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One Lutheran pastor’s thoughts on the question of inclusivity in the faith community

The Reverend Elaine Hewes

Redeemer Lutheran Church

Bangor, Maine

“It’s about relationship,” I say to the people in our small Lutheran congregation.  “Authentic faith is grounded in, springs from, and blossoms into relationship.  Relationship that has a particular shape to it…..this shape,” I say, making the sign of the cross.  “Relationship that is first and foremost a deep engagement with others, represented in this sign by the vertical line. +  It is the willingness to enter into a fullness of relationship that promises commitment, accompanying love, and the deepest and most authentic kind of knowing.  Just like the deep love and authentic knowing God incarnates in the person of Jesus.

“Look at how deep this love goes,” I say, repeating the downward movement of the vertical line of the cross.  “It goes deep into the everyday.  Deep into the complexities and ambiguities and the messy stuff of our lives.  It is love that is not afraid to get muddy or worn out or to suffer with the beloved.  It is real and true, particular, concrete and visceral.

“And,” I say, extending both arms in a broad reach both to the left and the right, “it is also radically and wildly inclusive.  The relationship in which our faith is grounded, from which it springs, and into which it blossoms is radically and wildly inclusive.  That’s what the horizontal line on the cross signifies.  Look how far God stretches God’s self to open up the possibilities of relationship with us.  It is the same stretch love asks of us in our lives; a stretch that has no conditions, no exclusions, no holding back.  Just like the stretch of love modeled by Jesus.

It’s about relationship.  True, deep, incarnate, earthy, gutsy, committed relationship, extended without condition, without regard to race, gender, class, age, religion, or sexual orientation.  It’s about living into such a stance of relational openness.  It’s about honoring and celebrating any and all relationships that model (dare) such commitment and openness.  It’s about protecting such relationships in a society that has a diminished understanding of the gift of relationship.

Which means, in regards to the LGBT community, that we are called as Christians not only to intentionally and publicly extend the most authentic welcome possible, but to work for justice on behalf of those who are denied many of the legal and social protections that insure the fullest measure of relational living.  To do any less is to live a diminished faith.

God grant us the courage, the resolve and the grace to commit ourselves to such work, in the spirit of humility, accompanying love, gratitude and joy. For in the work of extending welcome and “doing” justice we will be blessed with relationships that open for us new horizons, as well as granting us a clearer understanding of that deepest kind of knowing we call love.