We are here. We have always been here. The fact that most of the churches have lived in blissful ignorance of our presence means nothing. Our task—our ministry to ourselves and to the church—is not to justify our presence, but to tell the church who we really are by our own definitions, rather than by [others’], because we know who we are…
The gospel is not about smoothing over the issues that divide us, nor integration in the sense of making us all agree, think alike, or even worship alike. It is about affirming the godly identity of every human being, even those whom we find strange (or queer). [The gospel’s] work will continue until we can all take our places at the table without challenging anyone’s right to be there. Whom God has called, no human being has the right to turn away.” —L. William Countryman and M.R. Ritley
This topic came up during the filming of Enough Room at the Table last spring. It comes up during every post-screening conversation I’ve been in.
And it comes up in other community discussions as well, because all appearances aside, the topic isn’t actually about the kinds of people we exclude or debate or marginalize. It’s about the kind of community we are. It’s about “us.”
This topic keeps coming up because we keep designing conversations on the premise that the existence and presence and contribution of the Other is a debate question.
We can have conversations about women ministers as if they aren’t already pastoring, preaching, and serving thousands of congregations worldwide. Our conversations about them don’t take the evidence into account, and we study questions that are already answered in the lives of real people.
We can talk about being “one in Christ” without reckoning with the “every nation, kindred, tongue, and people” already present in our communities, yet not present in our communities’ leadership teams; already active in service and support, yet not factored into programs or policies.
These and other examples represent dialogues that have calcified inequity and skewed our thinking. From design to execution, these conversations undermine our ability to build more sustainable community dynamics because they fail to acknowledge the communities we already have.
But “we are here. We have always been here.” Blissful ignorance is no longer an option, and some of us are going to challenge the basis of conversation until it changes.
We deserve communities with a more solid ground floor than quicksand.