Should the church welcome LGBTQ people?

Pastor Bill White recently sent the following account:

“We had 14 LGBTQ people in worship on Sunday (I was curious afterwards, so I made a list). Since we have a small congregation, I spoke with each of them. Some are traditional and some progressive in their theology. Three were brand new. One of the new women shared with me that she’d gone to a mega church nearby this week and they had asked her to leave (she was there for a bible study and made no fuss, but did let the leader know she was queer and would it be okay for her to stay and study the Bible). The other two drove 30 minutes to come to our church, passing probably 500 churches on their way here, because they can’t find a church that truly welcomes LGBTQ people. All three of these new women have impeccable evangelical credentials – the first was a pastor at an evangelical church, the second was a Biola grad, the third was a leader in InterVarsity. And yet they couldn’t find a place to worship. Heartbreaking.”

Another example of someone who was not accepted came up when Justin Lee spoke in Grand Rapids a couple years ago, the display at the event recounted a teenager whose family kicked him out of the house when he informed them that he was gay.

Here is the issue. When the woman above was asked to leave the mega church and the teenager was kicked out of his home, was the church showing how to keep itself unstained from the world (James 1:27)? Should the church welcome LGBTQ people? Scroll down and leave your comments.

20 thoughts on “Should the church welcome LGBTQ people?

  1. The recent decisions by the RCA and the Methodists clearly shows that we have a long way to go to make the church accept the obvious. Unfortunately we get so focused on our own myopic interpretation of tradition and scripture that, at times, we forget the central message of the gospel: that Christ died and rose from the dead for all and that all are welcomed in God’s kingdom. For me it comes down to an issue of humility. What gives me the right to determine who is in and who is out? How presumptuous for heterosexuals to assume that we have it right and that all other expressions of human sexuality or gender are wrong. I’d rather get off the self-righteous high horse and try to imitate Christ in the welcoming of all. I ask my LGBTQ friends to forgive the wrong we, as an institution and as individual, have done to them over the years and I pray that we see the light without further divisions.

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    1. Roberto, you ask what gives you the right to determine who is in and who is out. How does that relate to Matthew 16:19, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”? Thanks.

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  2. Dear Herb, thanks for your thought provoking question. If by ‘welcome’ you mean ‘extend the customary warm greeting of people who’ve come to visit the services as well as those who continue to attend’, I would say yes. If by ‘welcome’ you mean ‘make a special effort to accommodate homosexuals’, an effort not otherwise made for ‘garden variety’ visitors, then I would say no.

    Welcoming visitors or providing a worship haven (for deferential folks of different beliefs who aren’t seeking to proselytize people to their views) does not in my mind imply endorsement of their views or practices. My understanding as to church polity is that even church members under discipline aren’t prohibited from attending worship services, only from the Lord’s Table and other membership privileges (Though I Cor. 5:2, 13 suggest the one being disciplined was not only spiritually banished, but physically cast out). They’re under the preached Word.

    That said, there is a vast difference between visiting/attending, and membership in a local church. Those boards of elders who hold the inerrancy of Scripture and seriously hold our confessions as faithful witnesses of Scripture could not receive into membership those who profess Christ but refuse to acknowledge/condemn homosexual thoughts & practice as sin/repent of approving homosexuality & homosexual behavior. Elders in those congregations which practice open communion (i.e., welcoming to the Table all baptized professors of Christ regardless of whether they hold membership in an evangelical church) would have quite the conscience struggle of knowingly serving people who are at least in thought transgressing the 7th Commandment.

    Pastorally, in an open communion practicing church, if those deferential homosexuality-oriented folks were of a mind to continue to worship with the congregation, it would be well to speak with each one privately about refraining from the Lord’s Table.

    Someone will likely tear this comment to shreds, but if their critique is helpful, it’s welcome.

