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November 18, 2013

One Way the Church Can Welcome LGBT People

How our communities might foster love instead of loneliness



Welcome%20Door%20Mat.jpg

In the last few years, we have seen a remarkable shift in church culture’s attitude regarding the LGBT community. Churches are wanting to be open and welcoming to these folks. In my opinion, the struggle churches and Christians have is not with “loving the sinner,” as it’s been said, but with how far that love goes without compromising Scripture.

The greatest tension in the church’s welcome and even acceptance of LGBT people comes from the desire to be faithful to Scripture. Many Christians believe the love of God extends to all, but somehow have come to believe that if they go as far as welcoming a gay person, it means they have abandoned their loyalty to Scripture.

An “unwelcoming” shows up when a gay person who has been attending church all of a sudden wants to be on the worship team. This is when the welcome mat is pulled out from under the person’s feet, often leaving him or her devastated. An institutional church has no choice in this matter, no matter how much love they have for this individual. Scripturally, they cannot allow this person to lead. The same moral code for heterosexuals involved in any kind of sexual fornication applies to our LBGT friends.

I often wonder what this looks like to well-meaning LGBT people who are genuinely wanting to seek Christ but still struggling with living the lifestyle. To them, their sexual orientation is part of who they are, not an activity they feel they can just cease. We often don’t realize how much they give up in order to follow this path. Many lose their families and homes. Their conviction of their orientation must be strong in order to endure such heartache. This is something for us to keep in mind when building relationships with them. How would we feel if someone told us in order to be accepted and given opportunity for involvement, we would have to deny our attractions and be celibate? We are asking a great deal of them—and only so they can be involved in official roles, serving Christ within the context of the institutional church. When the apostle Peter stated that we are living stones being built together (1 Peter 2:5), I wonder if that really meant excluding the seeking LGBT person.

I believe we need to return to what God’s dream of church was and still is. It wasn’t a dream of building an organization with “every member a minister” (Romans 12:4-21) only to include the options of greeting, teaching Sunday school, being on the worship team, or visitation as the only possible manifestations of royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). God’s ultimate dream and purpose for the church is for it to be family—his family. And he “places the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6). Honestly, I can’t think of a sector of society who experiences degrees of loneliness more than the LGBT community. The strong sense of family and community they create among themselves shows their rejection by society and their attachment to those who will love them for who they are.

Considering this, how can we prevent these precious people from ever experiencing rejection from the body of Christ without compromising biblical truth? I believe there is a way, and I’m thankful to share it with those who have echoed the same question.

First, we need to remember that God’s standards for church leadership were intended for a church government that looks completely different from what we see today. With only touching on the subject (it’s a topic for another article in and of itself), we need to understand that the principles laid out for elders in the early church were meant not primarily to exclude, but to honor those who were seasoned believers who displayed wisdom and the ability to lead (1 Timothy 3:2-7; Titus 1:6). They weren’t meant to be strict adherences for worship teams, hospitality groups, volunteers, and greeters to be measured by—because such roles didn’t exist outside our modern organizational idea of church. Even in the early church, a homosexual person wouldn’t have been considered as an elder of a church, but that wouldn’t have look like exclusion as only seasoned believers were given that role. Our “volunteer ministry roles,” and the expectations we place on those who hold those positions, are our ideas. It’s a sad day when a homosexual person just wanting to volunteer at the door is refused because of orientation, or is refused when wishing to volunteer in the nursery because of unfounded fears that he may just be a pedophile. To such a person, and to the world, this looks a lot like discrimination. I wonder how Jesus sees it?

The early church met in homes, where they welcomed the weary, the weak, the lonely, and the poor. They loved on one another and all shared openly in meetings about Christ. They ate together. They became a community. They were family.

I feel that today, the safest possible place for an LGBT person to find a true welcome that never comes to a screeching halt is in churches that meet in homes. In a home setting anyone can share, engage, and even just sit back and observe. All can help serve dinner, clear the table, wash the dishes, welcome a newcomer without a list of biblical guidelines excluding them. Anyone can question a passage of Scripture without judgment and engage in meaningful conversation. All can pray and be prayed for. What an amazing, safe environment for anyone to feel at home in. All of a sudden, the Holy Spirit can do his work in people’s hearts—whatever that may end up looking like—rather than be excluded by what we have created and are now bound by. Frank Viola has some interesting thoughts on what house churches look like in his book Reimagining Church.

