Why Following Jesus Means True Welcome of LGBTQ
By Jay Pritchard
I firmly believe that in order to truly follow the Gospel of Jesus, we must open our arms to everyone and if they acknowledge that Jesus is Lord then they shall be granted all rights, privileges and burdens that every other member of our church enjoys.
My story with this topic and my church begins four years ago. I had just finished a nationwide tour with The Salvation Army, talking with Officers (Methodist Ministers) and staff about how to reconcile their traditional view of marriage with their progressive theology of service – serving 30 million people a year without discrimination including those in the LGBTQ community. Although I didn’t discuss their theology, I was able (and continue) to give them guidance on how to better communicate and love people in the LGBTQ community.
This experience led me to dig deep and read every bit of literature that I could find. I particularly needed guidance in what the Bible said about “homosexuality.” Of all the literature I read, some of which contained the most amazing personal journeys, a small pamphlet given to me by a senior Salvation Army Officer written by a neighboring church gave me the answers I was searching for. It dissected each passage that mentioned “homosexuality” and I learned that the word “homosexuality” appear in the Bible until 1946.
Afterwards, I attended my first Deacon Nominating Committee meeting. As the files of nominations were being passed around, we were given instructions to disregard a person because he was gay.
Me: “I don’t understand. We have to disregard him because he is gay?”
Person: “Well it isn’t so much that he is gay, but it’s because he is practicing.”
Me: “My friend Dave was nominated and confirmed as a Deacon last year while he was dating his now fiancé. Did anyone ask if he was practicing?”
Here in lies the crux of the situation. We are all able to overlook certain Biblical sins because we understand them – gluttony, adultery, premarital sex, etc. But when its something that we “don’t understand” or deem to be “vile” or “inhuman” our opinions become more important than love. Is that really the church we want to be?
The Church has long persecuted the LGBTQ community. We have shunned them, told them to leave, told them that they have mental problems, tried to pray the gay away, etc. Yet they persevere and get stronger as a community. How could this be? Is a radical “gay agenda” suddenly sweeping the nation? No. It is simply following the historical narrative of persecuted people that we have seen in the United States time and time again. Women, black people and even the disabled have been through the same journey. Ask yourself. Why are there two First Baptist Churches in Macon, Georgia? Exactly.
I can give you example after example of LGBTQ kids and adults being turned away from the Church and turning to alcohol, drugs and suicide. If you don’t know a gay person, go meet one. Talk to them about their journey. Then go meet another one. Talk to them about their journey. What you will find is that there’s a common thread in all of their stories. At a point in their lives they were told they are sick, not welcome, not good enough, etc. One gay coworker told me the other day “I’ve never been hated because I was born with blue eyes.”
To make the point that a church is welcoming to LGBTQ people is not enough. To attend and join our church only to be told that you should not aspire to be a leader in the Church is segregation to the core. Do we call sinners to be Deacons and Ministers? Of course. Do we allow sinners to sing in the choir and teach Sunday school? Yes. Do sinners chaperone our youth on mission trips and at summer camp? You betcha.
We have always been a church made up of people that go our own way. Do we all agree on everything? No. Should we? No. Do we pick up our ball and go home if we don’t get “our” way? I would hope not.
Be that as it may, I understand that people have left and will leave over this single issue. Some friends in my Sunday School are in the process of leaving. My son may lose his best friend of 5 years (he is almost 7) which truly hurts me most of all. But as hard as that may be, I will tell my children that their parents and their friends want to make sure that no matter where they live or who they love they will always have a home church that will welcome them and their friends with the open arms of Jesus Christ Our Savior.
Jay Pritchard is a Public Affairs professional based in Dallas where he and his wife, Katy and their two kids, Link and Reese, are members of Wilshire Baptist Church, a member of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.