This post is in response to an article YouthWorker linked from Patheos, “Has the Church Failed GLBT Teens?” While the question is a good one to ask, the answer isn’t a simple “Yes” or “No,” rather it’s a mixture of both. The Church will do well to recognize both answers as being correct, and to change what needs to be changed in order to “look more like Jesus.”
In his article, Brian Kirk, begins by saying:
It often seems like one step forward and one step back when it comes to justice for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons in the Church. One has to wonder what impact all this debate and disagreement in the Church is having on gay teens, particularly those sitting in our pews. As congregations argue over scripture and tradition and who is welcome and who is not, many of our GLBT teens are quickly figuring out that there may be no place for them in the Church.
Brian is right, many teens (and adults) struggle with their place within the Church – locally and globally. Some denominations exclude anyone with any type of same-sex attraction; while others fully include gays and lesbians, noting that their “gayness” is a gift from God. Seemingly the Church goes from one extreme to the next. Of course not every congregation fits into these two categories. The majority of the Church doesn’t know how to deal with (positively) their members who are gay – or who have gay kids. They want to remain faithful to scripture, but they also want to be faithful in loving their neighbor, too. It is in this tension that those who are gay fall between the cracks, or, worse yet, they are put on center stage and debated about (as if they aren’t there or are some infectious disease that needs special handling). It’s sad, really.
This generation is more acceptable of the GLBT community then any other in history. They accept their gay peers no matter if the Church approves or not. And frankly, the Church can learn from this generations open-arms-policy on accepting those who are different. However, I also think that the Church stills has much to offer this generation, especially concerning the issue of gays and lesbians within the Church. In this light, I think it is good for this generation to see churches wrestle with this issue, because in the end, the wrestling match shows the importance of Scripture within our lives and culture.
Now, I’m not for yelling matches, but I am for honest and mature discussions. Our conversation within churches needs to move beyond “cause the Bible says so,” and move towards “in light of what scripture says, how do we apply this personally and abroad?” I think we do harm when teens see their congregations fight internally … it sort of goes against what Jesus prayed for and commanded, doesn’t it? (John 17, Ephesians 4) Still, there is something to be said for the church body that effectively and maturely discusses this issue, in the open, and agrees to stand on God’s Word, in every aspect. This type of practice conveys a message of following the totality of Jesus’ gospel, not just the parts we like. He called us to stand upon His truth and to show the world His magnificent and unconditional love. It’s a message that speaks to the gay community: we love you as Jesus loves you, we welcome you as He does, and we invite you to stand upon His truth as the basis for your life (just as it is the basis of our lives). We then back up our words with authentic (non-hypocritical) actions.
I firmly believe that when congregations stop talking about Jesus and start living as examples of Jesus, those who are gay will start to take us seriously when we tell them that we love them and accept them. This, in my opinion, is especially true for this current generation of teens and young adults. They want to be embraced by authenticity, not with empty words and promises. They want to experience the presence of God, not simply be told about it. They want to know that their church is a place of honest discussion and safe place to wrestle with questions. They want to be seen as a person, and not as a statistic, a sin, or as someone who is “unnatural.” They want to be offered the same relationship and hope as everyone else is offered – with no strings attached. It’s amazing what happens when the church disregards its expectations of people and allows the Holy Spirit to come in and do His work among all who are gathered.
This is not to say that we allow everyone to have a “free-for-all” – that’s not what Christ calls us to; however this is to say that we allow the Spirit to do His job, as He expects us to do ours.
We’ll continue this discussion tomorrow. In the meantime, what are some thoughts you have?