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a recent conversation on [non] traditional families

so, you know i have a tiny tiny passion and interest in creating great church experiences for all families. i've shared my thoughts here and here and here and here. i'll engage in this conversation any time, any where, and at any place. henry says i'm obsessed with the topic, which may actually be true, but really i just love to learn from others, and i especially love to engage in productive conversations.

yesterday, i had the opportunity to meet with rev. jeffrey phillips from st. john ucc. his church is located literally right across the street from my church, and i had been wanting to meet him for some time. jeffrey leads an inclusive and affirming church, and is a gay man living with his partner raising their grandson.

our meeting was really fantastic!  i asked a lot of questions about the way he leads the church, and what he thinks about the gay and lesbian community in our town, and advice he would have for less inclusive churches who are trying to figure out how to handle various situations.

we had a lot of conversation around the various categories of churches, from most inclusive to least inclusive. jeffrey mentioned a few broad categories: open and affirming (in both belief and practice), inclusive (in belief but not practice), and non inclusive (in both belief and practice). i mentioned that my church would most likely fit in the second category: inclusive in belief but not practice. every church is on a journey and i think we are still figuring out how we would respond if a gay family wanted to dedicate their child, or volunteer in the ministry.  where would you place your church?

i mentioned to jeffrey that in my work as a children's ministry consultant, i've heard from several church leaders (mostly evangelical) who are struggling as they try to implement their beliefs. for the most part, evangelical churches have fallen into the non inclusive category with a defined belief system that concludes that being gay is a sin. but despite defined beliefs, situations still arise. grade school students coming out during sunday school, gay parents participating in a church's weekly preschool program desiring to volunteer in their child's school, and gay families wanting to visit church and sit together during worship. if we desire to love and serve all families, then we must consider how our beliefs allow us to do this.

because from what i'm seeing, gay families are choosing to attend non inclusive churches (for a variety of reasons: good music, good sermons, good children's programs). how will we expand our definition of family so that every parent feels equipped to spiritually lead his/her child?

of course, there are no simple answers, but during our conversation, we discussed the importance of creating safe environments in our churches for discussion on how our beliefs influence our practice. this topic, of course, is extremely divisive in the church so let's be open about our beliefs, and our doubts, so that we can move forward together. jeffrey said, "let's get our biases out on the table so that we can have a real conversation." i love that!

and as always, this is only the beginning of the conversation. share your thoughts!

next steps: i'm thrilled that jeffrey will be leading a free forum discussion next week at my church on the topic of moral politics. if you are in the area, join me! we'll have coffee and great conversation, and hopefully move the conversation just a tad bit further! (and childcare will be provided, so how can you resist?)

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Reader Comments (3)

Amy, this is a fascinating subject. I am thrilled to know that somebody is actually taking the time and displaying the courage to address such an important issue. I would be very keen to hear how the evening goes and what insights you gain as a result. Tim

October 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTIM SHIELS

Amen, Amen! This is a tremendously important conversation, especially given the public media attention to bullying and LGBT youth. Thanks Amy.

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSean Miller

[...] a recent conversation on [non] traditional families [...]

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