Yesterday we started looking at an article written by Brian Kirk on the blog Patheos, “Has the Church failed GLBT Teens?” We looked at one of his comments suggesting that gay teens are leaving the church because they feel unwanted. Kirk further suggests that they feel unwanted due to the nature of the discussions going on in the church concerning homosexuality. We concluded yesterday that while harsh debates are bad, it is healthy for the church to discuss these things because it shows the importance of standing on God’s Word within culture – especially when culture says not to.
We also concluded that the Church – as a whole – needs to not only stand on God’s Word but back up their beliefs by living like Jesus through authentic relationships with the gay community (especially gay teens). Just as Jesus welcomes the gay community, so we should welcome them as well. Further, we need to lay aside our expectations and allow the Spirit to do His job, as He expects us to do ours.
Today, I want to look at another comment from Kirk’s article. It’s a comment made from the person he is interviewing, Bryan Currie, a gay minister who works with gay teens in NY city. Here is what Currie says:
Sadly, I find that many of the LGBT young people I work with feel tremendous conflict because their sexuality does not conform to the traditional teachings of their faith. Those who find the courage to reveal their sexual orientation are often alienated by their churches. After years of quietly listening to the church condemn homosexuals and homosexuality, many of these students ultimately abandon their faith. These youth are the ones we most often hear about. Thousands of others continue to live secret lives, afraid of what will happen if they’re ever “found out.”
I wanna take this comment apart.
Currie correctly asserts that many gay teens (and adults) feel conflicted between who they are and what scripture has to say about homosexuality. I get that, and I understand the turmoil one experiences within. In reality, though, all scripture should make us feel conflicted in how we live our lives, because I think every one of us is torn between the lures of the world and Christ. A great purpose of scripture is to help us align our lives up with God’s will, and not our own. No where does the Bible say, “Hey if scripture conflicts with your life, go with your feelings and live how you want.” In fact, we read quite the opposite: deny yourself, those who lose their lives will find it, do not conform to the patterns of this world, seek first the Kingdom of God, etc. God’s Word should be molding us into His image; how dare we try to model His truth into ours.
In saying this, pastors and teachers of the word do not have free reign to bash people with condemnation – especially those in the gay community. This applies to causal conversations and when speaking from the pulpit. We are to preach and teach the truth of Christ, but we are to do so through the means of grace (Ephesians 4:15). The Church has got to stop making homosexuality the sin of all sins. Whether we openly admit that it is or not, the sentiment of this lie is heard in the tone of most preachers when they speak about homosexuality. Listen, the more we single out homosexuality in sermons, or in sin categories, the more separation we are creating between us and gay community. It’s not about “us vs. them,” it’s about Him; and His heart is for those who identify as GLBT. Therefore, our hearts should be bent towards them as well. When our hearts begin to break for them, then our lips and words will pour forth God’s gracious truth upon them. Is your heart-broken for gays? It should be. Do your words back up this broken heart? They better be.
While on this topic, please know that it is quite embarrassing, and down right insensitive, when straight preachers pretend to be gay in order to pass off a joke or smart remark. Really? Preachers and teachers … Christians … should act that immature? No wonder the gay community questions us. Please stop. Please.
In the article, Bryan Currie also asserts that those who do “come out of the closet” are often ousted by their church family. This is something that is heavily debated, and it really shouldn’t be. I’m not talking about membership or leadership appointments, rather I’m talking about people who attend church weekly, who happen to be gay. They have every right to be in your worship service as you do. In fact, I would say that they need to be there even more than you do. Truth is, if you kick them out of church two things will most likely happen to them: they will either go find a pro-gay theology church, or they will walk away from their faith altogether. Neither is a good end result.
Kicking out a person because they profess to be gay is like a doctor kicking out a patient who has a sickness the doctor doesn’t like. [I am NOT saying that being gay is a sickness! It's just an example I'm using.] It’s stupid. This is the very reason why the Church was formed – the reason why Jesus came (Mark 2:17). Yes, checks and balances need to be put into place; and yes, something needs to be said about membership and leadership situations. However, the underlining truth is this: gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered, etc, need to feel welcomed within our worship celebrations. If it is God’s loving-kindness that leads us to repentance, then His Bride better be an open vessel of such loving-kindness to those within the gay community. As I have said before in another post, the Church should not compromise Truth, but it should not withhold Grace either.
I write this as one who did hide the fact that he was gay from his church family for fear of abandonment. I wrestled with my questions and temptations alone the majority of the time. I didn’t want to “disappoint” my friends or church; and I surely didn’t want to be ousted by them. Looking back, I perceived things that weren’t true. I could have told my church family and friends and they would have loved me through every question and doubt. Still, I didn’t know that at the time, so I thought the worse would happen if I did come out and say, “I’m gay.” Through my experience, I believe two lessons need to be learned by the broader Church community: you need to talk openly about this issue (honestly, maturely, and authentically), and you must be willing to walk this journey with anyone who professes to be gay within your congregation.
Here are some other posts to further explain these points:
- Opening the Church Doors – part one and two
- Preaching on Homosexuality [guest post by Tim Wilkins]
- How Can the Church Really Help?
This is not an exhaustive list by no means, but these should help you get started on becoming a church that looks and loves like Jesus.