Maybe it's from having just finished Ecclesiastes this morning that I find myself so burdened. The heaviness in my heart is real, and how to proceed is abstract. It's easy to look around and see the Church--that is the Bride of Christ, not the local building--failing in so many ways. In a sample of a hundred churches, one hundred of them will be filled with problems. Strife among brothers and sisters. Gossiping. Hatred. Pride. Lust. These are to be expected, as we're all still human and not yet made perfect, but the fact that there doesn't seem to be any desire to change is sickening.
Last night I was involved in a regional church meeting. Between the two counties involved, there were 56 churches represented, with 266 voters present. The issue was to decide whether or not to kick a church (Journey Fellowship) out of the association. Why? Because their building is used by the local PFLAG group. That's it. There is no relationship between the church and PFLAG other than the fact that the church allows their facility to be open and available. In effect, this church is saying Welcome, we love you, and we don't judge. In fact, the church goes on to profess "radical unconditional acceptance," something that many churches look down on.
Considering that the meeting even took place, I felt like the situation was already lose-lose. Instead of brothers and sisters of Jesus standing up and loving on one another, there was a meeting to disfellowship a church because they were loving on people. So in a crowd of 350+ people, displayed to media from here to far, I watched the Church fight*. It was civil, yes, but it felt to me an underlying wave of hatred and judgment. Speakers voiced their affirmation of the motion (to remove the church) and then speakers voiced their opposition (to keep the church in). Back and forth this went, passionate words flying from both sides, maintaining rules of order, borderline chaos, people "Amen-ing" and shaking their heads.
The call to vote came. Oddly, in order to vote we had to vote whether or not we could even commence with voting. Once that passed, someone called for secret ballot. This vote failed, and we then proceeded to stand up and cast our votes publicly. Of the 266 voters, 242 voted to disfellowship this church. The only ones that voted to keep them in was the representatives from the accused church and four of us from my church (so the other four from my church either didn't vote or voted in favor).
Then, awkwardly, the order of the meeting called for ballot tabulating time, because I suppose it was thought the vote would be secret ballot. So during this time, we sat uncomfortably aware of the results while pretending that we didn't know. A man led the congregation in a song, singing "People Need the Lord," and the words sounded hollow and fake. People need the Lord unless you're gay. People need the Lord but not all. People need the Lord but find Him outside the church. People need the Lord let's pretend like we love each other. People need the Lord let's all judge our brothers. People need the Lord....
The meeting adjourned soon after, people spreading like ants funneling through a crack in the wall. We talked to the reps from the now disfellowshipped church, telling them we appreciated what they were doing, offering prayer and encouragement.
This whole things is deeply disappointing on so many levels. It shows how fragile our Church is. It shows how far we've fallen. The fact that a church cannot have a support group is ridiculous. How is PFLAG any different than AA or any other accountability group**? I'm of the opinion that people don't like it when sins are public. We prefer keeping them to ourselves, sitting comfortably in our pews and silently looking down on everybody else. We're a white, middle-classed church, born to outdated traditions and indoctrinated with prejudices. We don't like it when our customs are rocked or when our cultures change. Thus, we're a dying, stagnant Church. We fail at reaching the lost because we can't get over their sins, all the while ignoring our own. We don't reach out and help people because we're lazy, uncaring, and satisfied with our own salvation. Last I checked, Jesus spent most of His time on earth with the less-than-reputable people, the whores and liars, the outcasts and abused. Instead, we want air-conditioned buildings, thirty-minute sermons, and clean and fake members. We don't want real. We want facades.
This is the state of Christianity today. It's to a point where a new word needs to be used for those of us that follow Jesus Christ and His teachings. The Church is called to love everyone, to reach the unsaved, to make disciples, to spread God's Gospel to the ends of the earth. How can we do that when our church's doors are closed? When the doors of the church are closed, the hearts of its members are, too. And if Christians are a close-hearted people, we've removed Jesus from our beliefs, and if that's the case, then I guess I'm not a Christian.
*I imagine the Bride as an abused, delusional, schizophrenic, bi-polar bigot that spreads Her legs for anyone other than Her Husband. She's married to a Savior that died for everyone--chiefly Her--and yet She spends Her time with the World and Its thinking. She has a Husband that embodies love, but She prefers a world that spits on Her and slaps Her around.
**Just because a church building is used by a group does not mean that the church adheres to the group's philosophy. However, perception is everything, and people perceive that since Journey is allowing PFLAG to use its building that they believe all of PFLAG's tenets, regardless whether that's the case or not.