After my wife Cat and I had spent six years as members of our very first church home, we were asked to sign a document asserting that under no circumstances should anyone involved in a same-sex relationship be allowed to hold any position of any power whatsoever at that church.
We had both been elected deacons of the church---which is how we learned that you couldn't actually become a deacon at our church until you signed this paper.
I actually thought the Deacons Committee lady was kidding when she laid copies of the anti-gay statement before us. We knew this lady. She was in the weekly small group Bible study Cat and I had attended for years. We liked her.
"Ha, ha," I laughed. "Wouldn't it be funny if there really was such a document?"
Looking slightly confused, our friend said, "There is. This is it." She nudged the papers a little closer to our side of the table. "You have to sign this."
I looked at Cat. Cat looked at me.
Oh, no. First stop, Crazy Town.
We both bent to read the document.
Done with that, I asked our friend, "Do we really have to sign this in order to become deacons? Are you actually not kidding?" I'm a fairly private person. I prefer to keep swearing my allegiance to poorly articulated political, social and/or theological proclamations to a minimum.
"No, I'm not kidding." She smiled a genuinely sweet smile. "You have to sign it. Everyone has to sign it." I assumed she meant everyone under such circumstances in our church---but released my compulsion to clarify.
"Well ... I mean, here's the thing," I said. "I'm not saying I agree or disagree with the statement. That is not the issue here. I am pretty seriously surprised, though, that in the six years Cat and I have been here, I've never once heard anyone say one single thing about homosexuality. Never a word about it from the pulpit; never in a meeting; never in a class; never in the bulletin; nothing on our website about it. Total silence. That seems a little weird; if we're going to believe something as strongly as we apparently believe this, shouldn't we at least say something about it every once in awhile? If we believe it, we should preach it. People should know the rules of the club they're in. But that has absolutely nothing to do with why I don't want to sign this paper. It's the actual signing of it that I have a problem with. It just feels awfully ... draconian, don't you think? Actually making someone sign their name to something? Isn't that just a little too ... Joe McCarthy? You understand how that feels a little extreme, right?"
Wrong. She didn't.
"We're talking about being deacons here, right?" piped in Cat. I detected in her abrupt laugh just the slightest, barely discernible hint of maniacism. "It's not like we're being named pastors of the church. We're talking about being deacons. Visiting shut-ins. Manning the donut tables on Sunday. That sort of thing, right? Nothing that has anything whatsoever to do with who should or shouldn't be hired at the church. Just deacons, right?"
But reason though we tried, our choices turned out to be exactly two: Either sign the "no homosexual should be so much as a door greeter or janitor at our church" document---or, by virtue of not signing it, fail to qualify as deacons.
"Please let us be deacons without signing the paper," we said to the (earthly) powers-that-be at our church. "We love this church. We'd love to help with it. It's not like we're going to be in a position of hiring anyone at the church anyway. Isn't it somehow possible to allow us to serve as deacons without our having to sign the paper?"
Yeah---that'd be a no.
So then, once the smoke had cleared, we were in the weird position of being members of a church, the leaders of which had decided---had publicly decided---we weren't suitable to be deacons.
Reduced to second-class citizens! In our own church!
Don't you just hate it when that happens?
I'm joking now, but at the time it really hurt. It's rough being told you aren't qualified to visit shut-ins, help with the services, greet people at the newcomers' table.
Anyway, within a month we left that church, which had always meant so much to us. Lots of good, good people there. But in the end they preferred to let us leave them, rather than allow us to serve them, minus our signatures on that paper.
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