How Wide Is Our Welcome?


Amendment 10A has passed, which means the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has voted to allow the ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members. It doesn’t matter whether you voted for or against Amendment 10A, everyone paying attention to this knows that the spiritual earth has moved under our feet in the PCUSA. The terrain where we now stand is unfamiliar and together we face the question: How do we move forward together in this new spiritual landscape?

I reached out and invited two amazingly faithful Presbyterian leaders who have helped the church come to this new land to share their reflections upon what we can do together to best be the body of Christ in the world after the passing of 10A.

Michael Adee, the executive director of More Light Presbyterians, and Lisa Larges, leader of That All May Freely Serve, have helped me many times to grasp God’s word to us. They do this once more in their response to my query.

Lisa Larges replied to me: “Laws change, and the work continues. And that’s all right, because it’s good work, and wonderful work to do together. We’ve had nearly forty years to develop the Spiritual Disciplines of bearing witness to God’s wildly inclusive love, in the face of fear, hostility, judicial and legislative challenge, and conflict. It required a lot from us, but we gained a lot of wisdom and strength that is now our common legacy to draw on.”

Exactly. For those who voted No on Amendment 10 — so that you find yourselves in the place Lisa and Michael have moved from for decades — Lisa and Michael have the best wisdom on how to speak your truth with integrity now. We all do well to learn from them and imitate their grace.

Michael ponders upon “trust,” a commitment we all know is central to going forward now in the unity of Christ. He wrote to me saying: “Trusting God and each other will free all of us and the Church to be a healing and helping presence in a hurting world… My hope and prayer is that all of us will stretch our hearts, minds and faith to trust God to be at work in and through the passage of 10-A.”

As Reformed Christians for whom the sovereignty of God in all things is central to our faith, trust that God is at work in the adoption of 10A is not in question. How we see God at work in this may vary but we can pause for a moment on the blessed common ground of acknowledging God at work in the church and the world in this vote. We can join together in keeping our eyes on God’s presence and inspiration and move ahead.

Trust is also a great challenge before us. The renewed effort to find a way for the PCUSA to be together while not being together that was raised in February by a number of pastors gives us a measure of that challenge. A writer to The Presbyterian Layman wrote recently in response to thoughts I shared there that he flat out does not trust Presbyterians like Lisa, Michael and I.

In the end, trust is a choice. It does not rest upon agreement. For me, it rests upon acceptance that the other person means to be faithful to God in Christ, inspired by the Holy Spirit, in the same way I do. It rests upon a willingness to listen to the other person as a child of God whose words may be God’s words. That is what I mean by trust and I agree with Michael that it is essential for us if we are to succeed in being the church, a healing presence in a hurting world.

This statement in a church bulletin recently caught my attention: “We welcome everyone who welcomes everyone.”

Are we wide enough in the PCUSA to welcome everyone? What about even welcoming those who do not now welcome everyone? Michael and Lisa have given us good markers to show us the way.

What are your thoughts? How do we go forward as one in the Body of Christ, trusting each other, and welcoming all from this moment?

Video Response Link


Reverend Janet

6 Responses
  • Silva Theiss on May 20, 2011

    I very much like your final comment, about welcoming those who do not welcome everyone. In my experience, many progressives have a real problem with this. It is *not* enough to welcome everyone who welcomes everyone. We must wecome everyone. We must endeavor to draw our circle, big enough to enclose the circle of the ones who drew their circle to shut us out.


  • Leigh Anne on May 20, 2011

    All sinners. All redeemed in Christ!

    Why are we still arguing over what is sin? Because we don’t truly trust God’s redemption!

  • Janet Edwards on May 20, 2011

    Dear Silva and Leigh Anne,

    Thanks so much for your provocative thoughts!

    The combination of the image of inclusive circles and God’s redemption reminds me of a transformative moment for me when my children were young.

