My husband and I are sitting in the home of our close friends, Jordan and Kelly. Over burgers and iced tea we talk about things we have in common: marriage, parenting, education, and an appreciation of good movies. And then we talk about church.
It’s a touchy subject so we tread carefully. Jordan and Kelly have been deeply hurt by the words and actions of those who say they love Jesus. Somehow they cling to their faith, even though they have yet to find a church community where they feel welcome to express it.
For a while, the four of us attended the same church, and I was thrilled every time they walked into the sanctuary. I sat next to them, alert as a Doberman, hoping to somehow protect them from whatever might cause them to run out the back door. But even at that, they slipped away.
“I just feel like the church wishes we weren’t there,” Kelly says. “Or, if there were a pew in the back of the parking lot, that’s where they think we belong.”
I try to assure her that it’s just not true… that our church wants them—needs them—in the congregation. But they have read our denomination’s doctrine and don’t hesitate to acknowledge that they believe otherwise. In an effort to protect their family, they stay away. I feel their absence every week, believing even more that our church would be better with them here.
Although they are professionals with master’s degrees, they keep hitting the low-hung glass ceiling when they attempt to serve the church. They’re not invited to teach Sunday school. They can’t serve on a church board or become trustees. Certainly, they have never been asked to serve communion.
As two women who have been in a committed, loving relationship for more than thirty years, Jordan and Kelly believe they are relegated to the pew, wearing an invisible, scarlet letter “H.” The message they hear is this: “Sit there and behave yourself. Listen closely and maybe you’ll change.”
It breaks my heart, especially when I consider their giftedness, faith, and love. I know they face the same challenges as the rest of the imperfect people who fill the pews. They could use the support of a loving community, and they would love to support the community. Every day they need to choose selflessness over selfishness, communication over silence, and faith over fear. As they raise their teenagers, they must rely on each other for patience, understanding, and wisdom. They should also be able to rely on their church.
But the same church that believes nothing can “separate us from the love of God” makes Jordan and Kelly feel separate, as if their relationship qualifies as the unforgivable sin.
It’s no wonder that most Sundays they choose to worship at home.