Much of the tension churches feel in relating to LGBT people is only going to increase in the next decade. Now is the time for us to engage in healthy conversation about how we can see LGBT people come to Christ and be able to grow in a loving community. A community where the welcome doesn’t run out and spiritual transformation can take place.

Connie Jakab is a blogger and author of Culture Rebel: Because the World Has Enough Desperate Housewives. Connie is an active speaker and worship leader, and lives with her husband and two boys in Calgary, Alberta Canada. She can be found on twitter @ConnieJakab.

Related Tags: homosexuality, sex & sexuality, sexuality

Comments

Great post. I loved how you said, "I wonder how Jesus sees it" I truly wonder how He does.
I pray that we can be more welcoming in the church and stop putting hierarchies on sins from our own eyes...

I left homosexual practice 24 years ago, and then in June of 1990 God brought me to the salvation and Lordship of Jesus Christ. I have seen how the church has behaved and I have been incredibly grieved by my Christian brothers and sisters. I know many other sincere believers who struggle with same-sex attraction who have been treated with greater cruelty.

Where the Church has failed the worst, in my fairly educated opinion on the matter, is attempting to "deal" with homosexuality from a merely human perspective. God has been telling us, plainly, for more than 2000 years, "And such were some of you." 1 Corinthians 6:11. God has always known what to do, the collective body of Christ doesn't know what to do. For the last 23 years I've been asking leadership and laity alike, "Why can't the Church minister the world overcoming freedom of Christ to LGBT people? The answer never changes, "We don't know what to do!"

Well, lets see here: The modern gay rights movement started with the Stonewall Riots in NYC, and that was Summer 1969, or 44 years ago. 44 years isn't ignorance 44 years is a refusal to learn! 44 years is a rejection of knowledge and the correction knowledge would have brought to us a long time before now. God has this to say about that, 12 "Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid."

God does overcome even the sin of homosexuality, but we've got 44 years of stupid built up (I am sorry I really do not mean to sound harsh, but I simply can't find a better way to say it than how Scripture says it. I am not saying you or anyone else is completely stupid, but because we have sinned and not sought God's knowledge about this there is a lot of people who are now throwing out the Scriptural baby, bath water, bathtub and all!

Please! Please be more circumspect when approaching and/or dealing with LGBT persons. Please take great pains to look into the facts about what science says and doesn't say about sexual orientation in humans. I always strongly suggest that leaders read the best book I've found on the subject of homosexuality. It is a book written by a highly credentialed scientist and psychiatrist named Jeffrey Satinover MD. It is called Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth. Another very good and lay friendly book is The Gay Gospel? by Joe Dallas. The point isn't to find new ways to clobber LGBT persons, the contrary really. For LGBT person they feel that what they feel is of life and death importance. You are going to have to treat the subject of their orientation with a passion for understanding, but you also need to approach them with compassionate concern for their relationship with God, his church, and the very real relational and sexual brokenness. Take the time to compile a careful information packet for your leaders, partitioners, visitors who are LGBT persons, their families and friends. Treat this matter with the enormous importance that is truly of life and death importance.

Discipleship, discipleship, discipleship!! Have I mentioned discipleship. There are many great discipleship programs which can easily be integrated into your church. Find a discipleship program which leads people, no matter where they are in their spiritual journey, into the life giving, world overcoming, gracious, loving relationship with God, and with the members of the body. The sexual brokenness is first and foremost rooted in badly broken relationships during the most formative years of childhood 3-7 years of age. Most of us, without having a sexual orientation, are well on our way toward that orientation we'll find during puberty/adolescence. That damage doesn't simply go away with wishing and hoping or well meaning prayers. walking away from sexual brokenness into life giving relationships must be a purposeful journey. Most of that journey, in the beginning will be filled with troubles, misunderstanding, hurts, failures, and confusion. The good news is God really does know how to free sexually broken people through eternal relationship with him and his eternal family. God cannot fail to overcome the world and includes the LGBT world. God can and will conquer homosexuality, but he does it by grace, love, mercy, and never ever giving up Scriptural truth on the matter.

