Are All Welcome?


by: April O'Flaherty


"Being convinced that the Biblical intent for sexual behavior is loving fidelity within marriage and celibacy outside marriage, we intend to pursue a clear statement of policy on the part of the United Church of Canada declaring the unsuitability of self-declared practicing homosexual persons for ordained/commissioned ministry in our church."


The above paragraph is a direct quote from the web site for the United Church Community of Concern, and I quote it here because it hit me pretty close to home and it annoyed me to no end. In truth, I have never considered myself a very politically minded person, finding the whole process to be full of equal parts nasty behaviour and ulterior motives. But this is one of those instances where I feel that I cannot sit still, as the implications of the above statement are too serious to be simply be dismissed as the words of a few people afraid of change.

What in God's name are these people so afraid of that they feel they need to form a right-wing political group to combat? Is it famine of the proportions seen in Ethiopia? What about the sky-rocketing crime rates we always hear about? No, that isn't it? Oh, well then surely they are up in arms about Canada's increasing homeless populations or the cuts to social programs, or perhaps it has to do with those sweeping cuts to our Provincial health care programs? I mean, that is terrible.

No, my friends, that is not the problem. In fact, it is none of the above.

They are frantic over the ordaining or commissioning of "self-declared practicing homosexual persons" in the United Church of Canada. Remember a little over a decade ago when the United Church of Canada decided to start seeing gays and lesbians as real live members of the body of Christ? There was much wringing of hands, pulling of hair, and abandonment of the denomination itself over what has since come to be known in the United Church as "the issue". The Community of Concern sprang into being as a way for those not happy with "the issue" to fight this change from within the ranks of the membership of the United Church. Apparently they meant business. Striking while the iron was hot, their membership increased exponentially. At least at the start. I do not believe that this continues to be the case at the start of this third millennium.

Let us pray this is not the case.

What we have here, my brothers and sisters in Christ is a wolf in sheep's clothing -- something malevolent operating in the guise of Christian concern for the future of the Church. I have no doubt that these people are sincere, but have we not learned throughout the ages that human beings can be sincere and quite wrong? Those who fought against the abolition of slavery were very sincere, and used the Bible to support their ownership of African slaves, as some still do today. Something ridiculous about Noah's son Ham (the father of Canaan) doing something so horrid it remains unnamed to this very day, causing the curse of slavery to fall upon the Canaanites. I suppose the African slaves were branded as descendants of Canaan and that made slavery not only okay, but downright blessed of God!

We know better now, do we not? If we were to take the Bible literally, as groups such as the Community of Concern would have us do, then everybody had better watch their backs, for surely there is the scent of sulfur in the air. A very long line of Christians would be forced to leave the church in droves. Divorced? Right this way. You ate pork?? Uh-oh, fall into line. You had better not talk back to your parents, the punishment for that was stoning. (Not the inhaling kind that Bill Clinton did not do, but the kind where people hurl big old rocks at you until you die). Ever sin in your entire life? Sorry, you must be excommunicated, tossed out and treated as a leper. Oh my, HIV-positive?? Head of that line, you don't belong here at all. And I'll thank you not to touch me on your way out!

Everybody out now? Who's left? Oh, no one? I didn't think so.

Where is the logic in the anti-gay rhetoric? Remember when AIDS first hit the news? So many groups belonging to the Christian "right" proclaimed far and wide that this was the curse of God on the activities of "those sinners," the gay population. The basic argument was that God was vehemently opposes same-sex relationships of any kind, and therefore He sent AIDS as a plague upon the homosexual population. However, if that were the case, then the lesbian population must be blessed of God as it has walked through this horrible disease unscathed. That "punishment of God" stuff does not quite fly, does it?

I am personally fed up with the anti-gay hate masquerading as Biblical Morality in the church today, and I simply will no longer tolerate it or run away from the controversy surrounding it. Let me tell you something. I am a Christian, a believer in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and my personal Saviour. I pray and study my Bible on a regular basis. I am in church on Sunday and paying attention to the sermon. Sometimes I even take notes. I have made so many wonderful friends in my church who mean the world to me. I have started working on the church newsletter, and it's something I truly love to do.

