Betty Greene Salwak

The Incense Of A New Church

Filed By Betty Greene Salwak | April 09, 2010 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: charles demuth, incense of a new church

A censer swings through the aisles of a new church, the smoke curling through the sun's rays streaming from stained glass windows; and its scent is pleasing to God.

Demuth_C_Incense_of_a_New_Church.jpgThis new church is an institution that people do not fear. It is one they seek because it gives them community peopled by those who welcome the weary, the edgy, the strong, the common, the fearful, the different, the powerful, the broken. All are welcome here.

This church is an institution that people do not hate or fear. It is the natural outcome of community, growing into a stable yet malleable structure that gives a framework for interaction in the journey and celebration of faith. Its doctrine is a magnet, not a weapon, drawing its members through the power of God's unconditional love. It can be trusted with power because it does not demand it.

This new church celebrates diversity as a sign of success. It embraces questions as the means to spiritual growth. It is open to the change that is inevitable over time as new members bring new understanding to its tradition, its culture, its doctrine.

The new church is here. It can be found in individual communities of faith that are independent churches or that have set themselves apart within the mainline denominations.

If you seek a welcoming community of faith, don't give up until you find one. Find one whose leaders make you like who you are when you are with them. Find one you wish to share with others from the sense of joy you gain as a participant.

If you are in a church that needs to grow, become a part of its growth by asking questions that others may be afraid to bring up. Become inconvenient. Be persistent yet patient. When you speak up, you will find many who agree. One voice will become many.

Change is inevitable. The church has a rhythm of dying and new life. It will live anew if the death is its traditions. If it is not, the death will be the institution itself. Those are the only choices. From the funeral pyre, the new church will rise.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

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Thank you for these words. Jesus said no one can serve 2 masters. I am always amazed when people decide to serve the interpretations of theologians and religious leaders who focus not on what Jesus said but what they interpret from other words in Scripture. In Matthew 20:23 Jesus clearly states that it is not within His power to hand out seating in the afterlife. Those who would condemn others are on perilous ground to presume greater power than even Jesus possesses. But, even then I can not condemn those people or I fall into the very same trap.

I like your focus Betty. Thanks again.

Find a Church that is willing to formally part with the traditional Christian teaching that "homosexuals are wrong, sinful and deviant."

MCC is the only Christian denomination (I know of) that is close to making that declaration. Unitarian Universalists are really "anything goes," so they don't officially make homosexuality wrong.

"Welcoming" and "affirming" churches are not the same as un-wronging homosexuality - it's mostly just marketing.

Religion branded us as wrong and continues to teach it. Until that ends we'll continue to have a struggle.

Andrew what "struggle do we have"? Do you want to worship a God of hate and condemnation? Or are you saying that we can not follow the teachings of Jesus while mainstream Christian leadership spouts condemnation from the pulpit? Perhaps I should ask a simpler question. Uhh... have you accepted Jesus Christ of Nazareth as your lord and savior or do you want a church or society to save you? If that is not the way you swing then how do you view this mortal life?

AndrewW, we can find individual churches in just about every city that defy their denomination's doctrine and teach that homosexuality is NOT wrong, NOT a sin and NOT deviant. You have to go inside their doors to find them, because each one is different. When they say "affirming," what does it mean? (And there will still be members who don't agree on that.)

As you say—and sadly so—MCC is the only denomination of which I am aware that makes the attempt wholesale. But don't discount the "marketing" in other denominations that takes the step toward genuine inclusion. "Welcoming" may not be enough, but it's a start.

We will always have a struggle. We must continue to fight for the sake of the children growing up LGBT in our churches.

I agree that "welcoming" is a step in the right direction and it is encouraging to see in many denominations. But, sooner or later we need end the teaching that homosexuality is wrong.

It's mostly about education. Thankfully, people have become much more independent in their thinking during the last 30 years.

I appreciate your efforts.

Betty; as an agnostic - I have no personal need for any 'church'. And yet as a humanist; I recognize and honor the intrinsic needs of most humans for a spiritual outlet and conduit. In that spirit? I think it's a very nice thing that you wrote what you wrote just now..:) If a majority heeds your call, all of our humanity will be more endurable :)

Beautifully written, Betty, but I'd like to echo my wariness about churches that claim homosexuality is a "sin," but that they're welcoming and affirming of our rights as human beings. Which - boiled down - says "We still think you're a bad person, but we're willing to overlook that if you give us money in the donation plate each week."

The blindness and condescension of the "hate the sin, love the sinner" doctrine just floors me. And they think that it is biblical. The way I see it, the progression runs like this:

1. Establish that grace, not condemnation, is the response called for by God.

2. Determine what grace looks like. In this, we must extend grace to those with whom we disagree. How can we ask it if we cannot offer it?

3. Finally, sin or no sin? This is the crux but not the first step. I've learned that people find their own way around their faith struggles when they know someone who is LGBT. It is then that they are willing to explore the possibilities. This is why telling your story is crucial.

abbot Neil, c.s.e.f. | April 10, 2010 3:57 PM

how about the OCC in many of its forms such as the Community of sts. Elizabeth & Francis, The Dio. of St. John the Divine or Good Shepherd Parish, in Sacramento CA. or, the Liberal Catholic (American,) Church accept all persons and doesn't play the Homosexual card.
abbot Neil Christensen,c,s,e,f,

Communities of faith need not be Christian or Abrahamaic in nature. There are many faiths in this world and if you find that some of them do not fit you search around.
There are welcoming communities of many different faiths. Try a faith with no concept of a state of sin. The idea that religion equates to Christianity is an idea that causes a lot of people to suffer.
Give what is unhealthy for you and find something that is healthy for you.

