Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Another Reason Nexus and the UCC Are Needed

Whiz Kids is a great program that Nexus used to participate in. A few years ago, Whiz Kids approached Nexus about working with them. Ty volunteered at a school near us.  She would meet with a little girl on a weekly basis to help her with her homework, read to her and be a positive adult role model for her.  Nexus did not participate in the program last year due to Ty's busy schedule.  But, this year Whiz Kids approached us about participating again.  

From Whiz Kids' site:

The statistics are bone-chilling. The State of Ohio uses third-grade reading proficiency scores to project future prison capacity. “If you don’t know how to read by the end of fourth grade, the state is building you a prison cell,” says Dr. O'dell Owens, Hamilton County Coroner. According to the U.S. Census, 80 percent of prison inmates are either low-level readers or illiterate. ... Several schools throughout Greater Cincinnati are on the waiting list to start a Whiz Kids site. There is a need for partnering churches, volunteers and increased funding in order to start new tutoring sites.
Nexus gladly accepted Whiz Kids' invitation to get involved with the program again. Our church has grown since we first participated and we hoped that we could provide more volunteers.  Because we draw from a wide geographical area, we thought we might have volunteers available in the communities where volunteers are needed. This seemed like a great fit.  Mike Underhill, our pastor, spoke with the local director of Whiz Kids and told him we'd like to participate.  But, given that we are in Southwest Ohio, Mike thought it wise to inform them that we are an open and affirming church and that Mike is an "out" gay man.  Their response?  "We'll have to think about that." Whiz Kids is a part of City Gospel Mission and had to check with them on how they would feel about working with Neuxs.  City Gospel's motto (on their website) is "Breaking the cycle of poverty and despair... one life at a time".

Apparently, Whiz Kids went back to City Gospel Mission who decided to withdraw the invitation for Nexus to participate in the program. City Gospel Mission is funded by several Christian churches and they felt to allow a church like Nexus to participate might jeopardize their funding.  So, since Nexus accepts everyone, as they are regardless of sexual orientation, Nexus was not rejected by a program that needs help to "break the cycle of poverty and life at a time."  

I spoke with Mike the day he found out we had been rejected by Whiz Kids and City Gospel Mission.  I think he was pretty shaken by it.  Obviously, he thought it might be a problem that we were open and affirming.  But, we were open and affirming when we participated before.  And, we have never made any secret about being open and affirming.  I'm saddened that things have not improved in much in Cincinnati as we might have hoped. 

In today's society, many of us wonder what the role of the church really is. We have so many other charities we could contribute to- organizations that do real good.  We have so many ways we can get connected socially. There are so many churches to choose from.  Why bother starting up a new church when there is already one on every corner?  There are already hundreds of churches in Butler County, OH.  Why do we need Nexus? I'm glad Nexus was there to challenge the status quo.  If we did nothing else, we made them confront the issue that there are homosexual Christians in Cincinnati and they are committed to the work of the church- whether those churches like it or not. Many of the people who attend Nexus have been told by other local churches don't bother coming to our church.  The churches make it clear they are not wanted.  And, once they have left the churches, the churches are no longer forced to confront the issue.  Out of sight, out of mind.   We let them know that those people they have rejected want to participate in breaking the cycle of poverty and despair. These moments where we forced the homophobes to think, when we challenge their view of the Bible and of G-d's love accumulate and will eventually lead to changed hearts.  Nexus needs to be around to continue to force them to confront this issue.


Lister said...

I think you make a good point about "out of sight, out of mind." When gay members stop attending unwelcoming churches, I think they often are considered "lost," fallen back into the pool of the "unsaved" which the church is trying to "reach." I would be surprised if a church I had left considered that I would keep searching, until i found a church where I feel the love and community of god and my gifts are fully used. And because "gay" and "Christian" are assumed incompatible churches may never question why that church was a bad experience for me, as often happens when assumed straight people leave a church. But to paraphrase my pastor, they can't kick us out of church, then say "look at those godless homos, they don't go to church!"

Anonymous said...

Brian, its a shame that Nexus can't participate in the reading program. Could your church do something similar, anyway? Why should any program stop you? Just a thought.

I know its hard, but remember once when you were also a "homo-phobe." Since we too once were that same way, its easier for us to understand.

I'm sure there are many reasons why Nexus and the UCC are needed; what's lacking that you can provide for the community? Perhaps the very rejection will be the thing that will fill the need; the light shining from this love and open-ness for our gay brothers and sisters. :) --rhonda

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Les! Amen!

Brian said...

Thanks for the support Rhonda.

Yes, I was once a homophobe, not so very long ago. That's why I have compassion for them and I often tell my friends at Nexus that I understand where they are coming from. I have no ill will for them. But, I'm not afraid to say they are wrong and must change.

Nexus has not been shut out by this. This is more of a emotional blow than one that's going to keep us from getting involved in the community. It's just another slap in face for people who have already been slapped by the institutional church. We participate in a program called IHN that houses the homeless and gives them job training. We do food drives. We do blanket projects where we make fleece blankets for homeless children. For a very, very small church, I think we do a great deal. And, the guy heading up the Whiz Kids program has said he and his church would like to do something with Nexus.

Anonymous said...

I remember, Brian, in past discussions, it was said that gays CAN change and MUST change; I remember someone who worked in the medical field saying she had seen all the damage to the body that comes from such a lifestyle; we had stories given about gays who became "straight" and how victorious and wonderful and thankful they were! We had warnings of the spiritual ramifications in how gay marriage, for example, was a debasement of the spiritual meaning of marriage; of Christ and the Church. Those were difficult days, Brian, but in time, the Light came through for many; I really do hope that my words in those days in reasoning and putting the proper "spirit" on these things helped others to see more clearly. It would do my heart so much good to hear you say my words helped do that, Bri. :)

That same mindset, of course, is what you're dealing with now with the Institutional Church and Nexus. Just keep on keepin' on--keep patiently showing whoever will listen, how all these arguments aren't sound and why. Its much more effective though, when the scriptures are opened and proper Light shone upon them, because they value scripture. So many today don't, but those who use scripture to come against these things will listen much more willingly when the bible is used. If I can help in any way, please let me know, bro. :) --rhonda

Brian said...

Yes, Rhonda. You are right. I know with many it does help when the Bible can be used. I think your words in those days were very helpful. Thankfully, several authors have written books on how the Bible does not condemn homosexuality, as many think it does. Unfortunately, it's impossible to force people to actually read the books or to listen to the arguments. It took me a long time to come around myself.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Brian; your sharing info from the books you were reading were helpful too.

We wouldn't want to FORCE others to see our way, even if we could tho, right? :)

Its only a matter of time before people themselves choose to be open to these things. People are much more open now than they were even a few years ago, and that includes both sides of the aisle. --rhonda

Brian said...


Great question. No I supposed I would not FORCE people to see things my way, even if I could.