Just in time for Ash Wednesday and Lent, the following letter landed on my desk. I leave the punctuation and highlights as in the original unless otherwise noted:
Dear sisters & brothers:
Many unchurched lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender [LGBT] people in your community are spiritually searching. They are looking for a faith community where they will be welcomed and affirmed as beloved children of God. You can encourage them to visit and join your parish by becoming a Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregation.
A Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregation is a mission or parish of our denomination that publicly welcomes and affirms LGBT people and that has completed the simple, three-phase process described on the back of this letter. If your parish qualifies, I invite you to become a Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregation by registering online at [original has link] or by returning the bottom third of this letter in the reusable envelope in which it arrived.
Once your parish registers as a Believe Out Loud Congregation, you will be added to a national database of welcoming and affirming faith communities.
Thanks for considering this step toward fuller inclusion and wider evangelism. Please contact me if you have any questions.
John Clinton Bradley, Acting Executive Director
(original includes email and phone contact)
Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregations is endorsed by the Bishop's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Ministry [Los Angeles], the Committee for Gay and Lesbian Ministry [Rochester], IntegrityUSA, Oasis Ministry Michigan, Oasis California, Oasis Missouri, the Oasis [Newark], the Oasis of New Jersey, and TransEpiscopal.
Phase 1: Ready?
Does your congregation already have a history of publicly welcoming and affirming lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender [LGBT] folk?
- If the answer is NO, we strongly recommend you continue with Phase 1.
- If the answer is YES, decide whether your congregation would benefit from continuing with Phase 1 or is ready to move to Phase 2.
Attend a Faith-Based Community Organizing workshop offered by the Institute of Welcoming Resources [original has link]
Download and use IWR's Building An Inclusive Church Toolkit to evaluate, organize, educate and prepare the congregation [original has link].
Phase 2: Set.
Ask the vestry or annual meeting to adopt a public statement explicitly welcoming and affirming LGBT people. [Example statements can be found on page 28 of the Building An Inclusive Church Toolkit.]
Phase 3: Go!
Publish the statement.
Register as a Believe Out Loud Episcopal Congregation.
Work with IntegrityUSA to make your congregation even more welcoming and affirming.
Consider becoming a corporate member - or Proud Parish Partner - of IntegrityUSA.
[CONGREGATIONAL CONTACT RETURN CARD FOLLOWS]
- END OF LETTER -
OK, where to start? Certainly not with the Bible or any of Christianity's spiritual wisdom, even though most of us just mouthed the Ash Wednesday call to "a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word."
So let's just look at their lead claim, that they are offering us growth:
In 2007, IntegrityUSA did a survey of its membership and "friends." Guess what? A gaggle of gay white men. Not the expansive, inclusive critter this letter would have you imagine.
The Bishop and a bunch of clergy from our neighbor diocese of Iowa signed onto a letter endorsing same sex "marriage". Have a look at the ten year attendance and membership trends for that "welcoming, affirming and evangelizing" entity. (Yeah, it's a bar graph - roughly 1,000 fewer people attending per Sunday, which in that diocese meant a 25% loss.) And here's Rochester, one of the letter's proud sponsors. Newark's another one.
Folks, it is the same old ploy. A handful of activists say all the words we want to hear about people swarming into our aging, closing churches. But just the opposite happens - the pace of decline and closure gains momentum.
But we fall for it every time.
And the gaggle of activists - especially clergy - feed off the carcass of what was once a church. And have you all noticed the shift from "nice, monogamous same-sex couples" to inclusion of bisexuals who, if sexually active, can't possibly be monogamous?
Heaven's blessing, all. Last one out, turn off the lights.