This week, a friend wrote me a caring and confrontive electronic message.
First, some background: for nearly 16 years as rector of Christ Episcopal Church, I've urged people to address me directly when something's troubling them, something that might even be criticial of me.
Yes, it's painful to hear directly from people I've angered, offended, or hurt, but the alternative--people withdrawing from me in silence--is more painful. And that withdrawal is damaging to the relationship.
Jesus says that when something is troubling us, we should take it to our brother or sister, presenting it in love and working for reconciliation in the relationship.
When this friend wrote me, she was doing just that.
Here's what troubled her:
During the announcements on Sunday, I had announced that Christ Episcopal Church this Saturday would host Dr. Peter Browning of Drury University for a Hardie Lecture Series on sexual orientation. (Dr. Browning will look at the topic from a sociological, not a theological, perspective.)
I spoke about differences in sexual orientation and the imporance of understanding and caring for people.
My friend was troubled by my emphasis on difference and reminded me that all people are children of God and loved by God.
I sent her a reply, thanking her for expressing herself to me and telling her I was sorry that I had offended her. I pledged greater sensitivity in future.
As a priest and pastor, I seek to be a loving, caring, and compassionate presence to all people, communicating that God loves all of us, and that we're to love all people.
I'm grateful to this friend for her honesty and for reminding me of the nature of Christian community, which is grounded in the love of God made known in Christ Jesus.
As two hymns put it, "We are one in the Spirit; we are one in the Lord." And "In Christ, there is no East or West, no North or South."