Thursday, August 06, 2009

Hmmm ... Inclusivity is more than a word ...

I love the United Church of Canada.
Inspite of everything I've been through, I still regard it as my spiritual home.
I love the stances that United Church has taken historically on everything from the place of women in its ministry, to the role of Gays & Lesbians in its life ... the commitment to Justice and to living out faith have at times been inspiring ...

But the United Church has its dark chapters too ... the treatment of James Endicott and his family for standing with the Chinese Communists is appalling ... the treatment of First Nations People and the lengths it took for people like Willie Blackwater to receive a much deserved just response to their experience in Residential School ... and the continuing marginalization of Gay and Lesbian folks in the Church ... stand as examples of how and where the eloquent words spoken from the pulpit remain disconnected and removed from the pews ...

For all its faults, I believe that the United Church has within it the potential and possibility of embodying and sharing the Kingdom of God incarnate in our world ...

Alas, the United Church may hold those seeds of possibility, but without nurture and care, those seeds will never sprout, but will instead continue to wither and die ... all because dissent is no longer welcome ... conformity is the rule of the day ... and those of us who dare to raise issues and ask the questions that no one else wants to acknowledge much less wrestle with ...

Today, perhaps as never before the United Church of Canada stands poised to wrestle with the question of what it means to be an OPEN, INCLUSIVE and WELCOMING church ... the upcoming General Council Meetings are going to wrestle with the "Called to Be Church" document that was circulated a few months ago ... a document that is looking at living out the ministry and mandate of being Church in a mult-ethnic setting ...

I wish them well in their work ... but I expect only more empty words and hollow commitments to justice and inclusivity with nothing really changing on the ground ...

Today I read a comment that said ... "people who are outside should get over themselves and come inside to see what's happening now, instead of wallowing in their preconceived notions about the church."

I can't help but wonder - why is it that those IN the Church - a church that claims to be open and welcoming and INCLUSIVE, keep asking those of us who feel rejected and who stand outside such questions like - "what do YOU need to change?"

If the UCC was truly the Inclusive Church is claims to be such questions would never arise ... would you ask the homeless mom to have a shower before giving her a bowl of soup?? Would you ask the First Nations guy to sober up before letting him bed down for the night?? Would you ask the person reaching for the communion loaf if they were 'worthy' before letting them partake??

Yet, voices like mine who are not related to the powers that be, and who do not blindly support leadership because of their longevity and connectedness ... voices who dare to speak openly, freely and without hesitation are ridiculed, rejected and told "YOU are the problem."

Funny ... over and over in the last few months I've met more and more people who have shared with me their personal and very painful stories of having been rejected by the Church. They've talked openly about "the Old Guard" holding sway, they've shared the moments when they were forced to leave with a smile on the face of the other who suggested 'you don't really belong here' in sugary sweet words dripping with malice ... over and over I've encountered deeply spiritual people who yearn to return to "The Church" but who are deeply wounded and hurt by their experiences and who repeatedly feel belittled and ignored when they try to share these experiences with those still in the Church ...

The knowing nodding of the head and the empty - "that's sounds tough ..." that many of the modern Clergy-types have gotten good at offering is NOT good pastoral care.

Letting monstrous and hurtful behaviour continue unchallenged is NOT good pastoral care.

Failing to confront the toxicity that pours from too many pulpits in our land is NOT good pastoral care.

And ignoring the voices of those who stand with their noses pressed against the glass looking in at what was once their spiritual home is not only BAD Pastoral Care ... it's an abomination to all things faithful and spirit-filled.

Over and over we have encountered studies and research documents that highlight the agony of those who have been driven out of the Church ... and yet our leadership habitually ignores both the documentation about AND the people experiencing that alienation. Instead they continue to rearrange the deck chairs and pretend this vessel we stand on is NOT strickened and wounded and SINKING!!!

It's sad really ... there is SO much potential ... but until we set the Spirit free and STOP putting limitations and restrictions on membership so as not to offend the long term members and the "old guard" the Church will continue its slow spiral of decline ... and I weep for that ...

I love the United Church ... I just resent the treatment I continue to receive from the majority of its leadership who claim to be "faithful" leaders in an open, inclusive and WELCOMING church ... hmmm, like my Grandfather used to tell me - "don't you show our faith by what you say, but by what you do ..."

I wonder what he would think of a Church that will work to welcome back a convicted sex offender while continuing to bar an intelligent, out-spoken and DEFIANT voice from returning home ...

Stay tuned - more to come ...

1 comment:

Adam said...

I've got to say that I love the picture. It illumines beautifully what you are saying.

People's stories often remind me of Scripture, and this wonderful kid looking through the window reminds me of Mary of Magdala (historically known as "the Apostle to the Apostles") and her story. Mary was the New Testament Church's first preacher. She is the only one who in all four Gospels is portrayed as finding an empty tomb - and yet, because she is a woman, her witness is sneered at.

I think that the brutal torture of Jesus and the crucifixion really illumine our nature as a Church to be no different from the government authorities who killed Jesus. We love to kill those who disagree with us, mainly because we are so uncreative. My reflection over many games of Free Cell on my computer reminds me of how uncreative I am myself. I think that too often we are uncreative. Tomorrow when I have a little more time to relax and think about your comments I want to relate some of this stuff a little more.