As I’ve shared in the past, we’re looking for a church home. The search has gone on for way too long, and has involved numerous churches. It's exhausting! (I could add other words as well: frustrating, confusing, tedious, enlightening...) At times, we’ve abandoned the process for a while, only to pick it up again weeks or months later. Each time, we’ve noticed there’s noticeably less enthusiasm. I know it would be easy to become permanently disillusioned.
When I talk about our search, there are always those who will direct us to one of a number of predominately “LGBT” churches or to one of the well-known “affirming” churches in the area. (Yes, we’ve been. No, we didn’t find a “home,” for a variety of reasons.)
It’s also apparent that some folks (i.e., those who are not a Christian gay couple) don’t understand the inherent difficulties. For most non-gay people or couples, it’s simply a matter of walking into a church in the denomination of their choice, and they are welcomed. For us, it’s not that simple. I’ve had people tell me everything from the naïve “Churches welcome everyone,” to the exasperated “Why does your sexual orientation even matter in finding a church?”
Clearly, they don’t get it!
Obviously, we’re not looking for a church where we can make out on the front row, so NO, our sexual orientation is not the primary issue. (And the question is offensive on so many levels!) But we are a couple, therefore I have no interest in attending a church where we must pretend to be just good friends or merely “roommates.”
In addition, contrary to the simplistic thinking of some, in spite of the Welcome Sign out front, some church only offer a conditional welcome.
Examples: They might be okay if we attend, but they would draw the line at joining; they would certainly never allow us to hold a position of leadership. Some would require we end our relationship and try to change our orientation. Others might admit that sexual orientation can’t be changed, but they’d insist on lifelong celibacy to show that our Christian faith is our priority. (Imagine if a married, straight couple were told: “Yes, we want you to be part of our congregation, however you must divorce and become celibate before you can join.”)
We want to be part of a church that not only “welcomes” us, but affirms who we are. We don't just want to attend; we want the option to join, and use our gifts and abilities in service. So, our search must be much more...selective. In short, we want a church that wants us!
A while back, a close friend listened as I discussed our search over lunch. He then invited us to come to his church. He was sincere, and sincerely convinced his church...and his pastor...would welcome us. In my opinion, he was also sincerely mistaken. The church he attends is part of a Fundamental denomination that teaches strict adherence to the Scriptures, to the point they won’t even use musical instruments in their services because it can’t be found in the New Testament. It doesn’t take much research to find the denomination believes homosexuality is a "sin" and a "lifestyle choice." My gut...and many years of experience and theological training...tells me this is not the kind of church that would embrace a gay couple.
I encouraged my friend to ask specific questions to determine what his pastor believed about homosexuals and homosexuality. I assume I was right, since the invitation to visit was never repeated, and the subject has not come up again.
But the conversation did bring up a valid point.
I find many people have no clue how their denomination, their local church, or their pastor, stands on the subject. That’s mostly because it doesn’t impact them personally.
But I have to wonder what would happen if they politely and respectfully asked their pastor some pointed questions:
Do you think homosexuality is a sin?
Why do you believe that?
Do you believe homosexuality is a choice?
How does a person become a homosexual?
Can homosexuals change? Should they?
Would our church welcome an openly gay or lesbian person into membership?
Could an openly gay or lesbian serve in leadership?
I don't know if the answers would surprise them, shock them, annoy them, hurt them, disappoint them...or if it would even matter to them. Maybe they prefer not knowing. (You know, ignorance is bliss.)
But those answers matter to us.
So, I ask this question: Could we go to church with you?