I cried through church on Sunday. We were back in Ohio at our home congregation where generations of Stages and Schulzes have worshiped. I looked around at the congregation and remembered how much I loved them; I remembered how thankful I am for the love they poured out on me. I listened to a sermon not very different from one I would preach about inclusion and gathering the least and the poor to the table as a witness to God's kingdom.
And I couldn't stop the tears.
My home congregation left the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) after the Churchwide decision in 2009 that affirmed the possibility of same-gender marriage and ordination of people in same-gender committed relationships. I had a conversation with the senior pastor at the time reminding him that Lutheran theology strongly states that it is only appropriate to leave when "salvation is no longer possible" within the church. By leaving the ELCA and creating a new denomination, you are saying we are damned. The response was "yes" and it has made it hard for me to worship there again.
What does it mean when a community I love excludes people I love? What does it mean when a community of faith no longer values what I value and actually stands contrary to a core belief?
The quick American answer is to pack your bags and leave; there are plenty of other options. Or complain and pick at everything. Or ignore the problem and it might go away.
There is also the option to keep loving. There are times when salvation is no longer possible and we need to step away, but I've found the holy spirit to be a wild one capable of breaking down walls and breaking open hardened hearts when we keep showing up.
I know people often contemplate leaving a faith community or quitting all together, but I want to encourage us all to let tears flow and try to keep loving and showing up. The community of faith is not a club you join, but a body you help create.
As it says in Ephesians 4:
But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love.