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  3. There’s one small word that has loomed large throughout the whole of Scripture and in the life of the people of God down through the ages – the word ‘repentance.’ It is the responsibility of the Church to invite all people to repentance, faith and renewal, including those who are practicing LGBTQ people. Christians believe they too, like the rest of us, must promise to “renounce sin and the power of evil” in their lives. To confess Jesus as Lord and commit themselves to following him means to ask for God’s grace to repent (change direction), to leave the past behind and to embrace the good news that Christ can set us free from all that would destroy us. How can one embrace the way of Christ, but insist on continuing to go one’s own way? And how can the Church maintain the integrity of the Gospel and the grace that God offers if it cheapens and dilutes it in the name of inclusivity?
    Unfortunately, an increasing number of our practicing LGBTQ friends do not see their lifestyles as being ‘broken’ and in need of healing. Rather, they celebrate that lifestyle and, despite not one word in the Scriptures to support it, claim that God created them this way and that he affirms them in their conduct. They see nothing to be ashamed of, to repent of, or to seek to be transformed from. They resent the Church’s attempts to minister ‘to’ them as though they needed to change something. If the authority of the Scripture for Christian faith and practice means anything at all, it means that this perspective cannot be blessed – for this un-repented sin or for any other un-repented sin. The Church’s doors should certainly be open to all of us sinners no matter what, but when it comes to membership and leadership, any of us, no matter what the sin, cannot be embraced without confession, repentance and re-commitment to the way of Christ, no matter how difficult that way might prove to be.
    In conclusion, it must be said that even though many Christians and churches have made forthright statements concerning our responsibility to minister to people with LGBTQ orientations, Christians have been remiss in their attitudes towards them, in their acceptance of them as fellow fallen human beings, in their lack of sensitive ministry to meet their particular needs and in their efforts to help them find a renewed way of life. Christians need to expend a great deal more effort in order to overcome these deficiencies. Nevertheless, shortcomings in one direction should not lead to error in another. In the end, that would be to do yet another disservice to one’s LGBTQ friends. What Christians need is compassion without compromise. The Roman Catholic position is a good example of this. When asked in 2013 about his attitude towards accepting practicing gays as candidates for the priesthood, Pope Francis remarked, “Who am I to judge?” Meaning that as a sinful human being, he was following Jesus’ warning not to be judgmental when it comes to casting stones at fellow sinners. This was followed in December 2016 by a document reaffirming the Church’s judgment that there should be no compromise when it comes to practicing LGBTQ persons.

    “The Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’ Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women. One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies.”

    Note that in our discussion of LGBTQ issues, we’ve been very careful to distinguish between people who are struggling with LGBTQ orientations and those who are practicing LGBTQ lifestyles. Christians need to welcome LGBTQ people who have committed themselves to celibacy or to working towards the transformation of their orientation into membership and leadership in their churches. At the same time, they also need to reach out to those who are still practicing LGBTQ lifestyles with love and compassion, offering counseling, friendship, understanding and prayer.
    To sum up, the Bible, both in the Old and the New Testaments, clearly, consistently and emphatically teaches that all forms of debilitating sexual relationships under any circumstances and at all times are sinful and destructive behaviors that result in dire consequences. At the same time, the Bible majors in the Good News that God’s grace, forgiveness, power (to resist and even to change) and hope are available to all who have “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” in this respect or in any other respect. This is the good news that Christians must share as they reach out in love to their neighbors and particularly to their practicing LGBTQ neighbors.

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    1. We thank our friend Wendell for the thorough response to the question posed. What if some of these LGBTQ visitors are truly seeking a relationship with God? The commands of Christ should compel us to extend our Lord’s invitation to “come and follow” but without compromise. I remember that Jesus invited many known sinners to follow him. Some did not accept his invitation and that was their choice. After all, we have the words of life and we know where real hope and peace come from. Permit me to share the following from a fellow servant:

      https://www.americananglican.org/current-news/im-gay-can-i-come-to-your-church-acceptance-vs-approval/

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  4. I believe in a God that accepts all people. Like the thief on the cross, we need to accept people where they are.
    If Jesus can accept all people why can’t we.

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  5. The church welcomes adulterers, thieves, alcoholics, sinners all like you and I. Why not welcome LGBTQ+? If we turn them away, what bout the rest of us, too?

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  6. Of course they should and every individual ought to be a member in full standing. Pastors ought not to be barred from their weddings. Why? Simple, members of the LGBTQ+ community have value because they are human beings. In the Christian Reformed Church I see another battle raging very similar and just as divisive as was waged with women in office. Projecting into the future, they will eventually be accepted for the loving and caring human beings they are, even in the CRC. Rather than lead and be a shining light to the world by embracing every single human being regardless of any orientation we are once again being forced to go the right way kicking and screaming and objecting and arguing, sometimes theologically, most times just to reinforce our own positions and trying to convince others. I spent a whole career as a chaplain working with another group of rejected folks–prison inmates, who also have value just because they are human. No offenses, and some were heinous, can take that away from them. As Lewis Smedes states in his book, “Mere Morality” people count because they have value just because they are human.

    If I may be political for a minute, I’d like to ask a question. How many of those churches who are so dead-set against the LGBT+ community would invite with open arms our current president whose moral, ethical, or his lack of welcoming strangers in our midst is so questionable and at times very unchristian. He even stated that he has never asked for forgiveness and has no plans to do so for he sees no need. Many churches, dead set against one group of human beings, would welcome him, put him in a seat of honor and violate every single tenet found in the Book of James and think nothing of it. Sad.

    Accept everyone without condition. The very basis is found in the most familiar passage in all of Scripture, John 3:16. God loved “the world” not only those who have given a verbal assent to a handful of theological statements–everyone, bar none. What mattes in life is that God seeks a covenant relationship with every single human being. When people do so who are we to reject them on the basis that they are different from “us” however you wish to define “us.”

