I was contacted by a Disciples pastor the other day named Bob who moved to Florida recently to begin caring for a new congregation. His purpose for calling me was to let me know that a young couple from his previous church was moving to Oklahoma. He said, “this young couple, who are recently pregnant, will be living in a town about 45 minutes away from Oklahoma City, but they’re devoted members of the Disciples of Christ and they’re used to driving anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half to attend church.” I said, “Wow! That’s great! So how can I be of service? We’d love to meet this couple and welcome them into our community!”
It was at that point that Bob paused and said with trepidation, “well, this young couple is a gay couple.” He paused for a moment and then continued with his somewhat unsure tone, “I was just wondering if your church was accepting of gay people. I reached out to a church in the town these women are moving to, and while the pastor had no issues, the congregation was another story and…”
I took it upon myself to cut Bob off with a chuckle; he was clearly nervous about the entire situation. I said, “Bob, let me tell you something, the people who attend Simplicity are about as open and accepting as it gets. We have members of our congregation who are gay, members who have gay children, and we’ve partnered with members of the gay community to help expand and improve our ministries. We believe in open minds and open hearts, and we accept everyone as they are for who they are. Does that answer your question?”
I could hear the tone change in Bob’s voice almost immediately; his initial hesitance transformed into sheer excitement. He replied, “Oh! Well, Ok! It sounds like Simplicity might be a great fit for this couple!”
It turned out to be a great conversation; Bob is a super nice human being and it sounds like we may soon be graced by the presence of these two young ladies; however, I was left feeling somewhat conflicted by our conversation. On the one hand I was overjoyed at the thought of welcoming another young couple into our community and excited that I could deliver some news that would make others feel loved and accepted. On the other hand, I couldn’t help focusing on the notion of how ridiculous it was that a pastor felt the need to call churches in advance to make sure these women would be accepted for who they are. Frankly, I was left feeling gross and angry to be associated with church.
A quick aside - a friend of mine named Sarah, who happens to be the leader of our Pub Theology ministry and who also happens to be a strong, smart, passionate, and talented gay woman, said something to me recently about the Eucharist that struck me as absolutely beautiful. She said, “what I love about the Eucharist is that it’s a moment in time when we are all unequivocally equal. The alter is an equalizer and it’s in those moments every week that I feel like we’re all truly whole and connected.”
I thought about that statement after my conversation with Bob and it reminded me of why I do what I do and why I love Simplicity so much. I’ve always thought there was something beautiful about the sacred ritual of communion, but I never fully grasped it’s importance until Sarah’s comment about it being an equalizer. God is for EVERYONE; all are welcome to experience the body and the blood, and if that’s the case, then the same absolutely should go for Church. Period. If God loves and accepts everyone, we as His disciples should do so too. Jesus lived and died for radical, scandalous grace, so whether a person is gay or straight, black or white, Chinese or Cuban, a believer or a non-believer is all irrelevant, at least to me - all should be welcome in the House of God.
At Simplicity, we believe God is too big to be placed in a box and that relationships precede doctrine. I believe that truly amazing things can happen when a) God can’t be contained and b) love is your spiritual and theological foundation. I mean, there's always room for more love.