What you say when you say “all are welcome”

It’s become an article of faith in mainline churches to declare that “all are welcome.” Sometimes there will be a rainbow flag to seal the deal, implying that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are welcome to attend services, become members and possibly engage in leadership. Maybe. Since it all depends on attitudes and policy, and if and where these differs from actual practice. Sometimes a vague welcome to skirt a denominational policy, or to manage internal conflict. But nothing objectively welcoming LGBT people, and for a long time that’s as good as it got. But it’s not the 90s and that’s not good enough any more.

I’ve disliked the formula “all are welcome” for years. The logic reads to me this way: that LGBT people are so outre, so exceptional, so horrible that everybody else has to be included before their needs are recognized. Um, thanks. In practice, some people are not welcome at any particular church, say, at the very least persons who are an immediate harm to other people should not be welcomed.  (If they’re welcome, their victims aren’t.) Other churches can pick up the slack for that abusive husband, thank you. “All are welcome” gently merges LGBT people and the truly despicable or dangerous.

Also, welcoming assumes an attitude from one group to another, as if LGBT people haven’t been in the churches all along to welcome newcomers.

The initiative Church Clarity provides defined standards for LGBT inclusion and women’s leadership. Churches can self-report, but anyone can ask out loud how clear a church’s policies are.

So, to the churches, liberal or not:  be true to yourself, but be honest with those who are coming to you. (This is especially the case with churches with a progressive aesthetic but conservative morality, particularly among the non-denominational Evangelicals.)

Don’t wink and nod and think that makes progress. State your policies clearly, and stand by them.

79 years ago, today

I’ve been enjoying “WW2 in Real Time“, a YouTube-based week-by-week documentary wrap up events in the war 79 years ago. (Go, and subscribe if that’s your kind of thing.) That means we’re in 1940, during the Battle of Britain.

I’ve thought about reading the Radio Times in tandem since they’re available, to get a better sense of the nature of the religious broadcasting. So, “today” Sunday, September 1, 1940 I see on the Forces radio schedule a variety of short religious programs, lasting from about five to thirty minutes, and ranging from talks, to hymn sings, to services. Smart: serving people who might not be able to break for a local, organized service or to listen to a fifty minute “full” service on the Home service. Serving people as they are is good ministry. I look forward to other insights.

Also, I note on that day an early show for the Forces featuring that epitome of World War Two home-fires entertainment, Vera Lynn. She is still living, aged 102. This is the past, but not ancient history.

Blue Christmas/Longest Night rollcall

“Blue Christmas” and “Longest Night” services are related phenomena that respect the worship needs of mourners, depressed or distressed people. Or more generally, those for whom the cheer of the season brings more pain than joy.

But it’s not easy to find these services if you’re not looking for them, and some are well before Christmas.

If you know of a service (or are hosting one), feel free to note it here. Not that this will create a catalog, but perhaps will attract people to the idea and prompt them to plan for next year.

A question for wedding officiants

Legislative and court successes have expanded same-sex couples access to legal marriage; my husband and I have benefited from it. It’s exciting to see the couples line up on the first “legal” day. Some of these will then get married on the courthouse steps, or some location nearby. It’s particularly encouraging to see Unitarian Universalist ministers take their place there.

And these often long-awaited, but surely quickly organized weddings make a visible challenge to the now-normal way of getting married, with expensive jewelery, elaborate arrangements and a cast of thousands. I usually advise couples to elope, and these courthouse-step services look only a short step away from an elopement. Not only do I approve, but I’m glad to see the option depicted so joyously.

But then I recall another norm, or former norm: pre-marital counseling. I’m not really qualified to do it, and I’m not convinced it’s necessary. So, for those few weddings I do these days, I don’t offer or require it. And I wonder if that was part of the arrangement that lead a couple and minister to meet on the courthouse steps?

Do you, dear wedding officiant, offer or require pre-marital counseling? Any particular reason, either way?

ObscuraCam to help build church web sites

ObscuraCam is a phone app for Android to help citizen-journalists obscure faces in crowd photographs and videos, say, in undemocratic societies.

It might be helpful in building your church’s website. You can use it to hide the faces of minors and other vulnerable persons, should your church’s policies require or recommend it.

Two examples:


Your blogger, anonymized.


Your blogger, who doesn’t want his book choices known. (It isn’t perfect.)

Pastoral development: "Five Hours with Raja"

It makes a very difficult viewing — it took me three times to finish watching this over the air — but this documentary is worth watching and I recommend it especially for ministers and seminarians.

“Five Hours with Raja” is the story of a child born with am incurable and fatal condition; the preparations made for the tiny sliver of time his family had with him;, and the follow-on (particularly by his mother) who helping others surviving the same situation.

See a background page and watch the documentary online at Aljazeera English.

Male headship and Linux (but not together)

Pastors: if you need some background about and against “complementarianism” — male headship and female submission — for providing pastoral care or want to learn more about using Linux, check out one of my favorite blogs, 42, written by Methodist minister Dave Warnock.

He’s on a roll.

Uniting Church of Australia "patrol ministry"

I’m looking at some major Christian united-uniting churches to see how they define church membership and turned to the ever-interesting Uniting Church of Australia. More about that later; I found something even more interesting.

As you may know, the Australian interior is multi-ethnic but very thinly populated, making for special social accommodations — like radio schools and flying doctors — and the Uniting Church has long been a part of that network, both in social services and worship opportunities.

Their spiritual and pastoral support services are organized as geographic “patrols” and you can read more about there here.

My only Sen. Craig post

I won’t get into the partisan piece of the Larry Craig furor: enough has been said there for my contribution to be any use.

  1. I am a bit worried that this will be an important frame for discussing LGBT civil rights legislation in the near-term.
  2. I think an opportunity for modeling compassion, understanding, temperance or anything but gotcha politics has been lost.

I’ll refer you to a post today by Mark Simpson — he who coined the word metrosexual –  whose blog I enjoy very much. He writes, in part

Judging by the rush to ‘out’ Craig as a ‘hypocritical closeted gay’ by hordes of callous bloggers and columnists, it seems that liberals are equipped with even better and stricter sex-policing instincts than Minnesota’s Finest. Liberals don’t just finger your collar, they finger your soul – divine your innermost desires, make identifications on your behalf and work out what your own vested interests are for you. Even though they’ve never met you or even shared a bathroom with you.

I think he’s more right about more liberals than not. Read his whole article and judge for yourself.

Best links for June 29

Well, best for me, but I know some of you will like them too.

  • Michelle Murrain, writing from her Zen and the art of Nonprofit Technology blog, points out how the United States Social Forum is running on free and open source software. Fabu. Drupal and Linux (Ubuntu and Debian) love all around.
  • Several writers (here, here and here among others) note Linux users can have Google Desktop too, but not all are convinced it is either necessary or adequately private. Better says one commenter, perhaps, for those using the Xubuntu version which works on older computers but has fewer of the bells and whistles.
  • Chuck Currie, a United Church of Christ minister blogger, reviews what ministers may say in a campaign season.
  • Richard Layman (Rebuilding Space in an Urban Place) — writing about the neighborhood a scant few block to the east of me — revisits the role of churches in urban blight.
  • No bottled water on San Francisco’s official dime, according to Treehugger.
  • MAKE Magazine’s blog suggests using shower wallboard for making giant white boards.