Name Calling

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about church things. I am on several email lists and read several GLBT Christian and Lutheran blogs and web sites. I recently came across a pretty good article that was a reflection on the current state of the sexuality study in the ELCA. It was written by an 80+ year old retired Lutheran pastor. He made several good points that I wanted to share. He definitely stands with the Word Alone conservative side of the Church. I hate using the word “side” but don’t’ know a better term to use.

In recent years two terms have developed that describe the people on opposite sides of the sexuality debate. Those who embrace change and the welcoming and inclusion of GLBT people are known as “welcoming”. Those who embrace tradition and the refrain for change are known as “evangelical”. It is intersting that Word Alone and Good Soil and the affiliated organizations also embrace this terminology and use it liberally in their press and documents.

As this pastor pointed out, this name-calling implies that these groups alone own that aspect of the Church. In other words, can a Word Alone congregation not be described as welcoming? Can a Reconciling in Christ congregation not be known as an evangelical church? It’s pretty obvious that one needs to dig deeper than the words of spin doctors to really understand what a congregation is all about. One would hope that all congregations would be evangelical and welcoming.

It does bring up a good point. People see themselves differently than they may actually be. A congregation’s interpretation of what it means to be welcoming or evangelical may differ greatly from the same definition by a congregation sitting on the other side of the aisle on these sexuality issues.

Another term that is now being bantered around is inclusion or inclusive. This term has been used liberally for year by Lutherans Concerned and Good Soil to speak to the full inclusion of GLBT people in the church. Lately, Word Alone and conservative churches have embraced to word to signify inclusion for those who have differing opinions and may feel disenfranchised by changes of policy. I believe that is a technique to steal the word and meaning and twist it into meaning something completely opposite of its current use.

The pastor closed his article with a pretty insightful thought… “Hasn’t society already made its mind up on this matter?” Look at the polls, actions and opinions of young adults and teens. There is a wider spread acceptance of people of all sexual orientations. As he pointed out, if we were to travel 80 years into the future and look back to today, we would most likely be puzzled and appalled at the treatment of GLBT people by society and the Church.

Are you evangelical, welcoming and inclusive? That is the question today. My belief may not be shared by all people in the ELCA. I believe that each congregation has the right to define what the words mean to their congregation. They should be able to minister to those in need in their communities. They should be free to evangelicize and grow in their own ways. Isn’t that the true meaning of the Great Commission?

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