A poetic letter by Liam D. Battjes.
In seminary we often spent time debating who was in and who was out:
Protestants were in because they reformed the Catholics out.
John Calvin was in, preordained to be as straight as a TULIP stem,
but Martin Luther, was out with his loose beer stein theology.
Christianity was grafted in to replace God’s chosen ones,
whereas Muslims were out and held hostage by political guns.
Militant songs, like Awesome God, were in, but True Colors was out.
Of course, no one asked to sing True Colors at church,
because if you had a colourful personality a few decades ago
church was not a place to go and let it out — you simply stayed in.
Since being out was a sin, I stayed in the closet
of our commercialised and sanctified hetero-culture —
so far inside the closet that the wardrobe dissolved
into the Narnia of marriage and a pastoral vocation.
Within this wintery Narnia, I looked for the elusive Lion of the gospel
and discovered Jesus had little tolerance for in-and-out thinking.
His followers were a mixture of insiders and outsiders.
He confronted many insiders and befriended mostly outsiders.
He was disinterested in the relational and marital arguments of his day,
but confronted the materialism and militarism of those who used might
to defend their right to push others down and out.
A decade ago I guided people in considering God Is Love
and we contemplated grace for diversity and even for our enemies.
The RCA unfriended me with a strong nudge to send me out,
even as my wife divorced me and outed me as a gay disappointment.
Then in a twist of economy, family and mid-life psychology,
I found myself exiled to Australia to stay connected to my kids
— far beyond the boundaries of my home denomination.
But meanwhile, there have been workers building a Room for All
within the reforming walls of the church and within the hearts
of elders, pastors, members, teachers and leaders.
They are working inside the denomination to help others look out
for the Christ who welcomes us all in, without labelling love a sin,
but as one of the greatest commandments to shape our lives
within our church, our family and the spirituality of colourful personalities.
At the RCA’s recent national gathering, those working to make Room for All
invited me in to share a message of how Jesus loves those
who are pushed outside the walls of evangelical legalism.
Together we shared songs, prayers and communion as a community
defined by love and grace — giving the church an accepting face.
Unfortunately, during the subsequent debate, that face turned ugly
and the church became mired in the meanness of in-and-out thinking.
So now I’m thinking . . . Am I in or am I out? Can I still be in if I’m out?
Do I even want to be in? Isn’t God’s love easier to find outside the church?
Some may say that I’m only one voice and it’s okay if I’m out.
But when I take the time to share my story of being gay in the RCA
I discover that I am not alone out here, but year after year
I find other colourful souls who struggle with being pushed out
or with being damaged by staying in. I would say the real sin
is all this in-or-out thinking. So for Christ’s sake, cut it out!
From the Room for All worship service held on Sunday during General Synod 2016
- True Colors by Cindi Lauper is a poetic compassionate song of support for diversity.
- If God is Love by Phillip Gulley is a pastoral review of God’s grace extending to others.
- This poem is structured with 7×7 to reflect the perfect and abundant grace of God.