A few weeks ago, I drove past a church with a sign describing it as “an intentionally welcoming community.” It was not the first time I’ve witnessed the message nor was it the first time my thought response was “Duh! Shouldn’t all churches be intentionally welcoming communities?”
I do understand that the message is intended to cultivate inclusivity by inviting people of every age, economic condition, ethnic and racial background, physical and mental ability, marital status, sexual orientation, and gender identity into the community.
I thought I had put the idea of “the intentionally welcoming church” out of my mind, until last week, when I heard about the tweet from our Commander in Chief advising that “the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”
(Sidebar: Interestingly, the tweet came on the 69th anniversary of President Harry S. Truman’s executive order to desegregate our troops.)
The tweet brought the whole notion of the open and affirming statements of churches of intentional welcome back to the forefront of my mind because those statements tend to focus on extending an invitation to LBGT people, who have experienced exclusion and lack of welcome.
In fact, some branches of our church family have been downright hateful toward LBGT people.
What would Jesus say or do?
I believe Jesus would say let’s meet, greet, welcome, and love everyone. And I believe that Jesus would do just that – meet, greet, welcome, and love everyone.
I felt a need to intentionally repeat those four words – meet, greet, welcome, and love – because I have learned that sometimes “The Church” has selective hearing.
I guess that’s why churches need to say out loud that they are “intentionally welcoming” – to remind itself of the duty to meet, greet, welcome, and love everyone.
I am convinced that if we can bring ourselves to a place where we respect the human dignity of all persons, we can begin to take steps toward a more peaceful world — a world in which labels no longer divide and separate us.
Labels make it easy to view people as different from us. They make it easy to dislike the people we view as different from us. They prevent us from seeing one human family. They prevent us from building relationships. They prevent us from being understanding and compassionate.
I have evolved from my “Duh!” of a few weeks ago to an “Aha!” moment of thinking that the intentional welcome message is as much for the people inside the church as the people outside the church.
Inclusivity and welcome should be hallmarks of “The Church”. But until we truly get there, perhaps reminders are necessary.
Let “The Church” say: Amen?