This post really has nothing to do with homosexuality – it’s more about how people can try to size one up when arriving in a new church. When talking to ministers in the United States, I have had a few tell me that within a week of their arrival someone (or a few) asked them, ‘What’s your stance on homosexuality?’ The answer more or less determined how the person (or church) judged the minister.
I haven’t encountered that question in my churches, or any other theological question, or at least ones that try to ‘peg’ me. Within a week of my arrival in the Blackburn Circuit, the question I got bombed with is, ‘What do think of the pews in the church?’ or, ‘Do you want to remove the pews?’ And, like homosexuality for some of my American counterparts, some have judged me based on my answer. I was a little unprepared for it, and I answered, ‘Well, I prefer not to have them.’
This church has been quite traditional, and seems to regard changes like this as an attack on who they are. I am told this became an issue when one of my predecessors walked in the church and made an announcement, ‘These pews will have to go.’ That particular minister was pulled out to help another circuit, so he didn’t get to make any progress.
It’s interesting how churches will view what ministers do with the furniture as the key to knowing who they are, and interesting to see what they consider essential for ministry. Another issue becomes where I preach on Sunday morning. I don’t use the pulpit. For nearly two years each Sunday I preached, we went through the same litany:
Steward: Are you going into the pulpit?
So there is this underlying pull between who the church fears I am and what I am going to do to them and me, who really isn’t trying to do this to rile them up – just trying to imagine where God is calling us.