I greatly envy you as you begin this journey. I can promise you one thing.

Exodus 3:12, "So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

When God has taught you how to minister his sin overcoming truth and power to all sexually broken people, not just LGBT persons, the proof will be in the finished product. When you look at what God has redeemed and accomplished you will know beyond any doubt that God was leading and empowering you all along. You will marvel and glorify God for the great and wonderful thing he has done for you and through you.

Lonnie -- Thanks for your comments. Very passionate and helpful. I'm going to check out those books.

I will start by saying that you sound thoughtful and genuinely full of good intentions.
However I have a few issues with the article.
First, it is so divisive. You are writing to an "us"; who consists of non-openly gay and straight church members. You separate by talking about "them" as though "they" are not reading your article or this website.

Your message is directed to non-gay, mainstream church attenders (assuming that the people in your church are all straight) however it is directed at people with same sex experiences:
Stay out of church- for your own safety. Have a home church instead. It will be easier for 'everyone'.

Think of all the talented leaders the church is losing out on by red-taping leadership roles. Who are we to judge the sins of those among us?

Mark, I think you raise a valid question about judgment. A question which keeps coming up, so obviously it's not been answered well. I will attempt to offer a satisfactory answer. I may fail, but I'll try.

Jesus does indeed say, "judge not, that you be not judged." (Matthew 7:1) this passage is the last word for many, and if it had been Jesus' last statement on the matter we might all agree. Jesus wasn't silent on the matter of judgement. But, if you would please, have a look at Matthew 18:6, "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea."

That is certainly judgement Jesus is passing there! "Don't cause or lead an innocent into sin." And Jesus doesn't stop there! Take a look at the 15th verse of this chapter, Matthew 18:15-17..."15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector." That is Jesus teaching his disciples to judge.

Now Jesus isn't teaching us to judge, i.e. condemning judgment, those outside the born again family of God. Jesus is speaking specifically about judging members of the body of Christ who do not live as Christ and his apostles taught. The Holy Spirit through St. Paul, teaches this very lesson to the Church at Corinth. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13:

"I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.

12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”

God certainly doesn't demand we judge from personal preference. If all of us judged based on our own subjective likes and dislikes we would be a sorry bunch indeed! God calls believers to uphold the judgments he has made. When we affirm that sex outside of God's intent and design is sinful we are not being arbitrary, narrow minded, bigoted, or unloving. The Christ follower has no choice but to keep the judgment God has already made. To go against the judgments of God is a sin against God.

The judgment of God, through Jesus Christ is freedom from sin, not condemnation. We are told that the law came through Moses. The Scriptures also teach that grace and truth come through Jesus. The law of Moses to me is death. For the law of Moses says, in Leviticus 22:18 "22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." I am a law breaker, and broke this very law! The law has only one answer, only one recourse for me! The law of Moses demands my DEATH.

Now bring Jesus to this scene. I stand before THE Judge, Jesus, but Jesus brings grace and truth. Through Jesus the law which demands my death becomes something else! Jesus applies grace and truth to the law and my condemnation! Father God draws me to his Son, the Holy Spirit convicts me of sin, righteousness, and the judgment to come. When I see myself measured with Christ I see that I am not loving. I see that I am using other men and being used by other men. Christ is revealed and offers me the free gift of salvation and his lordship. Since God has made me born again in spirit, "kind after Jesus kind," since I am "in Christ" my standing before the law is changed, "because the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death." (Romans 8:2).
In effect the law of Leviticus 18:22 which condemned me, in Christ Jesus becomes something which sounds like this, "You are a new creation! You are no longer an object of lust to be used, and you are no longer lusting after men to use them as sexual objects. You are no longer a thing to be used, or a thing which uses people as things." Because Jesus brings grace and truth I love Leviticus 18:22! Because of Jesus Leviticus 18:22 has been transformed into God's love letter. Because of grace and truth what was once death is now life and the assurance of an eternal relationship with the God/Man, Jesus, who died for me, and who takes my sin into the grave. And since Jesus is raised from the dead, and can no longer be mastered by sin or the grave I am free from sin and Jesus will resurrect me to eternal life with him!!

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