For about 8 months now, our congregation has been involved in a process of discernment known as the Open and Affirming (ONA) process. The purpose of this discernment process is to educate our members about issues relating to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons. It's secondary purpose is aimed at developing a policy officially welcoming and affirming by name persons who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender.
There are fewer groups of persons who have been disallowed, disowned, and unwelcomed than gay and transgender folks. And in few other institutions other than church, have these same folks been met with alienation, judgment, and condemnation. Our ONA process and subsequent statement of inclusion (if it's agreed upon by a vote of the congregation) affect several areas throughout our church life. It also opens us up to conversations about equality. If we're open and affirming to gay folks, how open and affirming are we to disabled folks? How might we continue to educate ourselves about the issues of inclusion and the obstacles that remain?
A good friend has been writing a series of posts about areas of inclusion on his blog. asking tough questions about integration (we've all heard the oft quoted statement, 'Sunday morning is the most segregated time of the week.') How do we remain open and seek ways to understand why we need to be that way? These are questions we'll continue to ask whether or not we vote to become an Open and Affirming congregation.
This afternoon I read an interesting article written by a woman who married a gay man. Her insights are well-written, her questions tear at your heart, and her final resolve is one of hope--one that addresses why gay men would marry a woman in the first place. Let me encourage you to read it (as well as my friend's posts). Both of these articles remind us of the importance of inclusion across racial, socio-economic, political, orientation, and gender lines. All in all they address the issue of Jesus' call towards inclusion, affirmation, and kingdom building.