Today’s letter to General Synod 2016 comes from Marilyn Paarlberg, Executive Director of Room for All.


Dear General Synod 2016,

I’ve been thinking a lot about neighbors lately, and neighborhoods, and neighborly hospitality.  It started when I was putting together some remarks to share at the Special Council in April. I said that as I read the overall biblical narrative, God’s favorite question seems to be, “Who is my neighbor?” and the answer is always going to surprise us.  In light of that “entertaining angels unawares” verse in Hebrews, I’d venture to guess that God’s block parties spill over to other parts of town, because our Lord isn’t partial to gated communities.

So I was glad that LGBTQ people had been intentionally invited to participate in the Special Council, where their presence, their stories, and their persistent faith made a real difference in difficult and honest conversations.  That observation was offered by so many, on all sides of the debate.  People were talking with, instead of about, each other.   And it went beyond talking.  A potluck of laughter, stories, hugs, and tears was shared, with enough to go around.  The breeze blew gently in that place, and it felt like new construction was going up in the RCA neighborhood.

But apparently in the lead-up to General Synod, somebody was uneasy about the colorful new houses and their occupants. We were told that inviting the LGBTQ Special Council participants to be guests in the all-Synod advisory groups, in the hopes of encouraging the spirit of the Council, would be out of order.  The work of the Council came to the floor of Synod barely recognizable, and questions to that effect went unanswered.  It was voted that only certain marriages can take place in the neighborhood, and the old neighborhood association would no longer be trusted to enforce that policy. So much for angels unawares.  

There was one morning, though, when that welcoming breeze returned.  Under a clear sky, neighbors of every sort gathered for worship, some in rainbows. We remembered our baptism.  We sang, we prayed.  We heard the Word preached and shared a meal around a miraculous, mysterious, expandable Table.  Passersby complained, but there was no gate to be seen.

General Synod, that’s the neighborhood I want to live in, but I don’t like the “For Sale” signs going up.  Let’s give it another try, shall we? Because in reality, these “new” neighbors aren’t new at all. Speaking of God’s surprises, they’ve been here all along, right where they belong.

Marilyn Paarlberg


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