Monday, January 11, 2010


I think this is going to be a day full of blog posts because I’ve been queuing them in my mind.

Janet’s pregnancy has made feel the need to reconnect with my religious past. At this time, I have about the faith of a mustard seed, but have reconciled my small amount of faith with Christianity in general. I truly enjoy the traditions/liturgy of church as well as theology. If I’m going to believe in something, I want to think about it intellectually as well. I think our child should have a foundation in Christianity and have the same ability to accept/reject the principles and teachings as an adult as I have. Luckily, though agnostic, Janet will support Butterbean going to church as long as she only has to go when Butterbean is in a performance and can otherwise stay home and make breakfast/lunch/brunch for when we get home.

I’ve tried out several churches in the area, from the totally open and affirming MCC’s, to the accepting Methodist church that is nearby. I don’t feel comfortable in the MCC’s because:

a. I can’t say that I need that level of affirmation every Sunday that God accepts me as I am. I already get that.

b. I want Butterbean to be exposed to the average family mix in church. If Butterbean sees his or her parents accepted in church just like every other family, I think it sends a stronger message of equality than if he/she sees them only in reference to other LGBT families.

c. Selfishly, I just don’t get much out of them. I know church is a give take thing, but I want to leave on Sunday noodling over something in my head, challenging myself over something.

The Methodist church nearby is pretty perfect as it is open and affirming, the minister is great, and its in our neighborhood, so Butterbean will be in Sunday School, youth group, choir, with people he/she already goes to school with.

However, when talking to some close friends, I brought up that I was thinking of going to the Methodist church even though I had grown up a die hard Presbyterian. There aren’t any active Presbyterian churches in our general neighborhood. Close friend brought up that most Presbyterian families in our ‘hood go to church downtown. My brain started processing. Downtown is really only 10 or so minutes away. Initial research shows that the church has some amazing programs for the homeless. What initial research did not show is how said church felt about LGBT inclusion. Being the pre-emptive strike person that I am, I drafted a wee little email to the head pastor.


Before my questions, I'll provide a little background. I am a lesbian. My partner and I were married in Canada two years ago. My partner is expecting our first child. While my partner is essentially agnostic, I established my theological base in the conservative PCA and EPC churches. After "coming out" and becoming more comfortable with my role in Christianity, I started attending Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) but stopped once I moved to Dallas.

Now we have a child on the way and I feel strongly about our child being brought up in church. To this end, I've started trying out churches. I've focused on those that I knew were open and affirming- UMC, MCC, MCC, etc. The more I attend various churches, the more I desire to resume the faith traditions of my youth and also to know that our child will be raised in those traditions. The simple solution seems to be to try out *downtown* church. However, I don't necessarily want to knock on a door where I'm not welcome.

My questions:

Would you consider your church to be open and affirming?

When our child is born, would he or she be welcome at the baptismal font with both parents?

Would our child be welcomed into Sunday School, Children's & Volunteer events?

Your feedback is most appreciated.


Meredith XXXX

Less than 24 hours later, I had a response:

Thank you for your e-mail, Meredith. Congratulations on your “child on the way!” I would love the opportunity to meet with you to talk about your questions face to face. Let me give you a brief response via e-mail, and if you’d like to talk further, we certainly can:

Would you consider your church to be open and affirming?

Our congregation has made no formal statements that would allow me to say we are “open and affirming.” We have an incredibly diverse congregation, from openly gay and lesbian people to people who are still upset about the ordination of women. This diversity reflects the diversity of our denomination. We have openly gay leaders who serve in elected positions. We also have conservative leaders who serve in elected positions. Having said that, I would conclude we are an open congregation with people who would be affirming and with people who would not be. I would also want to introduce you to people who are gay and lesbian in our church and invite you to pose your questions to them. They would be in a far better place to discuss the nature of our congregation’s welcome than I . Personally, I am for the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of the church and society. I have voted accordingly on every vote to come to the denomination on the issue since my ordination. I speak openly about my opinion. However, our denominational policies are not yet welcoming and affirming. Historically, the denomination’s policies have articulated a position that homosexuality is not consistent with God’s plan for creation, but that the church should advocate for the civil rights of all people, including gays and lesbians. I’m embarrassed to tell you that, but it’s where the denomination is, and I want to be honest with you.

