I got into a conversation this week with a friend who’s a pastor. He asked me my thoughts on how the church should practically navigate a situation with someone who is transgender. In that conversation, I mentioned the pastor could either lean toward making this person feel welcomed and included in the church (at the risk of others feeling uncomfortable), or could make others feel comfortable (at the risk of making this person feel like they don’t belong).
It made me realize one of the things I’m most grateful for these days: I no longer have to operate as a spiritual gatekeeper.
Spiritual gatekeeping is one of the unspoken roles pastors find themselves in. Most churches say “all are welcome,” but that tends not to be the case when a gay person or trans person tries to get involved or serve. Church leaders have to decide who can be involved and in what ways. Especially when it comes to serving, teaching, and leading in visible roles. I spent countless hours on this conversation when I was a Lead Pastor. (As many will note, this apprehension does not tend to apply similarly to those who are immoral in a heterosexual way or those with a history of abusing power).
It reminds me of something Father Gregory Boyle has written.
“The strategy of Jesus is not centered in taking the right stand on issues, but rather in standing in the right place—with the outcast and those relegated to the margins.”
I resonate deeply with this idea these days. I’m not sure about the ‘right’ stand on a handful of issues (this is true for most pastors I know too). I also don’t think the Bible is nearly as black and white as many Christians try to make it sound. I’ve found that pursuing the right stand often makes it hard to practically show love to the people who don’t fit your beliefs. We often end up focusing on theoretical ideas at the expense of actual people.
Instead of pursuing the right stand, I’m focusing on standing in the right place with the right people. Being welcoming and inclusive to those who often feel left out. I acknowledge I’m not always going to make the ‘right’ call. I don’t think any of us can navigate that perfectly. But we can work on living out our faith surrounded by the right people.
I share the appeal Pastor Zach W. Lambert recently offered:
“Please stop using ‘biblical’ as a synonym for your personal opinion. Please stop using ‘God clearly says’ as a synonym for what your church teaches. Please stop using ‘orthodox’ as a synonym for what your denomination believes.”
It makes me wonder. What would happen if we spent less time trying to have the right opinions and more time trying to stand with the right kind of people?What would happen if we spent less time trying to have the right opinions and more time trying to stand with the right kind of people? @FrGregBoyle @ZachWLambert Click To Tweet
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