Thank you Rob....

The fact of the matter is that no Christian church today practices the actual teachings of Jesus without the taint of Paul or the OT. Throughout the entire history of the Christian religion, those that did were rooted out and exterminated. Think the Gnostic traditions, think the Cathars, think the Montanists........never heard of them? that's because they were erased.

The world's first monotheist religion was worship of the Mother Goddess. For a period of no less than 5 thousand years in neo-lithic there were essentially no wars, has there been even 5 decades without one in the Christian era?

Christianity is tainted with mysogynoy as are it's brother Abrahamaic faiths. It is so deeply rooted into Judaism, Christianity and Islam that it cannot be removed except for only brief intervals. Sex is essentially viewed as sinful in all three so women will always be suspect and anything remotely non heterosexual as well because all three teach, at their essence, that pleasure is sin, sexual pleasure only to be tolerated as part of procreation.

There are other religion traditions, one's that believe that pleasure that harms none are not only not sinful, but part of human birthright, all that teach this today are "Pagan".

For the life of me I cannot understand how any woman, lesbian, gay or bisexual with any actual self respect can consider the three desert religions as anything other than evil in essence.

John Rutledge | April 11, 2010 8:57 AM

Religion is not God and God is not religion. Religion is man's reaction to the spiritual. We can dismiss religion, just don't dismiss God.
The United Church of Christ is radically inclusive. See

Only 7% of UCC churches are "Open and Affirming," and probably fewer are "radically inclusive."

The UCC has not abandoned the teaching that homosexuals are wrong - they've hung up a rainbow flag in a few churches and made it an option for individual churches to become "open and affirming."

Being welcomed or included is just tolerance or acceptance if they don't actually change the beliefs that we're wrong.

We don't need to be tolerated - there is nothing wrong with us.

Andrew let me give you a different thought. There is something wrong with everyone. Moses was a murderer as was Paul. Were either any less a murderer when forgiven? I read in your vociferous objection to churches what appears to me to be resentment of creeds and doctrines as well as leadership that labels lesbians and homosexuals as abominations. To me that is no problem because heterosexuals fall into the same category and I frequently remind them of that fact. I quote Scripture. One of my favorites is, in fact, Romans 2:1 Where Paul admonishes all who judge that they are not only inexcusable but also succeed in condemning themselves. Romans Chapter one is often cited by those who righteously consign homosexuals to lessor status but I suggest they read the whole epistle before coping to a fallacious sanctimonious attitude. As Ben Franklin said .. any fool can criticize, complain and condemn and most fools do.

"There is something wrong with everyone."

I don't agree with that statement. That is a Christian belief.

Plus, whether or not you believe that "heterosexuals are also wrong" denies the reality that heterosexuals have not been stigmatized like homosexuals. For centuries religion has made homosexuality wrong, sinful and deviant. This Christian teaching has branded us and it has contributed to most of our struggle. It has also killed thousands of young people who believed (because of the teaching) that they were defective.

You can engage fellow Christians in circular interpretation arguments, if you think it's effective. I just want them to stop teaching that we're wrong. They shouldn't be supported by the LGBT Community if they continue that teaching. They should end that teaching, first.

Ben Franklin also said:

“To Follow by faith alone is to follow blindly.”

I have to agree here. To train as clergy I had to do a lot of comparative religious work and have to say that overall there are some unhealthy teachings in Christianity which do a lot of damage to society. Actually I have found Abrahamaism in general to be unpleasant in the extreme when compared to other faiths.

Some Baptists are circulating a Resolution opposing the Repeal of DADT:

Please Post the Resolutions from Christians supporting the Repeal of DADT.

OK, I have to admit there is work to do. After reading your question I have spent many minutes this afternoon and evening searching the web to find a resolution by Christians supporting repeal of DADT. So far I have come up empty handed.

Then I went to the site you linked to and read the resolution. Then I did some research on the Unregistered Baptist Fellowship. Those people aren't Christians. They are tax evaders and scallywags (in the original Irish sense of the term).

Fake Baptists?

Do the real Baptists support Repeal of DADT or DOMA? Or the passage of ENDA? How about the Methodists? The Catholics? The Lutherans?

Certainly some brand of Christianity is on our side.

I think you will find the support within the congregations. You will find it in the words of Jesus. You will not find it from many pulpits at this point in history just as you did not find support for abolition for many hundreds of years until a few brave denominations began to see the wrong in using the Bible to support slavery. The tide will turn a bit faster in the 21st century but it is still an agonizingly slow process.

Btw Andrew do you attend church?

The Bible wasn't "used to support slavery," it supported slavery. God's words.

Until Christian denominations have the integrity to be honest about homosexuality and un-wrong us, I will not support them in any manner. I have no idea why other gay people support the institutions that have created the majority of our difficulties. But, religion has never had to make sense.

I don't attend Church, I prefer Brunch.