Finally Naming the Church that Fired me in 2011
Yesterday I had a bit of a homecoming. A redemption moment of sorts. From one Grove to another.
It’s Been 12 Years… I Think It’s Time
If you’ve read UnClobber then you know that in 2011 I was fired by my church when they learned my theology had shifted and I was now an open and affirming Christian. Meaning, I no longer believed being gay is a sin and I affirmed the legitimacy of same-sex marriage.
But if you recall, in the book I changed the names of both the church and the leaders. Mostly because my goal was not (and still is not) to disparage the church or my ex-coworkers. So I thought it was the right move to keep their real names out of it.
However, it’s been almost 12 years, so I guess I’m less concerned about it now 🤷🏻♂️
More to the point, yesterday I had the privilege of traveling to Bryson City (nestled in the beautiful Appalachian mountains of western North Carolina) for stop #12 on my tour for The Shift.
And the name of the church that brought me out?
Which, you guessed it, is also the name of the church where I worked from 2007-2011, and from where I was terminated due to my theology: The Grove in Chandler, AZ.
It was a bit emotional for me yesterday pulling up to The Grove in Bryson City.
I took a few minutes and filmed this video outside near the sign, reflecting on the full circle of it all.
Look, I know it’s just a name.
There’s no actual connection between the churches. So there’s no real redemption in terms of getting fired from the Arizonan Grove.
But still, on some symbolic level, it meant something to me.
Now, do I wish that my former boss from The Grove in Chandler, AZ (who, it would appear as I’m writing this, I’m still not naming. Hmmm… that’s interesting… I’ll have to get curious about that. Anyway, moving on…), do I wish that he would someday reach out and seek some kind of reconciliation with me?
Sure. That’d be nice.
Especially if he himself has personally become affirming in his theology, which I suppose is a real possibility.
But that day may never come. So in the meantime, I’m gonna go ahead and just let it feel really, really good that yesterday I spent the day with some amazing people in the hills of NC at a church that just so happens to also be called The Grove.
It felt a little full circle in some ways.
One church fired me because of my theology.
Then, over a decade later, another church of the same name brought me in to speak because of that same theology. Because my work that came out of getting fired was an instrumental resource for The Grove (NC) to move toward becoming a fully inclusive church in 2021.
Life is a gift, y’all.
Cause you never know what’s gonna happen next.
If You Attend The Grove (in AZ) or a Church Like it
I don’t hold any animosity toward The Grove (in AZ). Truly.
I made peace years ago with their choice to fire me. There are still people there that I care a lot about (including the pastor! I still miss him. I sill love him). In fact, a couple months ago I wrote about how I recently visited the campus of The Grove. (Paid Subscribers can read that post here).
But I gotta be honest, I still have no patience for churches like The Grove that pretend to be a safe place for LGBTQ people but are not.
I’ve written before about this bait and switch style of church. Where they proclaim that “all are welcome” in a way that makes queer people think they can belong there,
but it’s not real.
These are churches I call Welcoming but Not Affirming.
“Sure, LGBTQ people can come! We love all people! But they can’t be on staff. Nor serve in leadership. And we won’t marry them. But yeah, we welcome everybody!”
It’s a devastatingly harmful technique.
Churches like The Grove just need to be up front and honest: Yes, we love LGBTQ people, but No, we do not affirm them as such.
And if you're reading this and you attend The Grove (or you attend a church like The Grove), and if you yourself are affirming of LGBTQ people, then I ask: what gives?
I’ve written about this a lot (check out this series, for example) so I won’t repeat myself here. But I really think people should strongly consider leaving their non-affirming churches. The reasons people give for why they stay are pretty weak. Whereas the reasons why you should leave are strong.
I’m also gonna go ahead and post this video for those of you who are parents because I think you especially have a responsibility to stop supporting and attending non-affirming churches.
Colby, will you be speaking at other NC churches this summer?
OMG Colby- I did not think about this at all. I have had conversations with my kids (and grandkids who are old enough) about the theological problems I had with the church I served as the Women & Children’s/Care & Recovery Pastor for 25 years. I even offered amends for teaching them that they were born separated from God, needed to say a magic prayer to go to heaven and that the Bible was literally the Word of God. But because we had always “accepted” LGBTQ+ people to worship with us, I didn’t take the time to explain to them about FULL inclusion. My current Community is a full inclusion church and is very upfront and specific about their meaning. I need some more conversations.