Pastor Notes

To be, rather than to seem

We affirm that people of any race, ethnic identity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, age, economic status, or life situation are welcome, valued, and invited to full participation in the life of the congregation.

That statement on the front page of our website was the result of more than a year’s discernment by our congregation. As a church founded on the principle of radical inclusion more than 50 years ago, we came to realize that to be less than clear about our stance affirming all of God’s people was not only to do further harm to those who have been hurt by churches, but was also doing a disservice to that heritage. 

When we changed our website to add that statement, it felt like a victory for those who had been advocating for clarity. But as I said at the time, such a statement was not the end, but only the first step. 

The state motto of North Carolina, where I was in ministry for almost a decade and a half, is Esse quam videri, which is Latin for “To be, rather than to seem.” If we stopped at an affirming statement, we would seem to be affirming. But to actually be an affirming church requires doing the work. A lot of work. 

Inclusion is more than a statement or having a float in the Pride Parade – it requires us to interrogate all the ways that exclusion seeps into our culture unintentionally. Do the hymns we sing reflect inclusion? Is our language inclusive? Do we train our congregants on inclusion? Do we examine our stated theology, our sermons, and our curriculums to make sure that they reflect our commitments to inclusion? Do our classes, lessons, facilities and so many other things reflect our stated belief that everyone is “invited to full participation in the life of the congregation?”

And when we fail – and we will – we must make sure that we fix it, and then don’t do it again. 

The way humans build trust with each other is to make and keep promises over time.  When we put that statement on our website, we were making a promise to folks: You are welcome here. You are affirmed here. You are safe here. 

And having made that promise, we must keep it.

Pastor Notes

Pride Month

“I have never heard of a Mennonite church that celebrates Pride month”, she said.

I laughed. 

“Well, as a friend of mine once said, if you have been to one Mennonite church, you have been to one Mennonite church”. 

I recognize not many Mennonite churches celebrate Pride month. But not many of them celebrate Black History month, either, and we do that, and for the same reason – because we have Black members, and we want to lift them up and celebrate who they are. Likewise, we have Queer members, and we want to ift and celebrate them as well. 

It has been argued that these are not Christian observances, like Christmas or Easter, and thus have no place in a Christian church service. But I have sat through any number of Mother’s Day services, and it’s not a recognized Christian feast either – instead, we do it to celebrate the mothers among us. And Mennonites don’t have a Pope or magisterium anyway, to tell us what we are allowed to celebrate or aren’t. 

But to my larger point, I don’t believe there are sacred days and secular days – I actually don’t believe there is secular anything. I believe there is only the sacred and the desecrated. 

Our Queer members are made in the image of God, are made by God, and are beloved of and by God. They are part of us, and we are on their side. 

But we don’t just celebrate Pride because of our current Queer members. We also do it to recognize the ways we screwed up in the past.

Over the years I have been a pastor, I have talked to many Queer people who used to go to church. We were willing to baptize them. Willing to let them come to our Sunday Schools and our Vacation Bible Schools and send them off on summer mission trips. But when they came to us and told us who they were, they were no longer welcome. Or worse, they didn’t feel safe telling us – they just left. 

I’m sure that’s happened here at Open Door – it has happened everywhere. Right now we don’t have any teens or kids at Open Door – but one day we will. And I never want a kid that came to my church to grow up and discern they are Queer and feel like the only option available to them is to leave the church, or worse yet, to believe that God doesn’t love them, celebrate them, and acknowledge them. Queer kids in our church will see people like them on Sunday morning, will worship beside people like them, and they will see people like them celebrated as beloved children of God. 

Because they are. 

Scroll to Top