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…And that might not be a big deal to you, but it was to me, to our congregation and speaks to my denomination as a whole, I think.

My pastor preached on the word Refuge today. He started his sermon with the question, “Are any excluded from the grace of God?” There were resounding “No’s” from the congregation.

He then went through some church history and spoke of times in which women were not allowed to serve in any form of ministry. Then he spoke of the fact that churches in the South were segregated until about 50 years ago. He continued to speak about how his marriage (bi-racial) was frowned upon and still is in some circles.

Then the crux of the matter came in. He said, “We at this church have rejected all of these prejudices. But have we gotten past all prejudices? He concluded with the statement that now is the time that we become open and affirming of lgbtqi individuals, welcoming them into the full life of the church. It’s time that we receive these people, as God made them, and apply to them the language of grace and inclusion. Like other issues, it may be a difficult step, but it is our calling to be a refuge.

This may not seem like a big deal to you folks who have been a part of open and affirming congregations for years/decades, but this was a big step for my church.

My pastor teaches history at a private Christian high school and will continue to do so until our small congregation can afford to pay him a full time salary. With him knowing that, he preached this sermon. And if it got back to his private Christian high school that he preached this sermon, he would more than likely lose his job. (Notice that I have not used my pastor’s name, the church I attend or the name of the school he teaches at. This is purposeful.) But, if you’re in West Georgia and are looking for an open and affirming congregation, my church is listed on gaychurch.org’s list of open and affirming congregations (or you could leave me a message here and I’ll direct you by email).

My pastor could have said today, “We need to be welcoming of all.” or something similar, but the fact that he used the phrase lgbtqia leaves no question in the mind of our congregants, other staff and visitors where we stand. When we say all, we mean it. So, pastors I urge you, if you want your congregation to be open and affirming of my lgbtqia friends and you feel like God is making the call towards openness to your congregation, use the phrase from the pulpit. Don’t just say, “Let’s welcome all.” Use the phrase “lgbtqia”. Leave no doubt in the mind of your parishioners on where you stand, if you’re brave enough to do it. I’m so proud of my pastor doing so today. Very seldom in my adult life have sermons brought me to tears, but it did today.

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