Tuesday, August 9, 2016

While the Coward Stands Aside

for the past week i've been a little down since my minister emailed to ask if we could get together to discuss my concerns about our church.  in her note she suggested that i had asked to talk with her about this at some future time, but i don't remember making such a request.  i have expressed my intention to talk with her in conversations with a couple of friends about our mutual concerns.  perhaps one of them has talked with her along the same lines and let her know that i would also like to speak with her.

at any rate, we've made a tentative appointment to meet, and in the back of my mind i've been thinking about what i want to say.  i have several items on my list: the way the dismissal of a staff member was handled, the adoption of an exclusionary wedding policy, the approval of new bylaws and a statement of belief and how that process was carried out, the church's investigation of membership in an organization that exists primarily because of our denomination's decision about marriage equality.  most of all i am upset about my wife's treatment by a member of the congregation, a woman who is involved in several of the activities in the church in which my wife also participates.  after my wife was attacked a second time in a very unkind and public way by one she thought was her friend, my wife stopped going to church, and i can't blame her.  if my wife is made to feel unwelcome and afraid of another such attack, i feel unwelcome, too.

when our congregation considered the new bylaws and statement of belief, i asked questions in what i thought was an informational meeting.  the man who was presenting these documents to the congregation answered them in a manner that let me know that my questions were unwelcome.  to my surprise, the proposed bylaws and statement were put to a vote then and there and approved with all but three of us who were present voting in the affirmative.  i was shocked that such important changes were pushed through so quickly.  we needed more time to think our way through these proposals and to discuss them more fully after the initial presentation.  after this experience, i don't feel free to ask questions or to express my opinion.  it seemed clear from the responses i got when i asked questions that my questions were viewed as challenges to the leadership and that much discussion had taken place to which i was not privy.

i am troubled that the adoption of the new wedding policy, the new bylaws, and the statement of belief were moved in large part by legal concerns.  our church's insurance company advised the church that certain statements need to be a part of our policies as a defense against lawsuits and persuaded the church to buy additional insurance as a protection if the church is sued after its refusal to sanction same-gender marriages.  decisions of faith and practice that are driven by a desire to avoid being sued are questionable, as far as i'm concerned.

i fear that my discussion with my minister may lead to me making decisions i don't want to make, like choosing between leaving our church and many of the people i love dearly behind or continuing as a member when membership is bringing me more stress than joy.  as we've elected church officers, we have pledged to support the decisions that they make on our behalf, but i find myself challenging some of the most important decisions they've made.  can i do this and still keep my pledge to support them?  i know that it is better to have this discussion with my pastor and get this out in the open with her, but i'm still anxious about doing so because it may lead me some place i don't want to go.

may we have the courage of our convictions, but may we have tolerance to realize that others may be right and we may be wrong.  may we remind ourselves that there is such a thing as the "tyranny of the majority," and the rights of minorities must always be protected.  may there always be room for disagreement and questioning.  shalom.

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