To be Open and Affirming means we stand up not only for those who are like us but those who broaden our sense of who "we" are. Being Open and Affirming dismantles the advocate/victim dichotomy. It picks apart the paternalistic care-giver/care-receiver attitude and declares that we're all in this together. No more we/they. No more gay Lazarus scrabbling for crumbs beneath Dives' straight table. From now on, "we" means more than it meant before. A place at the table set in the presence of enemies with whom we may yet become friends. A place at the table even in the valley of the shadow of death.
Too many churches suffer from the paternalistic attitude that "we" are here to help "them," where "we" are the sympathetic rich, healthy, white, straight followers of Jesus, and "them" means the people gospel calls us to serve: the abstract hungry, thirsty and oppressed minority, the sexually diverse, the "nones." As if "they" aren't already among "us." Sigh. This gets to the heart of the problem.
Jesus says he comes to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. We can do that safely enough with ministries of checkbook and pen and feel pretty good about ourselves, without ever addressing the essential problem of human nature, our us/them tribalism, our insistence on being separate, destined, unique.
The thing is, when Jesus proclaims his calling, he can't just mail in a check or stand at a distance and talk. He comes. He doesn't wait for those he serves to come to him. If Incarnation means anything at all, it means Jesus enters into the reality he comes to reconcile. He breaks down the first person/third person divide. He takes the us/them of poverty, sickness, disability, and, yes, sexual injustice, and he walks in the midst of it all saying we're in this together. He doesn't ask, "Are you with me?" but declares, "I am with you." The first is just recruiting. The second is advocacy. Even when he says, "Follow me," Jesus doesn't recruit. He invites us to find our wider voice.
Incarnation means God "the Father" sets aside paternalism. No more condescension, no more patriarchy, but "he walks with me and talks with me": now a Paraclete coming alongside us, transforming human relationships by means of equal justice and unconditional love.
The O&A church knows in its bones the experience of Incarnation. It feels in its heart that there is no "we" inside the church serving the likes of "them," outside, somehow objectified and made the recipients of our magnanimity and public policy work. It means we move the boundaries of who we think we mean when we say "we." When we advocate, speaking truth to power, we aren't speaking out on behalf of some abstract third person we call them. We are finding our new voice as a broader we, a voice truer to God's heart and more inclusive than before.
Being Open and Affirming means we speak up and speak out, yes, for GLBT sisters and brothers, not apart from who we are but because we now know we are one. We straight, we gay, we lesbian, we bisexual, we transgendered, we questioning and queer, we who embody Jesus' incarnation as fully as a community can so that dividing walls come tumbling Jericho-like down, became a wider, deeper more radically inclusive "we."
After all, we really are all in this business of life together as God's beloved daughters and sons. Becoming Open and Affirming, we become Advocates for ourselves, because we realize we are infinitely more than we ever imagined. We are the Incarnate, Infinite, Embodied, Communitied, Holy Oneness of God.