I also happen to be a lesbian. Why is that such a big deal? Okay, it's a part of who I am, but it is most certainly not the be-all and end-all of my existence and I wish people like those involved with the Community of Concern would get that. What now, do I have to start a group called "Concerned about the Community of Concern?" Good Lord, I hope not! All being homosexual means for me is that one day I might just show up at church with a woman at my side. Big deal!

Does this now mean that I am a different person, now that I have come out of that proverbial closet? Of course not. My closet did not come with a revolving closet door, anymore that my acceptance of Jesus did. You will be happy to learn that Jesus and I get along very well He never asked me whether I was straight of gay when we met. Not only was it not important to Him, but He already knew anyway. Hello, He is God and He knows all about each and everyone of us.

Acceptance of homosexual persons into ordained ministry (although would anyone care to explain to me what exactly a "practicing" homosexual is, because I have always been under the impression that one is either gay or straight, no practicing or classes required) does not in any way mean the beginning of the end for the United Church as an entity in Canada, as so many seem to fear it does. I wager the same fear existed when black people were first welcomed into the "white" churches, or when women were first being ordained. Change evokes great (and often exaggerated) fear in people. We generally fear what we do not understand.

Telling me, as a lesbian Christian, that it is okay for me to come to church, contribute financially if I can, and to help run programs, but it is not okay for me to train to become an ordained United Church minister, is the very height of hypocrisy. It is not the least bit "okay" for any church to take what they want from a member but to refuse to treat them as equal. It is in every way as demeaning and unacceptable as it was for white people to try to force people like Rosa Parks to the back of the bus before the civil rights movement and her own sense of self-worth kicked in, because she happened to be black. Sub-human is no way to treat any person of colour, nor is sub-Christian any way to treat a homosexual who seeks full inclusion and even ordination in a Church bearing the name of the Christ who called all men and women to him.

This whole Community of Concern issue troubles me terribly, mainly because finances have kept me from going to school to become a minister, and now I see that sexual orientation is being used to block the path I so dearly want to walk along. I daresay one's sexual preference has no effect either way on vocation. Those who are called to the ordained ministry, or to any ministry within the body of Christ, should not be precluded merely on the basis of who they choose to share their lives with. It should not matter.

I believe whole-heartedly that Christ called us all into communion with Him, without a long list of criterion for entrance into this, His body of believers. Do we love Him? Do we love one another? Do we want to reach the world for Christ? Christ wanted more than anything else to touch everyone's life with the boundless love and compassion He had for each and every human being, regardless of colour, regardless of sexual orientation. He seemed to be, at least in my humble estimation, far more concerned with fidelity, love, reaching out to feed and care for the hungry and orphaned, and in bridging the gap between God and humankind, than with who was sleeping with whom or what denomination they belonged to. His biggest qualification seemed to be -- "Do you love me?" always in almost the same breath as, "Feed My Sheep".

I do not personally care whether my ministers are gay or straight, rich or poor, black or white or any of a myriad of colours, or old or young. All that matters to me is that they love the Lord and in turn love those they are responsible for shepherding. Are they there to laugh with me when times are good? Do they give me a shoulder to lean on when the weight of the world is slowly crushing my spirit? Do they show me Jesus in their daily lives? If they do that, they are all Christ called them to be.

I will leave you with a quotation from a song I like, written by Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls duo. I think it says in a few brief words what needs to be said:

"Modern scribes write in Jesus Christ everyone is free
and the doors open wide to all straight men and women
but they are not open to me."

Copyright © 2001 by the author
All Rights Reserved


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Gifted by Otherness : Gay and Lesbian Christians in the Church

Louis William Countryman

Witness: Gay and Lesbian Clergy Report from the Front

Dann Hazel


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The Light Of the World

Accept Yourself


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