The Rev. Scott Anderson was greeted by a standing ovation before his sermon at the Covenant Network of Presbyterians’ gathering here Nov. 3.
The first openly gay pastor to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) since the ratification of Amendment 10-A earlier this summer, Anderson called members to welcome in a new day for the church, which with the amendment changed ordination standards that once effectively banned homosexuals in relationships.
Founded in 1997, the Covenant Network is a national group “working for a church that is simultaneously faithful, just, and whole,” according to its website. The network long lobbied for the change in ordination standards.
Anderson spoke about a gathering of Christians and Muslims in Milwaukee on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Participants wanted to move from tolerance to empathy, deepening their relationships. Muslims hosted the meeting, and that experience that was unnerving for many of the Christians, who are used to being the hosts themselves.
“Most of us take it for granted that being the gracious host is central to our Christianity,” Anderson said. “This is not the first time the Christian church has been called upon to switch roles.”
Preaching on Luke 10:1-12, Anderson reminded worshippers that Jesus sent out 70 followers in pairs ahead of him, telling them to enter into homes as guests.
“The first step to becoming a gracious guest is to ask, ‘What do we need to leave behind?’” Anderson said.
We must abandon our prejudices, preconceptions and old ways of doing church, he said. What remains is our vulnerability and our dependence on God.
Jesus tells his followers to eat and drink what is placed before them, Anderson said, adding that they might be fed things they’re not used to.
At the 9/11 dialogue, the Christians moved from being the hosts to being able to ask questions and listen to their neighbors, Anderson said.
“In taking that risk, we are treading a well-worn path,” he said, adding that Jesus relied on the world’s hospitality and brought peace to strangers.
“Let us come to the table this evening reminded of who is our gracious host. It is not us,” Anderson said. “Let us come to the table to be the gracious guest.”