“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:14-17).
On Sunday, July 13, 2008, Douglass Blvd Christian Church took a historic step of faith by voting unanimously to take on the commitment of being an “Open and Affirming community of faith.” The resolution that passed committed us to welcoming all who would seek hospitality and fellowship with us, “regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, and all of the other distinctions that may serve to identify and divide us.” That we welcome everyone into fellowship is a commonplace that hardly any church would deny, and that certainly should not require a resolution. What stands as a new public commitment for DBCC is that we also embrace those whom we would welcome, without asking them to shed the gifts and identities with which God has blessed them. What is historic about this step of faith is that it places us on the leading edge of congregational transformation, being only the second congregation in the Kentucky Region to make this public proclamation about the necessity of God’s people to practice hospitality and embrace to all who seek the voice of the Good Shepherd.
Jesus, according to the Gospel of John, has a flock far more expansive and inclusive than even the wisest among us can imagine. One of the problems that got Jesus into trouble with the religious big-shots of his day (and sometimes even his closest disciples) was the fact that they believed him not to be discriminating enough in choosing those whom to call and to embrace. He was forever on the outs with those whose vision of the kingdom of God was limited by an inability to believe that God’s grace could extend so wide and so far. But Jesus persisted in being a shepherd of a united flock—even though so many found that unity unintelligible.
On July 13, 2008, Douglass Blvd Christian Church co-signed with Jesus on the pledge to call those whom Jesus calls, to extend mercy to those to whom Jesus extends mercy, and to embrace those whom Jesus embraces. We have committed ourselves to a more rigorous discipleship and faithfulness than any of us can now imagine. But, then again, the Good Shepherd, who died for the flock would expect no less.
Grace and Peace,