The following letter was written about a year ago while I was surfing around on church websites trying to glean how to write some blurbs for a project I was working on.
Dear Church People,
I love you. I love you all, so much. I am one of you. Even though we are all different, we are all one. We make a lot of mistakes, but sometimes we get things so right. And that is when the kin-dom of God shines through.
I want to give you some advice. It’s about your websites. When I was growing up, our church didn’t have a website. All the information one needed was on the church sign and in the bulletin for Sunday services. That’s how people found us. That was the first chance we had to make an impression when someone new walked through our doors.
But now, we have websites. And these are SUPER helpful. You can really make a great first impression with a good website. Instead of looking in a phone book or driving through town, we can be found simply through the world wide web. And that’s great. The best part is going to the “About” section. That’s where people like me go to find out what it is that each of you believes. In my case, to find out if you are welcoming.
But here’s where we fail. And we fail hard on this.
Most of the time, the “About” section says something along the lines of: “we welcome all of God’s children.” You keep it ambiguous because we are all God’s children.
But let’s be honest, lots of you don’t really believe that.
Those of us who identify as LGBTQ are often intentionally ambiguously left out of this language because no one wants to be labeled the church that doesn’t welcome a specific group of people. We aren’t supposed to be exclusive, yet we are. This is where we intentionally deceive ourselves. It’s cruel really. “Sure we’re welcoming. Come on inside the doors and we can tell you in more specifics of who is actually welcome.” Why on earth would we put someone through this?
This isn’t fair. It’s not fair to those of us who are looking at churches and it’s not fair to those of us in the church.
Honesty is always the best policy. So, why aren’t we honest in so many of our mission statements. If you don’t want unwed mothers in your churches, just say it. If you don’t want a lesbian in your pulpit or a gay marriage to take place in your sanctuary, just say it. What it does is keeps those of us who are often turned away from falling for you.
Sure, you’re lovely, and your potlucks are the best in town. But don’t let us fall for you only to find out that we’re getting the boot because you really only welcome some of God’s children. If you start with being honest, then it saves everyone a lot of time and effort. It saves a lot of folks from adding to the trauma that the church has already caused. It’s really a bully tactic. “Come into our church because you’re welcome. But once you’re in here, you will find out that you’re really not, but you’ve already fallen for us.” And then someone leaves in tears.
It sounds like an 80’s Molly Ringwald movie, really.
So, church people, just say it. Just say if you don’t like the gays. Say if you don’t like minorities. Say if you don’t like trans folks. Say if you don’t want someone experiencing homelessness in your pews because they smell. Say if you don’t want unwed mothers. Just say it.
Because when you do, you are not only living into the really awful truth of who you actually are, but you’re also helping out the rest of us who are trying to figure out if you’re really all that welcoming from getting too invested when you’ll only hurt us.
I don’t think you know how hard it actually is to have to ask the question, “So how do you feel about this specific piece of my identity?” because that’s what you’re forcing people like me to ask. And for those of you who have never had to ask if a community of Christians will accept you because God made you a fabulous lesbian, then trust me, it never gets easier to ask that question over and over and over.
I have great respect for churches that claim who they are, more so than churches who are afraid to claim their identity, even when it’s broken and messy and exclusive. Because it’s the truth and it’s doing a favor to people like me. And you get bonus points for being honest and saying something like, “Come join us anyways, because there’s always room for growth.”
Anyone who has ever read the “about” section on your websites