Now that I've started getting more than 5 hours of sleep per night, some of the craziness of General Conference seems, well, crazier.
Take, for instance, the fear-mongering arguments floated for why we should preserve a pastor's right to deny membership to particular people (in recent times, a gay man...). Folks suggested that, unless we preserved this right, we might have Klan members in our churches. (As if we haven't already.)
I've been imagining this possibility, and it seems to me that this is exactly what church is for. For sinners and all those who need help being made perfect in love. For people who want to claim new identity in the body of Christ--membership in the sense of belonging together, flaws and all, as we seek to live into our calling from God. What better place is there for us sinners and folk who carry hatred and prejudice in our hearts?
(I should also say, incidentally, that I don't label homosexuality as sin, so their arguments seem especially absurd. But, just for the sake of argument, let's run with them...)
Denying membership to people seems to me to make church into an "irrelevant social club." That is, if we have to have things figured out and straightened out in order to join, we become like a club of folks who've earned membership by good behavior.
I prefer to think of church as a place where we belong from the beginning, whose welcome comes from the God of infinite grace, who has power to transform us all into something more loving and beautiful than we've been on our own.
The "irrelevant social club" argument was given on the floor as the scary image of what we might become if we open up the possibility of redefining marriage to include same-gendered couples. But I think we had it in totally the wrong place! We're like an irrelevant social club when we suggest that God's including love and transforming grace aren't big enough for some people--that we need to keep them outside of the church community or we might be destroyed.
So, here for your viewing pleasure is a picture of me on the big screen at GC, looking a bit like a trouble-identifier, I think. My new friend Steve from NC emailed it to me. ;)