An Extravagant Welcome

I noticed that President Trump received what was described by the press as “an extravagant welcome” from King Salman of Saudi Arabia when he recently visited there. Last Sunday Emmanuel celebrated an “Extravagant Welcome” Sunday recognizing our recent affiliation with A.W.A.B. (Affirming and Welcoming American Baptists). This organization advocates for the full acceptance in congregations of all L.G.B.T.Q. persons (Lesbian, Gay,
Bi-Sexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning). We were privileged to host three very compelling guests, each with their own unique story and perspective on this and other pressing social isues: Mr. Stephen Bouchard former AWAB member, State Senator Ray Lesniak (Gubernatorial candidate and human rights champion) and State Assemblyman Tim Eustace (Deputy Conference Leader).

All three of our guests emphasized the importance of what Emmanuel and other congregations are doing as a way of breaking the “glass ceiling” for L.G.B.T.Q. persons. As one of our guests said, “Everyone is looking for a spiritual home.” I agree with that and I believe that it is Emmanuel’s unique role and mission to open its doors to “the house of God” as wide as possible so that the many who might never enter a traditional church might find the love, support, and acceptance that we all need and desire.

The Apostle Paul admonished us to “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us, to the glory of God.” Its time in the life of the Christian Church for congregations to walk their talk. Jesus ministry and modus operandi leave little wiggle room. We have no excuse and no authority to exclude an open hearted seeker from full and free membership into the body of Christ, regardless of their pedigree or theological orthodoxy. I spent a good chunk of my ministry in the Church of God of Anderson, Indiana. It is one of the few Christian denomination whose congregations still have no “membership.” The idea is that only God can place an individual into the body of Christ, the church is not something that one “joins” like a club, rather the church is a living, organism that grows and is grafted together as God graciously adds to it. Ultimately, God is the “decider in chief” and determines the parameters for membership into God’s family.

At Emmanuel our intention is not to build a “gay” church just as we don’t intend to build a “straight” church. Our intention is to build a “great” church which, by definition, is one in which there’s room at God’s table for all people, of all color and classes and even sexual identities. Thanks to you who are “constituents” of Emmanuel who are open-minded and open-hearted enough to make that vision into a reality.