One Way the Church Can Welcome LGBT People

How our communities might foster love instead of loneliness

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.

November 18, 2013 at 8:00 AM

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