Over the last few months, I’ve had some of the most encouraging conversations with Pastors and Christians that I thought I’d never have regarding Christianity and Homosexuality. To be fair, I’ve had some discouraging and even hurtful conversations too, but they’re hardly worth much attention. The vast majority of response I’ve received has been surprisingly encouraging and warm, and many have come from pastors through private messages.
I am noticing a growth and deepening of understanding happening in the hearts and relationships of people all ages in churches. I’ve had conversations with elders who have grown up in Foursquare and aren’t leaving it, but also aren’t compromising this emerging understanding about homosexuality and the church. There is also strong movement among younger people that is especially encouraging.
Last month, I was speaking with two really wonderful students at L.I.F.E. Pacific College who expressed such tender and open hearts to the LGBTQ community that they’re seeing being rejected in many churches and theologies. As they study Scripture and allow their hearts and relationship with Christ to grow, they’re uncovering a theme of love, acceptance, and grace that transcends limited contextual understandings and the idolatry of morality, Scripture, and culture.
Sadly, there are few people supporting these younger people as they navigate these callings in their lives though. Very few "elders" are stepping up to have this conversation with them or, even more importantly, just simply listen. There is only an uncomfortable and unproductive silence.
As I continue to see the conversation of Homosexuality and Christianity move forward within the church, I am encouraged. I am realizing I am far from being alone! I’m brokenhearted by the representation of Jesus presented by so many theologies, but I am encouraged by the revelation of Jesus’ love and presence emerging within the Church.
Lisa Ann recently attended the Gay Christian Network Convention in Philadelphia and texted me about how she was touch by the amount of tears and grief due to the damage done to people’s lives using the name of Jesus. Perhaps it’s more in the name of Scripture, but what it has done is created a belief of distance between God and people, which God has fought hard to bridge and close, and continues to fight hard to close. I want to be a part of closing it.
How terrible for you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You are hypocrites! You close the door for people to enter the kingdom of heaven. You yourselves don’t enter, and you stop others who are trying to enter.
– Jesus, Matthew 23:13
We have to stop pretending we’re in the business of deciding or judging who is in or out of the kingdom/presence of heaven and start focusing more on being transformed by living in the kingdom/presence of heaven ourselves. And let’s be welcoming.
I’ve had pastors ask me why I am taking this personal process or dialogue so publicly and my reasoning is this: churches have been and are damaging lives and souls under the guise of Jesus’ Name and it should be challenged, lovingly. I don’t believe anyone is being villainous. In fact, almost everyone I’ve dialogued with has been extremely sincere. But, while churches (myself included) are busy discussing and debating, people are being rejected and marginalized and given the impression that it is an expression of who Jesus is. We have to find a more loving way to process our faith and theology.
A distinction I’d like to make is between the small “c” church or churches and the capitol “C” Church. The Church isn’t “church.” It isn’t an organization or institution. It is the Body of Christ, alive and well; operating everywhere, at all times, and in all things. It can’t be captured, monopolized, or manufactured. The purpose of churches should not be to multiply churches, but to simplify all of life to a conscious participation with the Church, the Body of Christ, living in unison with the heart of God. That is much larger than a contemporary Sunday morning tradition. The purpose of going to church is to gather together with others around this belief, with an emphasis on practicing and waking up to this reality more and more outside of church.
Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
– Matthew 12.47/48
“Churches” come and go and that’s okay, likely even good. But the Church is here, transforming the world, and affecting people’s lives every single day, all around the globe: giving love, patience, kindness, humility, gentleness, fearlessness, and endurance through all things for God and each other.
For my many friends who do not feel at home inside or outside of churches, if your or any church does not welcome you, don’t be disheartened as if God or the Church rejects you. It doesn’t. You’re in it. You’re a part of it. It needs you. And, if I can be so ridiculously bold to say this, you need it. I know I do. But we can be freed from believing that God sees the Church as something incorporated or over-organized and move forward in discovering what it really is; who we really are.