Sarah Matsui was born and raised in Hawai’i, raised some more in Philly, and is now living in San Francisco. She did not grow up in the church though is now part of the church, and she cares deeply about intersections of faith, identities (race, gender, language, sexuality, cultural, etc.), justice, and reconciliation.
The church I am attending sent out a letter today (3/13/15) that overall I was excited about, and thankful for. But it also invited further response. In an optional survey response they requested, I submitted the following note:
“Firstly, I am thankful for our church, this board, and for the direction indicated by the board letter. Secondly, a question: if the board has come to the conclusion that our church’s practices have been causing harm, not leading to human flourishing, and excluding LGBTQ people from belonging in the body of Christ, would a logical next step be to issue an explicit apology to the LGBTQ Christians attending our church and/or to the broader LGBTQ community?”
In the board’s hope for unity, the letter seemed to prioritize those who they thought might disagree with or be offended by their changes rather than those who have been long-wounded by church practices. I mourn this kind of “unity.”
I am concerned about what some Christians call love, others experience as racial/gender/sexuality discrimination and abuse. I’m writing out a separate piece deconstructing some of the rationalizations and justifications for this kind of discrimination in the church. This is not that piece. But for now, I wanted to say:
To my friends, within and outside of the church, who identify as LGBTQ:
I am sorry. For the ways many of us in the church have excluded you, shamed you, stigmatized you. For the ways we narrate your identities and situate “brokenness” in you. For the harms we have inflicted and then willfully ignored. For the doublespeak of calling our acts of hate and abuse love, and for doing so in the name of God. I am sorry for my past silence that has been complicit in oppression and bullying, individual and systemic, within and outside of the church.
I promise to love better and stand alongside you, if you’ll have me. I commit to listening, taking responsibility for the ways I express ignorance, laboring with you towards life in fullness, and learning alongside you what justice and love looks like, here and now.
To my friends in the church:
I am concerned about ways we try to stone people we call Other. I am concerned that what some of us call “love,” intended recipients experience as discrimination and abuse. I lament our ignoring peoples’ cries that we are hurting them, and hurting them in the name of Christ. Is this our best picture of love? My hope is that God would teach us all to listen and love better. That we might be given eyes to see and ears to hear, to know particulars, to listen to the still small voice within us, to listen to the voice of love in our neighbors. I pray that we’d be given eyes to see when Jesus opts out of the frameworks we impose (John 8), that we’d be invited into and take up a new way.
May your love open our hearts. And may we be moved to love as you love. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
the word you’re looking for
I read a letter this afternoon from the board of church elders
“Our pastoral practice of demanding life-long celibacy for LGBT people
to be members of the church
was causing obvious harm
and has not led to human flourishing.
We feel a growing sense
that this counsel is not necessarily the way of the gospel.
The gospel is the breaking down of former boundaries of exclusion
and the expanding of the welcome of Jesus to all.”
Your listening, seeing, bearing witness.
My hope for the American evangelical church
in reading those sentences.
And you changed some of your practices.
But throughout the letter,
A lacuna tunneled throughout.
The word you’re looking for is:
I am sorry.
We are sorry.
For the new tables we’ve established
in the temple courts.
For the hurts we’ve inflicted,
for the ways we’ve excluded
from meeting with God in community,
in the name of God.