As I participated in one of the small groups at the Diversity Dialogue session that I attended, I noticed two things. First, there was sharp disagreement among the persons in my group over the question of whether homosexual activity was inherently sinful. While the conversation was respectful, it was also intense, with strongly held opinions on both sides of the issue. However, the second thing I noticed was that virtually everyone who spoke said that, as far as they were concerned, everyone should be welcome in the church. That really struck me. I had not expected to hear that said so clearly and by so many people. We are -- or at least want to be -- a church that welcomes all people. I think these two factors are at work throughout our church -- we disagree with one another profoundly over the question of the inherent sinfulness of homosexuality and yet, at our best, we do genuinely want to be a welcoming church. I have certainly seen both of these factors at work in my own local congregation as we have wrestled with this issue.
At times, the depth of our disagreement on the question of homosexuality seems almost overwhelming to me. However, as I sat listening in my small group at the Dialogue session, I began to wonder if it might be fruitful to focus more of our energy on the point on which we seem to agree - that we want to be a church that welcomes all people. Even while we disagree on the issue of the sinfulness of homosexuality, how can we as a church be truly welcoming to all persons, including those who are homosexual? In particular, how do we as a church make the welcome real without putting those among us who believe homosexuality to be inherently sinful in the position of feeling that, by welcoming a homosexual person, they are thereby condoning something that they cannot accept?
I don't have a ready answer to these questions. But I do think it is something worth working on. Let us make the most of that on which we agree even as we continue to talk about our differences. It would be a shame to let our disagreement over the question of the inherent sinfulness of homosexuality overshadow our agreement that God calls us to be a church that truly welcomes all of God's children.
Chapel Hill, NC