We are Beloved and we Belong!
Desmond Tutu says, “If I diminish you, I diminish myself.” In this powerful statement we are reminded of our interconnectedness and responsibility to extend mutual respect to one another. We are called to see each person as an image-bearer of God and beloved. This can be difficult when we disagree with one another. This is even more challenging when we perceive another’s beliefs to be oppressive.
Miroslav Volf says, “The harder I pursue justice, the blinder I become to the injustice that I myself perpetuate.” Within our Generous Space communities, we desire to embody and move towards a justice that, as much as possible, cultivates shalom and flourishing for all.
We seek to create and nurture communities where multiple outcomes to the journey of integrating faith, gender, and sexuality are recognized, diversity is respected, and every individual can be encouraged to explore and grow. We respect the autonomy of the individual to own their own spiritual journey, even as we all share the call into community with other followers of Christ. This means that in our communities, people encounter others who hold different beliefs about gender and sexual identity, others who form different relationships and expressions of family, and others who express their faith and spirituality differently. Such difference is seen not as a problem to fix, but as an incredible opportunity to grow in the fruits of the Spirit as we love, encourage, and support one another in following Jesus.
In the Generous Space community we welcome those who have deconstructed their faith, those who may no longer identify with Christianity, or who are deeply uncertain about what faith looks like for them. These siblings bring gifts and insights and love into our community and we are grateful for their presence. We have an online group affectionately known as Triple A: atheist, agnostic, and ambiguous about faith. Email us to find out more information.
The what, why, and how of generous space
Generous space is a way of being together in the midst of difference. Faith communities are not intended to be homogeneous groups of people who all think and act in exactly the same way. Rather, healthy communities are made up of people who might never imagine themselves together if it weren’t for the love of God calling them to be family. Encountering difference, tension, paradox, and even conflict is fertile soil to grow into the fruits of the Spirit. We learn love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control – we learn to forgive and extend grace and embody the kind of humility that allows us to learn from each other.
Generous space considers these questions:
What? What do we need to do when we encounter difference or disagreement in our community?
Generous space helps us to acknowledge that people who are committed to Christ and committed to honour the Scriptures arrive at different interpretive conclusions on any number of theological, moral, or philosophical dilemmas. We acknowledge that those who are questioning, deconstructing, or redefining their faith bring important questions and insights into the community. When we acknowledge this, we can break down the “us vs. them” and recognize that there is really JustUs. We need one another – and together we can trust that God will keep leading and guiding us – even while
we still live in the uncertainty of seeing through a glass dimly.
Why? Why should we acknowledge the reality of such difference?
There are over 45,000 protestant denominations in the Christian tradition. Christians are used to just picking up and dividing when conflict arises. In John 17, Jesus prays that future believers would experience unity just as he and the Father are unified – because then the world will know that the Father sent the Son. Jesus connects our public witness to the reality of our unity in the midst of our diversity. So acknowledging our differences with the humility that says, “We’re going to keep journeying together, growing in grace, relying on the Spirit, and practicing resurrection” is a way to be the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer.
“In essentials ~ unity; in non-essentials ~ liberty; in all things ~ love.”
Not only does cultivating generous space together fulfill Jesus’ prayer for unity and offer a more life-giving witness to the world, we also realize that making such a commitment is spiritually formational. Generous space grows us up moving us towards deeper maturity.
How? How do we cultivate this kind of generous space?
One of the key practical strategies is to teach a community the skills of dialogue. In learning how to transcend typical win/lose arguments and debates, people in community build trust through deeply listening to the other and seeking mutual understanding and a larger and fuller vision of the matter they are considering together. When discussion of difficult topics depends on the best argument and the pressure of policy and decision making, it is very difficult to build trust and deepen relationships. Generous space is primarily about relationship. And while there are times that policies and decisions need to be determined, generous space cultivates the kind of relationships that are able to be collaborative and cooperative.
Dialogue as spirituality is also a key motif of generous space. Honouring each other as those who are Beloved and who Belong, listening for the Spirit, nurturing space through silence and contemplation, discovering the unforced rhythms of grace are all spiritual practices that support ongoing commitment to grow in faith and live as a generously spacious community.
Generous space: the what, why, and how of cultivating healthy and diverse communities.
At the intersection of faith, gender, and sexuality we all have to do the hard work of discerning our beliefs or theology and the application of those beliefs in how we will live. But sorting out those questions alone doesn’t particularly prepare us to engage with those who arrive at different conclusions than we do. We must consider:
How can we have a life-giving, unity-inspiring, honest and courageous conversation about gender and sexuality? How can we ensure people feel safe to share their true feelings on these matters?
How big is our tent? How much diversity in perspective can we welcome into our gatherings?
What language can we use to open conversation rather than shut it down?
What is our basis for embracing the value of unconditional hospitality?
How can our voices as LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) people in our community be heard? How we empower different voices when diverse perspectives come into play?
How can communities embody non-anxiousness and cultivate safety for those for whom these matters are deeply personal and who live in tension regarding Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience?
Practicing the posture of generous space equips leaders and their communities to not only address the complexity of topics like gender and sexuality, but to respond to the many experiences of diversity that we encounter as we extend hospitality and build relationships in our local contexts.