“We are not officially LGBTQ-affirming, but we accept everyone.”
I have heard this almost every time I have begun to involve myself in a new church, and I have learned that people often believe this is a complete substitute for LGBTQ+ affirmation and inclusivity.
Humanity has a tendency to get comfortable where we are. We resist change because it involves risk-taking and new challenges. We create mountains out of molehills and decide that secondary theological issues should be elevated to essential doctrine. And then we stop moving, people quit showing up, and the church dies.
One of the most effective ways to kill our churches is to decide on our own who is In and who is Out.
“We are not officially LGBTQ-affirming, but we welcome everyone.”
This tells me that you are able to welcome and affirm the LGBTQ+ community in private but you are unwilling to do so in public. You will pat yourself on the back for hiring an openly gay woman pastor while leaving out that detail in conversation with your friends outside of church. You will ask us about our life and if we have set a date for the wedding yet, but what about when someone makes the backhanded comment: I hear you have a gay pastor now? When standing up and speaking out in opposition of injustice, there is no separation between public and private. For true allies, true warriors, this is not even an option because the work of justice-seeking consumes an entire life: not just a Sunday morning.
This tells me that you are afraid. And I get it: change can be scary. But you are only afraid of what people will think if you take a stand on a hot-button topic like LGBTQ+ people and relationships. I am afraid that I will be beaten to death with the Bible in the Name of Jesus if I walk into the wrong church. I am afraid that the pimps, the drugs – Death – will get to the 640,000 LGBTQ+ youth living on the street before we do. I am afraid that we will lose 13 more LGBTQ+ youth today because they are literally dying for acceptance and are unable to find it.
This tells me that you care more about the saved ones inside the walls of the church than the ones who are searching outside of it. You are worried that people will be upset and maybe a few will even leave the church. Listen to me: that’s okay. I know⎯it feels like I am asking you to sacrifice your people for mine and that hurts. But we cannot continue to protect the privileged at the expense of the oppressed. The Church is called to constant movement, unstoppable Gospel-sharing, and no human being can stand in the way of that which Jesus has ordained. And those people we lose along the way? We’ll see them again because God is a God of justice, of mercy, of unimaginable grace.
To become officially LGBTQ-affirming, whatever that designation is in your denomination, is not just something to check off a list or a status to reach. It is a bold and love-filled statement: our church stands with those people to whom others have tried to deny access to God. It means that we put our reputation where our mouth is and we stand up for what we know is right. We are unwilling to allow thousands of LGBTQ+ people to continue living their lives being told they are wrong and unworthy of Jesus.
Becoming publicly affirming is so important because the LGBTQ+ community is watching and hoping that we practice what we preach. They know who Jesus is and they know what he stands for. What they are looking for is how well we portray him through our words and deeds.
Either we look like Jesus or we don’t.