Conversation I had yesterday with my boss/senior pastor, as best I remember it:
Me: So there’s one more outreach idea that I wrote in my report that we’ve been talking about [the English deacons and I], but actually I keep forgetting to bring it up at our meetings. [The Winnipeg Gay Pride Parade is coming up, and I wanted us to do some sort of act of service at it, like handing out water bottles to parade-goers]
Him: I saw that and I have some concerns about it. [previously he’s told me he believes homosexuality is the “worst sin”]
Him: Yeah, I don’t think you should do anything for it.
Me: Okay? Jesus said to love our enemies – not that they’re enemies – but I thought this would be a good opportunity since they march right past our church.
Him: People might get the wrong idea about us. People film at those events. They might think we support it.
Me: Well, what if we didn’t wear anything that had our church name on it or any slogans or anything?
Him: No. I don’t think that’s a good idea.
Me: People misunderstood Jesus too. The Pharisees were offended and misunderstood Jesus when he went to tax collectors and “sinners” [Luke 6]. We can’t really control what others think, but they can ask us.
Him: Some churches hold up signs saying “we’re sorry” at this event, I don’t like that.
Me: Right, but we would just be handing out bottled water, hoping to show love and trying to create opportunities for one-on-one conversation.
Him: I saw a video recently where a woman stood up at a Muslim rally at a city hall in Texas, she took the microphone and proclaimed “Jesus is the one true God.” I was very inspired by her doing that.
Me: Right, but do you think anyone listened to her? It would be the same if we held up signs at the parade, even less offensive ones saying something like “Jesus loves you and wants a better life for you,” do you think anyone would listen? It would shut down any conversation before it could happen.
Him: It’s just I have some concerns about this. I don’t think you should do it.
Me: If I can say this, and I don’t mean any offense, but I think you’re being Pharisaical about this.
Him: We’re having a frank discussion.
Me: Jesus told us to love our enemies, and they’re not, but it’s a great opportunity since they walk right past our doors.
Him: I don’t want people to get the wrong idea because it will look like we support it. [at this point he suggested trying to start a weekly Bible study with a meal for the gay student association at UofW nearby, which I don’t believe would work, and besides, wouldn’t be sustainable for the congregation at this point in time. I only said the latter out loud though.]
Me: I just think it’s a good opportunity that we’re missing out on. But, since you’re my boss I guess we won’t do anything for it.
So. That was frustrating and disappointing. I knew there would be struggles at this church, but I didn’t think one of them would be to show love to people in such a simple way when the opportunity is so obvious. But his message was clear: don’t show love to others – and disobey Jesus’ explicit command – if it will make other religious people question or misunderstand us.