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Home > Issues > 2013 > Fall > The Gospel in an LGBT World

She interrupted the sermon I was preaching. "Excuse me. I don't mean any disrespect. I'm a lesbian. You're talking about all of this love and mercy. What does this mean for me?"

It was the launch day of our church plant in Long Beach, California. Long Beach has a large LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual) population. (Only West Hollywood has a higher LGBT population in Los Angeles.)

Our new church was perched on the edge of the rainbow district in a 16-acre park that hosted homeless people, pushers, prostitutes, skaters, families, and gangs. Across the street the city's premier gay coffee house borders the thoroughfare that the regular Pride parade marches through, which sometimes makes it impossible for us to get to our building.

My mind raced through various responses I could give. I knew that whatever my answer was, it might cost us half of our core church planting team.

As I faced the crowd, I was the only one who could see the tears glistening in her eyes as she fought back the emotion. I braced myself to give her the only answer I could give …

Rewind the Tape

The church has been in a difficult position since the 1980s, when the church was broadsided as movies like Philadelphia hit the box office, raising public awareness of the AIDS crisis. A new prejudice—sexism—was the talk of Tinseltown. While gay bashing or cracks about homosexuals could still be heard in pulpits to like-minded individuals in some churches, as they chuckled, the rift widened between straight followers of Jesus and their LGBT neighbors.

As a young Christian, I felt called to the LGBT community. To reach them though, I felt I had to go outside of the church. I trained as an RN, intending to work in an AIDS hospice. Back then, reading the gospels as a new convert, Jesus struck me as a radical. I was convinced that if Jesus had come today, he'd hang out with those who had AIDS.

After all, they had been ostracized like modern day lepers. The Jesus I read about was always on the wrong side of popular religious opinion. He alienated the "righteous" because of his proximity to the broken. He was the "friend of sinners." He broke taboos spiritual, racial, and social.

When our church is reaching the community, Sunday morning smells like alcohol. Lesbians sit in church holding hands.

Two thousand years later, the church rarely comes close to being as radical as Jesus was.

Take the woman at the well, for example, or the woman caught in adultery. Jesus, without minimizing truth or justice, set their sins aside so that he could get at their souls.

As Christians, we've been grumpy neighbors. We've fought political wars instead of loving people compassionately. Those listening to us believe that we consider LGBT people as our enemies. We haven't learned our lessons from our mistake of the 1980s.

A Missed Opportunity

Thirty years ago, as AIDS swept the nation, Christians missed a unique opportunity. Prominent Christians preached that the disease was the judgment of God, while the gospel took the back seat. We missed the chance to suffer alongside AIDS patients, to bring the sick and dying whatever comfort or mercy we could extend.

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From Issue:Sexual Tensions, Fall 2013 | Posted: October 14, 2013

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Displaying 1–5 of 14 comments

Chad Bolosan

February 22, 2014  3:07pm

Reply to Corey Walters: while I can see some points in your argument (I do agree there are some shortcomings to the article) I do believe that some of your criticisms are a bit harsh. Your second point of sexuality = identity is overboard, the title does not state that your identity is ONLY your sexuality, which is the counterpoint you attempt to make. But the fact that you do identify yourself by your sexuality (your opening sentence admits to being "part of the LGBT Community") and the fact that straight people don't identify themselves that way (there is no Straight Community) is simply what the title is saying - those that identify (partially, if you must) by sexuality vs those that don't. It's not meant with a demeaning tone as you seem to have assumed it to be. And the "not going to get LGBT people in your churches" argument is irrelevant - that is completely NOT the point to the article.

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Corey Walters

February 13, 2014  10:18am

As someone who is a part of the LGBT community, I have to say this article is offensive on so many levels. If your goal is to win over the hearts of LGBT people, it's not going to happen when you start off your article with the title "What the gospel means for those whose identity is their sexuality." First off, let's cut the "they" / "us" language. It's very exclusive. Secondly, my identity is not my sexuality. It is only one aspect of who I am. Contrary to what is taught at the pulpit, I am not all about sex and undermining "traditional marriage". I'm here to say I am no more about my sexuality than any straight person is. Ultimately though you're not going to get LGBT people in your churches. Because there's something that doesn't fit in your list of "smell like alcohol", "signs of poverty", "substance withdrawal" and "lesbians holding hands. The juxtaposition is apparent to us. The last one represents all that is right in this world: love. And the other three, all that's wrong.

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Remembering to live like our radical Savior and Lord

January 07, 2014  10:32am

What a great response the pastor and church family gave to this lesbian. It respected her as a person made in the image of God, demonstrated unconditional love, but also pointed her to the life change God needs, can, and desires to do in all of us. My only problem with this article was the reference to a "gay Christian." There is no such thing. First Corinthians 6:9-11 says that those who practiced that lifestyle has been delivered from it. Now they might be weak towards the temptations that entrapped them in the past by believers have a new nature in Christ. They do not struggle with two natures. Colossians 2 says the old nature was cut away. What we have to do is stop living under our old nature's programming and walk in the newness of Christ (Ephesians 4). We put off the former ungodly habits and put on new godly ones. The old nature is gone, but you have to "consider" it dead and start living by the spirit (Romans 6; Galatians 5).

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Theresa

December 28, 2013  2:12pm

Wow! Good article. Eye opening! God doesn't see certain sin to be worse than other sin. So yes, I do think gay Christians exist. Every person has their own struggles in life. We are all sinners even when we are saved by His grace. I love the Lord with all my heart and yet there are times when I fail Him because of my sin. Does that mean I love Him less and don't want to follow Him? No! When someone decides to dedicate their life to Christ they don't instantly become this sinless, perfect person. So many Christians think because they aren't alcoholics, drug users, murderers or homosexual, that they are better. Sin is sin,lying, hating, gluttony and stealing, are just a few sins that even the "best" Christians commit daily. Like Peyton says,it's a journey. A personal journey for each different individual. Everyone has sin and only God can help us overcome it. Our goal as Christians is to spread the word and bring people into a personal relationship with Christ. God can use any one of us.

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Dave

December 18, 2013  4:29pm

Very well said...the gospel is for all. Far too often we prefer to be pharisees and judge the fruit before the Spirit has even begun to transform someone. The church (including me) has a horrific record on preaching salvation by grace through faith to the LGBT community. Too often it's a message of change to be acceptable to us before we tell you how to connect with Jesus.

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