I was reading another blog, and a response to the blog got me going... So look out below, I'm on my hobbyhorse and rocking away!
The comment was on demographically focused devotionals, worship, etc. Such things as A Women's Devotional, or the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), a church founded in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community, or even Promisekeepers. One commenter took exception to such things, saying that all Christians should be one, and such things are divisive. My blogger acquaintance responded that such things are needed because marginalized groups do not always feel at home in the larger church.
Let's look at the Methodist Church. Back in the early 1800s, in a church in Philadelphia, the black members were not allowed Communion until all the white members had received, thus insuring that the white folks got Communion, while sometimes there was not enough for the black folks, to say nothing of the attitude thus indicated. The black members finally had enough and went off to form their own church--the African Methodist Episcopal Church, or AME.
Now, some might say that they had no right to do that--they were in the church, and receiving Communion, and members... But they weren't really accepted, were they? They were regarded in fact, of not in the letter, as second-class members. But God has no second-class children.
The simple fact is that different groups in society have different reasons for wanting their own denominations or congregations within those denominations. Sometimes it's cultural/ethnic/language, as with the Latino Methodist churches, or Korean Methodist, or Vietnamese Catholic churches (I once lived five minutes from Our Lady of Vietnam Roman Catholic Church, three blocks from St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Community; there was room for both). Or the MCC. Or the AME.
The fault is not that of the marginalized groups--they are seeking God, and want to worship God and follow Christ. But the institutional church, the human church, is preventing them. And so they find their own ways to worship.
Personal history: God called me to ministry when I was a member of a United Methodist Church. I (eventually) responded, went to seminary, graduated after five years, was appointed (as probationary elder) to a charge, and led a very hurting congregation towards wholeness over the course of a year. But also during that year, I realized that aspects of myself I had thought I could hide forever would not be hidden. I was less of a pastor for hiding parts of me and lying about it. And so I came out as a bisexual woman, went through a divorce, and left the United Methodist Church. I didn't leave because I was angry at the United Methodist Church, but because they would not allow me to answer my call within the UMC. In effect, I was forced to choose--God or the UMC. I chose God.
I am disappointed in the UMC (and other denominations, but the UMC is the one that touched my life). I was a lifelong UM--parents married there, myself baptized and confirmed there, heard my call there, went to a Methodist seminary, etc. And yet, when it came down to the difficult questions, they (the institution) could not see me as an equal child of God with my straight classmates at seminary or my straight colleagues in ministry.
We, the marginalized, are not asking for special treatment. We're asking for equal treatment. Our lives are often ignored in the sermons we hear, in the music we sing, and in the prayers we pray. If worship does not speak to our hopes and fears, it cannot reach our hearts and inspire us to reach for God.