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  • Pastor Nancy Switzler

Shameless Post 3

I'm back to the book I've been sharing with you, “Shameless,” by Nadia Bolz-Weber. I am reflecting on one chapter from the section titled, “Creation II: They Belonged to Each Other.” This section starts with some commentary about the Nashville Statement. Did you ever hear about it?

According to Wikipedia:

The Nashville statement is an evangelical Christian statement of faith relating to human sexuality and gender roles authored by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) in Nashville TN in 2017.

According to this statement there would be no place for me as a pastor because that is not a proper gender role for a woman. I find it sad (and frustrating) that it seemed to be very necessary to publish something negative about women, lesbians, gays, transsexuals, bisexuals, and everyone else who does not conform to their rigid rules for navigating the world.

In the chapter, “Holy Resistance,” pastor Nadia talks about how when that statement came out she and some members of her church met in a coffee shop and re-wrote much of that statement to be a better reflection of the God we know.

What I want to highlight are some important words that she shared in her sermon following that week. First, “you are not an issue.”

We all need to hear that- “You are not an issue.”

And not only that, “You are not a mistake. You are not anything but what your God has created you to be.”

We have all encountered people who were made to believe that they were an issue or that they were a mistake or that their life was a mistake. Maybe you were the recipient of these messages.

I want to also say that you are not an issue…no matter what may be happening in your life. You might have some issues…as we all do! But you are worthy and loved by God just as you are.

I'm happy to be in a church body that mostly affirms and I say mostly because within our churches we all have our areas of struggle. I think it's important that we learn to create space for people to grow and to understand themselves because if we don't have space to explore and understand our own thinking then we can lock ourselves into views that maybe we don't even want to hold any longer.

I'll share a story about when Our Redeemer was studying to become a Reconciling in Christ (RIC) congregation. Prior to my arrival at Our Redeemer, they had a big split within the church over a gay wedding. There were lots of bruised feelings. People on both sides of the issue left. Some who stayed were hurt and some who left were hurt (especially the couple who were married) and I tried my best to minister to all of them.

Sometime after I got there, I received a letter inviting us to consider becoming an RIC congregation. I was not initially sure what to do (knowing the history). But I took the took the letter to the church council and I mentioned that we should seriously consider this.

And we did. We studied. We had good conversations. We had difficult conversations. We had some people who were not really happy about it. I remember one member saying, “Pastor why can't we just say all are welcome?” In response to that, I invited the congregation to share who might hear those words “all are welcome” and say “but they don't mean me.” The congregation came up with a great list and we had a really good discussion.

I remember one morning, standing in the office with a really conservative member of the congregation. She was a very nice woman and very conservative, especially in matters regarding sexuality. She said what many people have always heard (or say), “I don't want to know about what they do in their bedroom.” I responded, “Wow! I certainly hope you don't think about what I do in my bedroom.” I went on to say that it's not just about sex, but it is about relationship, about who you spend your time, your life with. A light bulb went off for her.

When we finally had our congregational meeting to vote to be a Reconciling in Christ congregation, I wanted it to be a voice vote because that's how all of the congregation’s meetings were done. The vote was loudly supportive, but it was not unanimous. Two older women shouted “no” very loudly then got up walked out. They were back the following Sunday as if nothing ever happened.

Later, when one of our church members who was gay invited his significant other to the congregation, that conservative woman that I had had the conversation with went up to them and asked, “Aren't you going to introduce me? Anybody you care about, we care about.”

She was so happy when she told me that story. I was happy to hear it. It’s an example of a change of attitude when we give some space while also having the hard conversations.

I'm thankful that ALC is such an open and welcoming congregation. My hope and prayer is that this wonderful congregation can find even more ways to let people who are hurting know that they can find and experience acceptance at ALC.

Peace in Christ,

Pastor Nancy

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