Wednesday, May 7, 2014

That Is Church, Too

The North Texas Area Assembly was this past Sunday afternoon. It’s an all right thing — a “family reunion” of the NTA churches and a worship service with some commissionings and a guest preacher. This past one was a bit controversial. The guest preacher was the Rev. Phillip Dukes, pastor of Crestview Christian Church in Greenville, Texas. Our Acting Regional Minister Coretha Loughridge recommended him when she had to back out of the service. In his sermon on the transformative power of the Great Commission (Matthew 28), Rev. Dukes stated (I do note I paraphrase, slightly), “We have to love homosexuals fully, just like we do adulterers, thieves and liars.” At that point in the service, I checked out. When the sermon was done, I walked out. And that night, I spoke out.

This week has been full of conversations with our Area Minister Larry Ross, numerous other pastors and lay members of churches in the NTA, and one brief phone call with Rev. Dukes. Both Larry and Phillip were aghast and highly apologetic — it was not Dukes’s intention, he told me, to come off the least bit judgmental or hateful towards the LGBTQ community; he was instead affirming the call of the church to serve and love everyone, homosexuals included. I had to point out that lumping gays and lesbians in a list of sins that need to be fixed — thieves should stop stealing because it’s bad relationship with God, others and the community; can we say the same thing about LGBTQ folks?—is problematic. Larry has been actively calling everyone who spoke out against the sermon, and is taking steps to rectify the situation. I am thankful for his pastoring in this regard; he is doing good work in the situation presented.

Here is the good news in all this: other people spoke out. I would wager, as the senior minister of the area’s only officially Open and Affirming congregation, that I was the first phone call on Monday morning, but I was not the last. Churches that are all but official in their welcome and grace have another topic of conversation to engage in. Churches that want to be more welcoming and graceful to LGBTQ folks have people who heard that statement, accidental or ignorant or unplanned or whatever, and need to discuss it. Action is coming after words.

This is one of the myriad reasons Midway Hills can’t go away. This is one of the myriad reasons we have to stay put, in the North Texas Area and Southwest Region. This is one of the myriad ways we know what we are doing matters — because more people Sunday exclaimed their dissatisfaction than they would have a few years ago, and more people were able to point to us and say, “That is church, too.” That, and even that, is pretty awesome.

Next year, let’s all plan to go. It’ll be the first Sunday of May. And on this upcoming second Sunday of May, I look forward to seeing you in worship.

Shalom y’all,


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