For me, joining an Open & Affirming church was a no-brainer.
As an African American and a woman, I know the pain of having the Bible used against me to keep me in my “place.” A place that dishonors and disregards my talents and gifts that come from God. A place that seeks to keep me under constraint and on the fringes and away from the palaces of power. A place where I am not allowed to enjoy full fellowship at Christ’s Table, but can only have the crumbs begrudgingly tossed my way. This place is at the back of the bus, on the bottom rung of the ladder, under the glass ceiling.
I know the bewilderment and anger that floods the heart when someone uses the Bible to justify exclusion, discrimination, enslavement and even destruction. I know what it’s like to have someone say to me, “You can’t do this” or “You can’t be that” because “The Bible says so.”
I’ve been told that since I was a woman, I couldn’t be a minister because “Jesus didn’t call any women to be his disciples, just men.” I’ve been told that since I am a woman, I am to be submissive and silent, “just like Paul wrote.” I’ve been told it is my people’s God-given destiny to be enslaved “because Noah cursed Ham.” I have been put in my “place.”
I have endured and overcome these constrictions. So how could I – how dare I – even think about doing the same thing to someone else? How could I – how dare I – stand back and let the Bible be used to degrade, disrespect and disenfranchise someone else? How could I – how dare I – say, “Those verses that were used against me – a black person, a woman – don’t really count, but the ones being used against you – an LBGTQ person – do.” How could I – how dare I – say to anyone, whoever they are, whoever they love, “The Bible says I am welcome, but you are not”?
How could I – how dare I – I let the pain that battered my soul be shifted on to someone else? How could I – how dare I – deny anyone a place at the Table, knowing how it feels to have that same thing happen to me, all because “The Bible says so”?
We cannot have it both ways. Either all the verses are applicable, or none of them are. Either we welcome and celebrate, or we shun and discriminate. If we choose the exclusionist pathway, we cannot call ourselves Christians. We cannot call ourselves Christians and say there are some to whom we can deny the blessings of fellowship, love, acceptance and the Table of Christ because “The Bible says so.”
The Bible says a lot of other, wonderful things. “Love one another even as I [Jesus] have loved you.” “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “Judge not, lest you be judged.” “For God so loved the world.” These are the affirmations to which I cling. These are the affirmations that speak most clearly to me and remind me that whatever people may say, God has said to me and to all God’s children, “You are welcome.” The Bible says so!
Now I know my place. It’s right here in this Open & Affirming church, welcoming all to the Table with love and gratitude and joy. Thanks be to God.