The pressure of clarity

As a church, communications AND clarity advocate, a lot of people have come to me asking what I think about (a new web site attempting to pressure pastors and churches to disclose their positions on LGBT issues). I've had so many inquiries, in fact, I thought it would be helpful to share a personal reflection here. 

Note: The sole objective of this post is to contribute to a productive dialogue. I am genuinely and vulnerably leaning in to provoke greater understanding and better communication around issues that push people apart. I’m not jumping into a debate ring or pointing fingers. We are in this together; trying to communicate more effectively.

With that, there are two primary thoughts I have about  

  1. That’s a dang good url. I wish I had thought of it before they did. 
  2. I’m conflicted. While I don’t necessarily endorse the approach of the site, I get it. We really have something to learn here. 

While this site is primarily for the LGBT community, it’s really about effective church communication for everyone.  

Stay with me. 

I personally don’t believe the focal point of any church should be sexuality. Our identity, life in Christ and wholeness in a community of faith is just not that one dimensional. But, I do believe a church has the responsibility to be transparent about core beliefs around their institution's qualifying/disqualifying issues.  

When I was an executive team member at a large church, I was frustrated at the questions I would get around our church’s “position” around this or that. Our church was so much more than one answer to one question! There were so many levels of good to participate in without focusing on the things that divide us. Especially when it came to questions about our church’s position about LGBT policies — I felt backed into a corner, forced to give a close ended yes or no answer. I resented it because I felt it caused caused division before we even had the chance to unite. 

I don’t feel that way anymore. And, here's why.  

When you invite someone into a family under one pretense, only to change the rules later (the rules you knew about all along), it is not only unfair - it’s cruel. 

Here's the thing, though. When I was ambiguous about the answers around our church policies, my intentions were anything but cruel. I only wanted my LGBT friends to get to know "us" before they judged us for our “position” about anything. 

 Do you see the irony in that?

   - I omitted a portion of what was true about us ...

   - so they wouldn’t pass judgment...

   - only to share later our church passed judgment on them. 

Ouch. That is most definitely not what I was going for. 

There comes a time when the damage caused by not speaking is more harmful than speaking. The ambiguity and omission of facts isn't helping like we think.  

Let’s look at church policy around women in ministry. Do I hate churches who don't believe women should be leaders, pastors and elders in the church? Naw. I just don’t agree with them. But, there’s usually a lot of other stuff I do agree with. I'm not offended. Would I go to one of these churches knowing my involvement would be limited? Maybe. Would I be frustrated and demoralized if I was led to believe I was fully welcome to invest in the life of that church and use my gifts only to find out later certain things were off limits? Yes! Why wouldn’t you have just told me that up front? 

  • Clarity is not positioning. It’s transparency. 
  • Clarity is not an issue to defend. It’s simple honesty. 
  • Clarity is not hate. It is love. 

So back to what I think about I am full of tension. It’s imperfect. It’s complicated. I can’t shake the bully feeling of the approach. It may force pastors and churches into places they’re not prepared for. The outcome of that pressure scares me. 

But, clarity is important. And, it's worth leaning into. I say we give it a chance. Regardless of your position, more clarity is more love because you are being honest about how far your LGBT friends are able to fully participate in the life of the church. Let them know up front what they’re signing up for. Don’t pull the rug out from underneath them later.