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 despair...one 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.