No Room at the Inn?

December 16, 2011

Sad news comes from Most Holy Redeemer parish, San Francisco, a community that has done excellent outreach to the local LGBT community in the Castro district where they are located and throughout the Bay Area.  

The Bay Area Reporter carries a story that Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco has made the parish disinvite three gay and lesbian clergy members  from speaking at the parish’s  Advent services.   The three are Rev. Jane Spahr, a retired Presbyterian minister who has been prominent in LGBT issues in her church; Rev. Roland Stringfellow, a minister in the Metropolitan Community Church and the coordinator of welcoming congregations at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry of the Pacific School of Religion; and retired Episcopal Bishop Otis Charles, former head of the Utah diocese.

Rev. Spahr was gracious in her response to the disinvitation.  The news story reports that she wrote an email to Most Holy Redeemer parish, noting that the community has been

“in the forefront of loving people through HIV and giving us the opportunity to thrive in expressing the fullness of who we are as we integrate our sexuality and spirituality.”

“Your ministry there in the Castro has helped save so many lives,” she wrote. “How sad for the archbishop that he is missing the depth and breadth of your ministry and how he still sees you as ‘one issue’ rather than the fullness of who you are. The heart of your ministry embraces true hospitality and welcome, the kind of ministry Jesus lived.”

She said that congregants at Most Holy Redeemer “do not have to apologize” for the archbishop’s decision.

“We will pray that his heart will open as he experiences your love and grace,” she added.

As we approach the feast of Christmas, the birth of the Redeemer born in a stable because there was no room at the inn, let’s keep the parish in our prayers, that they may be strengthened to carry out their welcome to the LGBT community and not be disheartened by this directive.  Let’s do as Rev. Spahr suggests, and  pray, too, that Archbishop Niderauer’s heart will be opened to welcome those he might think are strangers.  Let’s pray for all in our church who shut the inn door out of fear and ignorance.  Let’s pray for ourselves, when we are the ones who shut the inn door.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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