    After reading a meditation on Jesus’ baptism where Henry Nouwen sees the words from heaven applying to us all: “You are my beloved. On you my favor rests,” I decided to say this to each of my sons as they left the car each morning to enter school. On the first day, after I said it to my younger son, I saw a little fear in my older son’s eyes as if he was not sure there was enough love and favor for him too. And I said to him, too, “You are my beloved. On you my favor rests.”

    I trust that God has enough love for all of us and that God can sort our our differences. I trust it is no surprise to you that loving one another (which does not mean agreement)is more important than sorting our our differences.

    One aspect of the Grace in the new G-6.0106 a and b is the way it places the conversation where the people involved are. There we can get to know one another, love one another, see Christ in each other and have the best chance at sorting out our differences inspired by the Holy Spirit whose love is welcome is wide enough for us all.

    I hope this prompts further thoughts by you and others.

    Peace be with you both, Janet

  • pennyjane hanson on May 21, 2011

    good morning silva.

    i so love your idea of about circles and reaching for total inclusiveness. it’s such a wonderful ideal and goal, but i have to confess: it does give me reason for pause.

    this points out to me that there really is a limit to inclusiveness, i don’t necessarily like it, but i do see it in your words.

    if we say we must welcome everyone (even those who do not welcome everyone), i can see a point, given the welcome is accepted by those who do not welcome everyone, when that no longer becomes a truth. by the very fulfillment of that all inclusive welcome we become a people who must say, “some of us welcome everyone and some of us don’t.”

    i wonder at what poiint the very application of the welcome renders it moot? i wonder if, maybe not in the perfect vein of inclusiveness, but for it’s very preservation, that we might not revisit the first application stated, “we welcome everyone who welcomes everyone.” i wonder if, in the end, that might be a more enduring creed?

    just a thought.

    much love and hope. pj

  • Janet Edwards on May 23, 2011

    Dear pj,

    Thanks for your, as usual, helpful comments! I have needed time to find words for my response.

    One of the transformative moments in my stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality came as I listened to a sermon on a More Light in June some years ago. The pastor was speaking of Jesus saying in John 12, “When I am lifted up, I shall draw all people to myself.” Then she declared, “There is no ‘but’ in all.”

    Every morning when I begin my devotions with a prayer that my hands, words, thoughts may share in a communion of love with everyone, I ponder the meaning of “everyone” and remember that there is no “but” in everyone. Everyone includes those who do not include everyone.

    Of course, they will know that my welcome is rooted in welcoming everyone–that does not vary. Those who do not welcome everyone then have a choice to stay in the welcoming community or not. It is their choice. I hope they stay and I will listen to what they have to say. I will continue to welcome everyone probably.

    This means that the welcome is never rendered moot as far as I can tell. Does this make any sense to you?

    I know you will give this your prayerful thought. Thanks now for that!

    Peace, Janet

  • pennyjane hanson on May 23, 2011

    hi janet.

    i so love that part of the sermon you spoke of….”all will be lifted up and there is no ‘but’ in all.”

    although there is sripture that might seem to contradict this sentiment, i “choose” to believe it. i know that will annoy frank, but…yes, i could have chosen to believe otherwise.

    i choose to believe that every person i come in contact with, rather i like them or not, whether i agree with their dogma or theology or not…i choose to believe they will end up in heaven right along side of me. i choose this belief because it best represents what i believe to be the prime directives…love and hope! i would find it hard to love someone as i think Jesus would like for me to if i presumed they were destined for hell.

    the numbers may not bear me out in the end, but if they aren’t there, i won’t rejoice in their absence, i will grieve the loss.

    i confess, though i love the idealism represented by yours and silva’s all inclusive welcome, it makes me uneasy. uneasy isn’t such a bad thing though, so…like you, i think, i’d be willing to try a “new thing”…up to the point where we try to institutionalize rejection, such as the old language in 06b.

    seeing “we welcome everyone” as a confession…actually, i think i agree with you from that perspective…i like it better without the modification.

    thank you for sharing with me.

    much love and hope. pj

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