All are welcome?
Like many congregations, our church council has been wondering: what it means when we say, “All are welcome at Saint James.” Whatever it means, it is not as simple as it may sound.
Some churches say, “All are welcome; but you shouldn’t come forward for communion.”
Some churches say, “All are welcome; but we think you need conversion therapy.”
Some churches say, “All are welcome; but you could never be a leader in our church.”
Some churches say, “All are welcome; but we won’t celebrate your marriage or baptize your children.”
All of which feels like, “All are welcome; but not really.”
So we’ve been wondering: who is welcome at Saint James and how should we articulate that welcome?
The Council wants to address this question in a proactive manner. That is, we want to have an answer, before someone asks the question about their membership or marriage or baptism or anything else that might need a clear and timely answer. We want this clarity for our visitors, our members, our pastor and our staff.
To this end, we want to begin a conversation about what it means to say “All are welcome.” We want this conversation to be full and honest and respectful, because we know that our members have a lot of opinions about and relationships to the questions involved in saying, “All are welcome.”
Over the coming months, we will schedule opportunities for every member of our church to join in this conversation. At our Annual Meeting on January 26, we will ask our members if they are ready to adopt a welcome statement or if they want more time to think and pray about it. When our members are ready, we would like to vote on a welcome statement. The council thinks that a welcome statement should be one that has the support of a clear majority of our members (66% or more), so we will suggest that threshold for adoption.
The council has struggled to write a welcome statement that clearly answers the questions that are likely to confront us in the years ahead. Here is a draft statement that we think can help us begin this conversation:
Draft Statement of Welcome
If you are seeking the grace, love and mercy of God,
You are welcome at Saint James Lutheran Church!
No matter your age, income, race, gender or ethnicity.
No matter your abilities, addictions, physical or mental health.
No matter your sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
No matter your marital or legal or financial status.
We welcome you no matter where you may be on your faith journey.
We welcome and include all because Jesus Christ welcomes and includes all.
Our unity is in the love of God made known in Jesus Christ.
You are welcome here!
Please direct your initial comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or 515.669.7631.
The Council and I hope you will pray about this issue and join in this important conversation.
Copyright © 2019 Pastor Bill Bernau. All rights reserved.