Widening Our Welcome

Jonathan Chapman

Recently, I ordered 4-foot-tall rainbow bunnies for my church. Just after I hit “order,” I wondered if we really needed them.

Later that day, one of my parishioners sent me a picture taken in front of a local church: on the lawn was an enormous banner with a picture of the Holy Family, and the message:

“God’s Marriage = 1 Man + 1 Woman”

Often people ask me why my church constantly hangs banners welcoming folks — particularly the LGBTQ community. They wonder why we’re always lugging out our rainbows. This is why. Because, you see, every church says “Everyone is welcome” — but many of them make that a conditional welcome. You’re welcome, but not your relationship… or who you love. Or how you look. Or how you think, or how you believe.

Most churches don’t put up banners like the one I saw, but many aren’t far off from sharing the same sentiment.

Listen, people can think what they want and believe what they want. I don’t have to agree with everyone, and they don’t have to agree with me. But as long as there are congregations willing to limit God’s welcome, ours will work hard to widen that welcome. And as long as there are churchgoers who question the depth of God’s love, we will keep hoisting our banners and hauling our doors that proclaim its breadth.

The truth is that we will fall short (and we do). But we keep trying. Because, you see, there are people in the world who wonder if God could really love them — if God could love them despite who they love.

And in case that’s you: Yes. There’s no “despite” about it. God could love you; God does love you. And so does this church.