When Derek Penwell began serving the struggling Douglass Boulevard Christian Church in 2008, the church board decided to reach out to its local neighborhood – an LGBT neighborhood.
Little did Derek know this would bring him to places of leadership in the community and in his Disciples of Christ denomination to champion LGBT rights.
In this interview, Derek tells us how his congregation became, ‘open and affirming’ and suggests ways other churches might approach this process.
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Derek Penwell is convinced it’s just a matter of time before all public institutions, and churches, recognize the civil rights of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender community. Helping his church become ‘open and affirming,’ then, was just a step toward the inevitable. Here are my notes from the interview:
Yep, People Leave
While the vast majority of members voted in favor of the church’s new direction, Derek says he lost a couple of families – the unfortunate result of moving in the direction he felt the Spirit was leading.
Friends of LGBT Started Attending
Derek says that the ‘open and affirming’ direction his congregation took did not attract many from that community, what it did was attract many who were attracted to the stance – de-churched relatives and friends of LGBT community members.
Also, A Farmer’s Market
Part of listening to the neighborhood meant hearing a desire for fresh, locally grown food. So the congregation responded by freeing up land to host this regular event.
About Derek Penwell
Derek Penwell is an author, editor, speaker, and activest. He is the senior minister of Douglass Boulevard Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Louisville, Kentucky and a lecturer at the University of Louisville in Religious Studies and Humanities. He has a Ph.D. in humanities from the University of Louisville. He is the author of articles ranging from church history to aesthetic theory and the tragic emotions, as well as the forthcoming book from Chalice Press, Escaping the Vortex of Doom: A Mainliner’s Survival Guide to the Post-Denominational World. He currently edits a blog on emergence Christianity, [D]mergent.org, and blogs at The Company of the Eudaimon. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
Sponsors I Mentioned
Chalice Press – Check out The Hyphenateds, featuring Derek Penwell. It asks: Can emergence Christianity help established denominations understand that radical transformation means more than a new worship service? Hear Phyllis Tickle, Doug Pagit, Elaine Heath, Phil Snider, and many more important voices, chime in about how mainline congregations are taken the lessons of emergent Christianity to heart. Check out this book, and more at chalicepress.com
Turnaround 20/20 – Learn from experts who have conquered obstacles to growth and watched God turn things around. Turnaround 20/20 is a unique congregational development conference that brings together 20 experts who speak for 20 minutes each. People like Nelson Searcy, Charles Arn, George Hunter, and Elmer Towns will focus on a specific area of congregational development and are out to spark new ideas and innovations for you and your church. Turnaround 20./20 is Tuesday, October 23 in Nashville, TN.