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Open and Affirming Church

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

prop8The recent proposition 8 controversy has put the issue of homosexual marriage on the front page of both secular and religious blogs and newspapers. In a call for compassion many churches are voting to declare themselves as “Open and Affirming” congregations. The group in my denomination which greatly advocates for the rights of homosexuals in the chruch is the GLAD Alliance (Gay Lesbian and Affirming Disciples).

From their “About Us” page:

We invite congregations and other manifestations of the Christian Church to declare themselves Open & Affirming, to proclaim publicly that LGBT persons are welcome in the life and leadership of the Church. We work with similar welcoming congregation programs in other denominations, providing time and resources to advance this call for inclusion throughout the whole Church.

This is not a post for nor against gay marriage, but I would like to explore the concept of the “Open and Affirming” label as the primary description of a church. For example the twitter bio-line of Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregation reads (as of May 26):

An open and affirming congregation celebrating diversity with a reasoned faith and a passion for justice

When you only get 160 characters to describe what it means to be church, is this the best description? Please don’t misunderstand me. Regardless of one’s position on gay marriage, all peoples ought to be treated with dignity within the church. We ought to celebrate diversity, have reasoned faith, and have a passion for justice in the church. Amen to all of that. But where is Jesus? Shouldn’t the Lordship of Jesus Christ be what defines a church? I would be just as critical if I read a bio-line that defined a church as being against gay marriage, abortion, immigration, etc.

What does it mean when churches and congregations are defined by a political position and not by Christ? Be Open and Affirming (or not), but that is not what defines a church.

Politics will always change. Political parties will come and go. The source of bigotry will change through the ages, and social justice will be redefined. But, Christ will always be Lord. That is why we cannot let the church be defined by these things. Yes, have an opinion, and express your faith in the world of politics. But don’t let the world of politics define you or the Church.