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    1. Shouldn’t the church welcome everyone in for worship? This was expressed in some of the earlier posts. People do have value just because they are human, all were created in the image of God. Also, didn’t John the Baptist, Christ, the prophets etc. etc. all call people to repentance? God doesn’t want to leave us where we are in our fallenness.

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  7. The church that rejected the lesbian woman was not showing how to keep itself unstained from the world. In fact it was demonstrating that it was itself deeply stained by the world. The way of the world is judgment and exclusion of those who are perceived as sinners. As for life in the Kingdom of God I believe that the teachings and actions of Jesus spell out how to live in that reality. The world of judgment condemned Jesus for associating with “publicans and sinners.” I embrace my Savior for that and seek to be like him, just as I expect my church to be like him.
    Chris

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  8. I first want to applaud those of you who are respectfully expressing your thoughts and listening to each other. I no longer serve a local church community, but I serve as a chaplain for hospice. As I move in these circles, I provide pastoral care to all people. People’s stories and life experiences provide tremendous food for thought. Human sexuality is very complicated. I am often left with many more questions when I listen intently to people share their life story in the face of death and dying and grief and loss. Humility, compassion, grace seem to be the tools Jesus taught his disciples to use in dealing with the crowds (harrassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd). It’s hard to admit that I simply lack clarity to help each person navigate how they are to follow after Christ, but it’s clear repentance, servanthood, and dying to self are all part of our journey to humbly and faithfully follow Christ. There is a lot of brokenness, shame, guilt, hypocrisy, pride, reconciliation and so much more surrounding these issues. Unfortunately the culture is framing these conversations more than our search of Scripture and reflection on the life of Christ. I pray that we listen very carefully for God’s still small voice. I will keep the Reformed Church of America in my prayers.

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  9. Over the past year I have led educational classes on Grace/Truth materials by the organization Faith, Sexuality & Gender by Preston Sprinkle. A theologian who has done tremendous research in the area of sexuality and Biblical truths. We have now had over 90 people attend these classes that deal with LGBTQ+ people and the posture of the evangelical church. Committed to a Biblical hermeneutic that marriage is defined by God as one man and one woman. We have discussed what it means to be loving and accepting of individuals without affirming same-sex marriage. These sessions have uncovered many misunderstandings that individuals have held with regards to sexuality and basically to a realization that first and foremost reveals we are all broken sexually. We have learned the importance of relationships and the need to listen to others stories, their lives. I believe all should be welcome at our church as where else will they hear the gospel message? Jesus accepted everyone right where they were but it is the gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit that changes lives. No one ever left an encounter with Jesus in the same place spiritually and certainly often times physically. The world will certainly teach one way but the gospel brings us to the grace and truth of Jesus Christ! As one younger person commented to me recently who attended both Grace/Truth 1.0 & 2.0 sessions; “I was affirming of same sex marriage but I have come to a different understanding biblically but what we are teaching is messy.” My response was this is a messy place to be and that is exactly what Jesus taught! Yes, the church historically has done an extreme disservice to those struggling in their sexuality and we are called to be community of faith that engages and desires to walk with sisters and brothers, however; that can only happen when they see how much we care!

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  10. This whole conversation is based on an error/lie (I have repeated numerous times since 1972): the Bible condemns all same sex behavior/sexual relationships. It does not. The condemnation is only to those things of; idolatry, adultery, abuse, and the sex trade (all involved). While scripture does not promote same sex marriage, it doesn’t promote flying in an airplane either. Just as we have to extrapolate from donkeys and wagons to cars and airplanes (Amish excluded) we need to extrapolate the elements of human relationships with the people God calls his own through baptism. Faithful, lifelong, monogamous are the elements of a Christian marriage so that we do not succumb to lust and fornication. Producing children is not an essential element of Christian marriage. Otherwise, childless heterosexual marriages would be invalid. Only because the ‘traditionalist’ reading is an eisegesis from our culture does this even continue as a debate in our church. As Reformed Christians – Scripture is to explain scripture. The false teaching against LGBTQ marriage over the millennia has forced our members to either hide themselves (living a lie) or separate themselves from the Church to find a ‘safe’ place. Unfortunately, many of those ‘safe’ places were not so safe. We as the Church should have been the safe place for them to love and find love within the fellowship of believers. I am hopeful God will have enough compassion to forgive our sins of rejection and condemnation of our LGBTQ members and the false teachings that we have promoted that have brought violence and death to them.

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    1. Rev. Fretz, thanks for your contribution to this blog. You comment above, “. . . the Bible condemns all same sex behavior/sexual relationships. It does not.” In Leviticus 18:22 we read, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” This has historically been understood as an all-encompassing prohibition of any male lying with, or having sex with another male. It prohibits all same sex sexual relationships. There are a number of aspects about Romans 1 which link it back to Leviticus 18:22. These connections are understood to continue that prohibition into the New Testament. How do we know then, that the Bible does not condemn all same sex relationships? Can you show this thinking is in error? Or is there an article or book which can help us in this regard? Thanks.

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