Today we held our annual congregation budget meeting.
I have come to see such events as necessary evils in the lives of congregations.
I've been very fortunate in my six years here to endure relatively little controversy. Thankfully.
In my previous congregation, I had to endure no less than three congregational meetings that lasted over two hours. They sucked!
This one had potential. We brought two budgets to the floor. In one, we removed the money we usually send to our synod, and we established a fund for people to voluntarily contribute to the greater church.
The main reason for this was my denomination's decision in August of 2009 to ordain practicing gays and lesbians. As you can imagine, folks who are on the conservative side of the theological spectrum have been none too happy with this decision. Many are wondering if they can continue to be a part of a church that holds to a decision they feel is not biblically based in any way, shape or form. I understand such folks because I am on the more conservative side of that theological spectrum. However, I have a different take. I still believe you show love and generosity to those you disagree with. Watch the movie "Fireproof" for a good example of such unconditional love.
Yet, that is perhaps an issue to be covered in another post. Some folks have a very hard time showing such love, and, as I said, they sometimes wonder if they can support and be a part of such a church. If their congregation continues to send money to an organization they believe is sinful, they have no way of voicing their displeasure other than to withhold giving to their church. Of course, this hurts the local congregation and its ministries.
Furthermore, if we are to say that we are a church that welcomes everyone, that means we must welcome folks on both the right and left of the theological spectrum. We must respect their points of view even if we do not agree with them. Offering folks an opportunity to give to the church without their money going to the head organization seemed the logical choice. Also giving an opportunity for folks to contribute directly to the national organization gives a congregation the ability to avoid the conflict that invariably ensues with such issues--conflict that detracts from the church's mission and ministry.
The budget with this choice passed. We have made a diligent effort to accommodate folks from all parts of the spectrum. All are welcome in church. Now, we will watch the fallout.
In general, churches that have made such allowances in their budgets have seen an increase in the amount of money sent to the church wide organization. If this weren't the history, I would not have been in favor of this budget passing. What will be interesting is to see the reaction of those on the far right. If giving to the church wide organization increases, will they continue to be upset? Will they raise a fuss?
I hope not. Because as far as I am concerned, this is the final effort to be made to make all feel welcome. Everything is dependent upon folks' choices. If someone continues to be angry and upset, I feel like I now have the backing to say, "We have done everything possible short of leaving the national organization. I am too stubborn to leave because I believe I can make a difference in the church at large. There are many who feel the same way; therefore, the church isn't leaving the national body. If you continue to be unhappy, I suggest you look for another congregation where you feel more at home."
I hope it doesn't come to that, but one must do what one must. I am proud our congregation passed this new budget. For my congregation, it's necessary. Hopefully, we can put this garbage behind us and continue to work on ministries like our 100K walk and making a difference in our community.