On Sunday following worship with the congregation of Chestnut UMC, we're gathering for a "Reconciling Conversation" -- the first step in a process as we consider a proposal to join the Reconciling Ministries Network and declare ourselves a fully inclusive church, particularly in welcoming the gay and lesbian community.
This process was initiated by a conversation at a visioning gathering that we held last month. At that time, with unanimous approval and enthusiastic support from everyone in the room, one of the goals we set was to pursue becoming a Reconciling Congregation. I'm looking forward to this first conversation with a widened circle, and whatever the outcome, I'm praying the process will be prayerful, respectful, and Spirit-led.
A couple of weeks ago, Sara and I had an opportunity to participate in an event at Portland High School sponsored by a student group called the Gay-Straight Alliance, affiliated with the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network. The event, called "Claiming our Sexuality and our Spirituality," brought together students, adults, and leaders of faith communities for sacred conversation. Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire (a truly amazing person!) was the keynote speaker, and then each of us spoke briefly about our faith traditions, extending a welcome to the students in the room, whatever their sexual identities. Then students were invited to circulate among the room to talk, ask questions, and make connections. Sara and I felt honored to be there. (See Sara's post, "A Sacred Night.")
When the advisor for the sponsoring group called, she said, "The most commonly asked question when I'm alone with a student is, 'Does God hate me?'" She said, "It breaks my heart every time I hear a student ask that."
I think it breaks God's heart, too.
So please, dear readers, join me if you will, in praying for the church -- the church I serve in particular as we engage in this process, if you'd like, but more specifically for the church universal, that we might more faithfully communicate the all-embracing, all-inclusive, full-of-grace and longing-for-relationship, reconciling love of God to those who feel like God must hate them because of who they are. They are everywhere, and they are beloved children of God, our brothers and sisters.