Who’s Welcome at Your Leadership Table?

by Peggy Hahn, LEAD Executive Director

This is not a rhetorical question. Who do you see as leaders and future leaders of your ministry?

LGBTQIA people are pushed out when a church body votes to limit their leadership.  We are also pushing people out if there is an affirming vote without changing expectations to make room for a wider understanding of human relationships.1

As the waves of the United Methodist Church vote create pain and sadness in the hearts of people across the world, what’s happening at your place? Other denominations have been where our UMC colleagues are today. They too had to make decisions about their policies and polity and it caused deep divisions in their churches.

Do you have the courage to advocate for a leadership table that looks like the people living in your neighborhood? It is a lot easier to be frustrated with a church body than it is to step up and act on personal convictions.

Don’t miss the fact that how we act in the congregation or in our own homes is a bigger part of this story than any denominational vote.

The invitation to Christian leadership is our work. Who we raise up as gifted, trustworthy, talented or capable of leading is impacted by our personal or corporate blind spots. Those of us who are “in” are making decisions about who is invited to the table and we are choosing people who look, act and lead like us pretty much every time.

Can you see the problem here? We are all complicit.

As a friend wrote recently, “God specializes in desperate, hopeless situations…God will use us when we are wounded, redeem us when we are despairing, and send us out to transform the world and its systems, even when they hate us for it.”

Following Jesus means recognizing that we aren’t the only ones with power. It means recognizing that all have power and agency. It means using our power in ways that uplift the collective rather than hoarding it for ourselves. With our power comes responsibility. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people in leadership say, “But I don’t really know any __(you fill in the blank)__ people,” as if that justifies the homogeneity of the community.

Friends, it is time to go for a walk and meet the neighbors. Getting out of our echo chamber takes intentionality.

Building Christian leadership table is our work. How are we using our power to support God’s vision for the world?

It starts with us as individuals.

How are you making room in your life and at your leadership table for a diverse population? Are you welcoming immigrants? Are you welcoming people of all races and ethnicities? Of all sexual orientations and gender orientations? Of all ages, abilities and socioeconomic status? Your honest answer to these questions has enormous implications for our Christian leadership tables.

“All are welcome” is not just a slogan to make you feel good if what you’re really saying is “all who look and act like we do are welcome.” Jesus truly welcomed all to the table and calls us to do the same.

If your gut feeling is resistance, I encourage you to get a small group of 6-8 people together, either face-to-face or digitally, to wrestle with your anxieties about diversity. There is a lot at stake here. Work Out: An invitation to connect, by Peggy Hahn, Kristen Krueger, and Rozella H. White, is a LEAD resource for those who want to explore how to work outside their relational comfort zones. There are tons of other books worthy of study as well. More importantly, there are people all around us who may not know they are loved by a God who does not judge like people do. Sharing this love is the whole point.

  1. See Public Statement Concerning the Revision of “Vision and Expectations” by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries)
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