“Hey Cindy! We want to invite you guys over on Friday. We’re having a group of people over and want to include you and Gayle.”
“Sounds great! What can we bring?”
“Not a thing. Just yourselves. We just love you two!”
* * *
“Come on in! Glad you could make it. Dinner is almost ready. Ok, everyone, listen up. We don’t have enough china and steaks for everyone. So, all the straight couples are going to eat in the dining room. Cindy & Gayle – we have one other gay couple coming, and we thought you guys could eat in the kitchen at that table. Help yourself to paper plates, and there are some hamburgers and chips on the counter. If you need cheese or other condiments, they should be in the fridge. We are SO glad you could come – we just love you guys!”
* * *
Ridiculous isn’t it. Imagine inviting your friends over and making some of them sit at “the kids’” table, or in the kitchen, serving them something less than what the other guests are eating because you just didn’t have enough for everyone. And expecting them to believe you when you tell them they are just as important to you as your other friends who get to sit at the same table as the hosts and have the full meal.
We have visited a couple of “welcoming and affirming” churches the past few weeks, and I begin to see more and more why this is such an important identifier for the LGBT community. I have been blessed to be a part of some congregations who have been very welcoming and loving to me, but they have not been able, yet, to take that next step toward being openly affirming. It seems to say - Our straight members can have their unions celebrated and blessed by their church family, but not everyone would “understand” if we offered this to same sex couples in our family. It’s not legal in our state, anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.
And why do I want to be “blessed” by a church that for centuries hasn’t seemed to want to recognize my existence? I want to share this with my church family because I love these people, too; we share the same journey in seeking to know our Creator’s purpose for our lives; we share many of one another’s struggles; and I want to fully share one another’s life celebrations. I prefer not to have to tip toe gingerly around some topics. Marriage has been the topic of the day thanks to the Supreme Court decision overturning DOMA. But churches need to realize that marriages (or blessing unions) is not the only “affirming” issue on the table. If a gay couple adopts a child together, would you be willing to celebrate with them in a baptism/dedication of that child? (And if so, are you prepared to explain to the child as he or she grows in the church why you could not bless the union of his/her parents?). If one of the partners should die, are you willing to gather around them and acknowledge the partner’s loss that is left behind as you would any other member losing a spouse? DOMA is important, but it is just the tip of the iceberg.
To be openly affirming, in my mind, means that I get to sit at the “adult” table. The china and the steak and the wine are not withheld from me because I’m “too young” or just not “quite” a full-fledged member of the group. It’s a bit like saying, “We love you guys! But please don’t ask for more than we are prepared to give. You’ve done without this long – let’s not rock the boat and risk offending anyone. YOU understand, right?”