Tolerate, accept, affirm and ally, reflect a continuum of responses we might have to something or someone perceived to be different from us or from our existing belief system. Our response may, and likely does, change over time as we continue to learn, seek to understand and explore how it might fit with our existing worldview, mindset and belief system. When we look back over the last 100 years or so, in the Western World at least, an increasing awareness of our diversity has challenged how we see and value each other. As well, as we come to recognize how privilege has played a role in how those who are not from the dominant culture are seen and treated, we recognize it has not always been good or kind, which have manifested themselves as “isms” like racism and sexism. The reality is that we are all different, our experiences are different, and it is only by listening and learning from each other, giving value to someone’s experience that we are better able to understand and appreciate each other.
We talked about this a little a few years ago as part of the conversations around racism, including the speaker in the fall of 2021 from Black Anglicans, who offered us some challenging words about what it means to be an ally. We have had similar conversations when it comes to reconciliation, and especially in light of the graves of children discovered surrounding or associated with Indian Residential Schools. Another conversation that we as individuals, society and the church have been wrestling with is sexuality and gender-orientation, who we are as sexual beings. None of these are easy conversations because they force us to look more closely at ourselves and at our belief systems, which may be unconscious, part of the worldview we were raised with and in.
As I said there is a continuum of responses we have when faced with new ideas or perspectives, which become more complicated when it moves from an idea to a person who represents or embodies it. While there may be times that ideas are rejected, and we have certainly heard about people being rejected for being different, which are hopefully in the minority and open to shifts over time based on additional reflection or experience. To help get a better understanding of the rest of the continuum I looked up the definitions:
● To tolerate, is to allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of without interference, particularly, something that one does not necessarily like or agree with.
● To accept, is to believe or come to recognize something as valid or normal.
● To affirm, is to offer emotional support or encouragement, to attribute a heightened sense of value, as in valuing someone and their experience.
● An ally is a person who is not a member of a marginalized or mistreated group but who expresses or gives support to that group or members of that group, in an ongoing effort, activity, or struggle.
As I wrote about in my News from the Pews article a few weeks ago, the Advisory Board has had some conversations about what it might mean to be an affirming congregation when it comes to those who identify as LGBTQ2+. We recognize that there will be perspectives from people in the congregation at every place on this continuum, from being tolerant to being active allies. Part of our conversations over the next year as a congregation will be about listening to each other, hearing and respecting the varied perspectives, the questions and concerns that are expressed, to help us discern together where we as a congregation are on this continuum and then whether we want to make some formal recognition of that. This is not something we want or can rush into, and it will require sensitivity to each other, and especially those we perceive as holding a differing perspective.
As you look at this continuum, where do you see yourself? Where do you see Trinity? What questions are raised for you and in you as you reflect. In the coming months, most likely after our vestry meeting, I will be soliciting those questions in various ways, so that we (the Advisory Board and perhaps others) can discern the best ways of addressing them together in a safe and respectful space. In the meantime, I will be occasionally writing about this in my reflections, and include questions for you to consider.