I think love and inclusivity are the central virtues of Jesus’s kingdom vision. I’ve thought this for quite a while. And it’s a significant reason why I resigned from my post and surrendered my ministry credentials after 10 years as a lead pastor in a conservative evangelical denomination.
I reached a point where I couldn’t be the pastor I believed that God called and gifted me to be, the pastor I wanted to be, and I couldn’t love people — all people — the way I believed Jesus’s central kingdom virtues demanded.
The denomination was fond of saying that we welcomed all people. But we really didn’t. We welcomed them with stipulations and strings attached. We welcomed them if they conformed to our ways of thinking, believing, and behaving. We welcomed them if they would capitulate to “our tribe’s” way of seeing and doing things.
LGBTQ people? Of course, we love the people, but we hate their sin, was the mantra of that denomination. We love the person, many people would say, but we disagree with their lifestyle. And until they got their lives straight, LGBTQ people couldn’t be part of and minister in the congregation in significant ways. As if their sexual orientation is divorced from the image of God in which they were created and their standing before God contingent upon our approval and acceptance.
People of other religions? They’re deceived and will spend eternity in hell unless they repent and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, was the standard answer. There was especially a lot of vitriol aimed at Muslims from some of the people in my congregation.
Let me elaborate on this one. One of the proverbial straws that factored into my resignation was when it came to light that several people in the church — including someone on the church board — were upset that we had done a series of special offerings for one of the denomination’s missionaries in inner-city Chicago that worked primarily with Muslim refugees. He wanted to supply a $20 box fan for refugee families so they could get some comfort from the sweltering Chicago summer heat in their cramped apartments. I thought it was a fantastic way for our tiny church to help. Over several weeks we encouraged people to “Be a Fan” and give towards this ministry opportunity. We raised…