Before we even got close to the room, I could smell the chili. The aroma filled the church building and it smelled divine.
We’d been setting up my laptop for a presentation I would make in a couple of hours. We’d done a sound and video check to make sure everything was up and running. And now we were off to join the elders and ministry staff for a quick supper and brief time for questions before the Wednesday evening church service began.
I’d only arrived a few hours before, but already I felt so welcome. Picked up at the airport, taken to the home where I was to stay, settling in the room prepared for my arrival. Warm greetings, first from my hosts, followed by the same from ministers I’d only met briefly on another occasion.
Already this was feeling like a good place for a CenterPeace Peacemakers Seminar.
My escort opened the door to the room where the dinner was being served. The room was filled with men laughing, talking, some already eating bowls of chili and cornbread. Some were milling around filling their tea glasses, visiting with one another. It only took a moment for me to detect that these guys clearly enjoyed each other’s company.
Only a moment, though, because the minute I entered the room, they quickly stopped what they were doing. They put their spoons down. They sat their drinks down on the table. They looked up at me with smiles and stretched out hands to shake. They began to surround me, waiting one by one to introduce themselves to me. I would’ve been fine going from table to table to introduce myself – to greet them and thank them for inviting me. But here they were going out of their way to make me feel welcome.
I can’t tell you what it did for my spirit to have all those men stand up and greet me so warmly when I entered the room that night.
After the first elder smiled and shook my hand, introducing himself to me, the rest of the introductions seemed a blur, running in slow motion in my head. I didn’t want it to end! And it didn’t – until each one had personally greeted me.
“I was a stranger and you took me in.”
For the overwhelming majority of gatherings I attend for CenterPeace, this type of reception is typical. I tell this story because I want my friends within the LGBT community to know that the churches so many of us grew up in are wanting to have this conversation. Not all of them yet, but many more than there were ten, certainly 20 years ago.
And I want you to know as my brothers and sisters in Christ what a privilege it is to witness firsthand the desire, the willingness, the courage to explore a topic that is fraught with a host of emotions. Fear being at the top of the list.
But I get to watch and walk alongside leaders who are courageous enough to acknowledge their fears and come together to talk about how to get past those fears.
To let God’s perfect love cast out all our fears.
Church leaders are talking. Really talking. To God and to each other about how to respond. Because they know this is about more than a topic. So much more than an issue.
It’s about people.
Ours daughters and sons.
Our granddaughters and grandsons.
Our nephews and neighbors, parents and aunts, people we trust to cut our hair and teach our children.
People we love dearly who have felt shut out and cut off from family, from church, from God for too long.
The elders’ questions weren’t easy that night, and we didn’t come up with all the answers.
But thank God we started the conversation.
One conversation doesn’t begin to chip the surface, though.
We’re gonna need more chili.
Have you opened the conversation about faith and sexuality at your church?
If so, what was that like for you and your church family?
If not, why not? What can CenterPeace do to help you get started?