Friday, June 27, 2008

making a statement

several weeks ago missiongathering hosted the church basement roadshow. that tour is partially sponsored by compassion international. members of our church sponsored several children, and we took a special offering to donate to compassion in lieu of our normal offering. here is the bulk of a letter i just finished on behalf of our church that we will be sending with the donation:

One of the couples that are a key part of our leadership at the church sponsored a child and brought something to our attention. While going through the materials about what they are and are not allowed to send to their child, they read this section: “In addition, we will not forward materials depicting persons dressed in immodest clothing or engaging in activities inconsistent with our ministry values and beliefs, including the living out of a homosexual lifestyle.” This section specifically was brought to our attention, as our church is an open and affirming church with several homosexual men and women in key and active roles in our community. While I understand the reality of other cultures where Compassion is working, this policy and perspective on a group of people is very disappointing to hear about an organization I have supported for years.

The message of Jesus is one of grace and inclusion, not judgment and exclusion. Jesus reached out to the marginalized and oppressed, the tired and hungry, the poor and the needy, and the shunned and outcast alike. The gay and lesbian community has been for so long condemned and ostracized by the church, and even those that have found a connection with their faith again (or for the first time) are very sensitive to language of exclusion. Are you suggesting that homosexuals are not or cannot be Christians? Missiongathering believes in the Grace and Love of Christ, and we seek to extend that to all people. Could the language of your materials take more into consideration the cultures to which sponsors are writing instead of imposing a set of beliefs on someone who might believe in the cause of social justice? Beyond the gay and lesbian community, even those in our church who aren’t gay but have been marginalized or hurt by the church are sensitive to the reality of exclusive language instead sharing the reality of the Grace of God for all people.

I don’t expect one letter from a small church to change the opinion of a large, international organization. I don’t expect the story and heart of one group of believers to affect the beliefs and doctrine of the executive leadership. I wrote this letter with a sense of hope. My hope is this: that Compassion International as an organization will open its eyes to the reality of those still marginalized by the people of God even as it endeavors to help the needy and oppressed in the name of God. We as a church are firm believers in speaking for the orphans, the widows, and the helpless. Missiongathering does so in many ways including supporting Invisible Children and through our own Street Angels Ministry, which is an outreach to homeless teenagers in San Diego. We also believe firmly in the truth that God’s Grace extends to all people, and we stand up for that message in every arena possible.

i believe in the work that compassion is doing, i was just struck by the wording of the statement. as the leadership of the church discussed this, we decided to still send the money as a matter of integrity, but to also voice our beliefs and understanding of the gospel of grace of Jesus. we must continue to stand for the truth as people of grace. it's not always easy to find the ways to do that, but we start where we can with what we know and what we do. ~aroll


tony said...

Amen, Alex.

jerilyn said...

Great job Alex. Josh and I noted that sentence also and were sad about how aggressive the statement sounded. We weren't sure what to do with it though. Your letter is inspiring though, a reminder to speak up.

Mandy said...

hi alex, mandy from shadow mt. (formerly!), remember me?
well said, and thank you for having the courage and compassion to speak out.

a_roll said...

hey mandy! of course I remember you. i'll be posting an update to this post soon...pretty cool conversations. hope all is well. shoot me an email!