When our child is born, would he or she be welcome at the baptismal font with both parents?
I would absolutely support that request. Our Session approves all baptisms, and my guess is that the Session would approve that request. Baptism is about God’s claim on your child’s life, not about the sexual orientation of the parents. Even those who are not welcoming and affirming would have to concede that fact.

Would our child be welcomed into Sunday School, Children's & Volunteer events?
I would certainly hope so. While we have a number of gay and lesbian members, I don’t believe any of them have children in the children’s programs, so I can’t speak from experience.

I wish I could offer resounding YESES! to each of your questions, Meredith, but to do so would be dishonest. Our congregation is a wonderful church. Our diversity politically, theologically, and socio-economically is part of what makes our church who we are—a church that strives to be welcoming to all, gay and straight, democrats and republicans, liberals and conservatives. This diversity prevents us from aligning ourselves with any particular “side” in the debates, which is frustrating for those who want us to take a side. This is true for most “First Church’s” in most cities. As the church’s pastor, my position has been to make my opinions on the issue known, but to not ask the church to take any official positions that reflect my personal convictions. That’s the most honest answer I can give.

There are “More Light” congregations in Dallas, churches that have officially defined themselves as welcoming and affirming. I believe St. Andrew’s Presbyterian on Skillman is one such congregation. I’m sure there are others. I know there are a number of pastors who share my convictions and whose congregation’s are as diverse as ours.

I pray the Spirit will give you and your partner clarity as you discern where God is calling you to go to live out your life of discipleship and to nurture your child in the faith. Again, I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss this face to face.

Grace and peace,


I was impressed with his responses and look forward to trying out the church!  So a question to the blog world.  If you were looking for religious inclusion of your family, what methods did you use to test the waters?


anofferingoflove said...

Wow, I'm impressed with the pastor's attention and thoughtful response, even if he couldn't provide all of the answers he wished/you wanted.

I wasn't raised in a church and my partner was raised catholic. We joined a UU church a few years ago and are comfortable there.

Good luck with your decision.

cindyhoo2 said...

What a great response from the pastor: open, affirming and honest. I am a bit jealous. I have sent similar emails to local pastors and have not gotten favorable responses.

Meredith said...

I'm sorry Cindy. What denomination are you?

The Miller Menagerie said...

That was a very honest response! Good for the pastor in not sugar coating it.

Good luck to you as you go "church shopping". One thing I've learned in the last few months is that tempering my expectations has helped me keep my sanity. My last few years of church going has shown me that Joe Sunday Christian wants maybe 1-1.5 hrs worth of bother, one day a week. One they "have to get their hands dirty" with someone else's life, the workers become more and more few. All that to say, if you were blessed with the experience of general "community" (koinonia) as a kid back home in DFS, I think that had more to do with the size of the town around the church community, and the people's attitudes about community in general. City folks want to drive home, pop open their garage, drive in, and close it before they have to talk to a neighbor to learn anything about them (in general). Unfortunately, they take that attitude and apply it to church, too. I tried being the "propagator of koinonia" within our parishes these last few years, but it was very one-sided. Folks would absorb the fun, but if our family was in dire need of anything (even the lack of a negative comment would have been welcome) that was too much to ask for. Folks (in general) didn't want to get their hands dirtied.

Thalassa said...

i've found i like UU a lot. i, like you, started with MCC, but it seems like it's Gay Christianity 101 in there every week. i'm ready for 201, at least, and maybe even [no-adjective-necessary] Christianity, y'know? my wife is Jewish, so we're trying for a blend and UU's refusal to insist on the literal truth of any particular mythology attached to God suits me and where I am intellectually, as well. but, at the same time, they have an active community and sunday school, etc. and the music is good.