ... it is a form of abuse ...

Not welcoming in gays and lesbians is a form of abuse ...

Treating someone - anyone for that matter, with anything less than respect is a form of abuse ...

And saddest of all ... it is happening in the church ...
I left the hall yesterday with a heavy heart - but a hopeful heart ... as I mulled over the stories and the experiences I had one prayer:

Come Holy Spirit Come,
and blow through us as a refreshing wind,
blow through us as a refining fire,
create us to be the people God yearns us to be ...
Come Holy Spirit Come ...
and make it quick !!!

Today I borrow from The Bard to say on behalf of my colleagues who are struggling in ministry, something that is often forgotten:

I am a minister and a person,
Hath not a minister eyes?
Hath not a minister hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections,passions,
fed with the same food,
hurt with the same weapons,
subject to the same diseases,
healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer,
as a you are?
If you prick us, do we not bleed?
If you tickle us, do we not laugh?
If you poison us, do we not die?

Maybe one day the Church will become what we envision it could be ... I hope so ... I really do!

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