Yesterday the Pope answered what he thought of homosexuality with only 5 words: “Who am I to judge them?” (read more here)   This is the kind of bravery I have been waiting for within churches and church leaders.  Of course, as soon as the words left his mouth there has been non stop talk about his response.  Theological debates, relief, cheering, disgust – a wide variety of response to one of the greatest questions the church faces today: Can the church welcome the LGBT?  Like I mentioned yesterday in my post “What youth consider to be BS in the church“, if we are going to reach this generation, then this is one issue we are going to have to stop running from.

I have many wonderful gay friends who I love and accept.  We hang out, do life together, partner on projects.   Because of this, I have found myself in a deep sea of research, discovery, and processing how the church can welcome these beloved’s.

I believe that when it comes to the LGBT, we are looking at one of the most marginalized people in our generation – at least in terms of who the church has marginalized.

In a church culture that is on the bandwagon of reaching the “marginalized”, I think it’s time we have a look at the sobering truth of who we have marginalized the most.   Are we serious about loving “such as these” or are we not?  Do we pick who deserves it?  When did we earn that right?

The biggest factor in the church’s welcoming and even acceptance of gays comes from the desire to be faithful to what scripture states.  Everyone in church believes in the love of God and that He loves all, but somewhere we’ve come to believe that “acceptance” means we have abandoned our loyalty to scripture.  When did Jesus demonstrate this kind of thinking?  When he welcomed the harlot, the adulteress, He wasn’t abandoning His obedience.  He was demonstrating His Father’s heart towards His children.  A heart of compassion and love.  The only ones concerned with scripture at that point were the pharisees.  We seem to hold on tightly to the few scriptures that speak about homosexuality, all while ignoring the thousands that speak about loving the unlovable, showing mercy and justice.  I feel there is more grace extended to the prostitute and restoration for the adulterer in our churches (which I’m thankful for!), but when it comes to the homosexual, that seems to be “too far”?

I have just recently read a fascinating book called, “Learning To Interpret Towards Love” by Peter Fitch.  An extremely challenging read for traditional evangelicals.  I even shuddered at parts, but my commitment to find the heart of Christ in the matter compels me to be brave rather than shrink away from the issue.  What I write here are ponderings, thoughts.  I have no conclusions, no absolute answers, only a heart that wants to understand, learn and be open to what God would like to say on behalf of the many we reject.  Seems to me He’s a big fan of the underdog.

In the book, Peter Fitch asks the question: “How can a community of people who long to be faithful to scripture welcome and share life with people whose orientations go dramatically against the standards given in their sacred texts?”  He has some very interesting thoughts on this question that I will not dive into in this post, but perhaps in a further discussion focusing more strictly on the theological side.

I would like to open things up by focusing on the person.  After all, behind all our debates and theological discussions, there are human beings deserving of love and respect, it’s only right we start there.  I think we forget how much someone who decides to “come out” gives up in order to do so.  We don’t think of the risk, shame, and many times abandonment they go through.  Research shows that many of them who come from religious backgrounds often struggle with depression and are more likely to commit suicide than people from neutral backgrounds.  In Peter Fitch’s book, he features a girl named Sarah who came out who was brave to tell her story.  I will quote parts of it here for you:

In regards to her family’s response to her coming out: “They saw me as an embarrassement and abomination to God.  I internalized that, withdrew and went into a deep depression.  I thought I was stupid, unlovable, and unworthy.  I thought God hated me as much as my family did”.

In regards to when she found a church family that accepted her: “I started crying immediately.  I didn’t understand how God could love people ‘like us’.  I cried every time I walked in for the first two years.  Every single time.  I started feeling the love of God again, healing the deepest parts of me.  I haven’t been depressed or in despair since the day I realized I really am a beautiful creation of God without condition, without having to earn it – just as I am.  Totally and completely loved.  I will never forget the loneliness I felt during my first years coming out, and that memory has created space for immense compassion and love that I never imagined.  It is that love and compassion that propels me to this day”.

Can i just break some of that down for us?

– her rejection from her family immediately brought thoughts of rejection from God

– when she found a church family that accepted and welcomed her she started feeling the love of God again. (read that sentence again)

– she no longer felt lonely or depressed

– she experienced the unconditional, supernatural love of God.

I don’t know about you, but her story blows me away.  Isn’t that the heart of God?  For us to be free from the torment of depression, for us to be loosed from rejection to only feel loved and cherished.  I dare say, she got to experience something that many mature Christians seem to fight and beg for: unconditional love from the Father.  Somehow, we get caught up with striving and miss it.  Isn’t it ironic that love falls so easy on the outcast?  The broken, scarred, and wounded?  God’s heart beats strong for them.

I had an interesting discussion with a pastor friend about what happens when we’ve experienced the glory of God.  I simply said the only thing that can happen at that point is a greater measure of impartation of God’s heart and a wider eye for that which He sees.  If we long to experience God, we only need to find the broken and love them.  There lies glory beyond compare.

I think if we are in the very least open to going on the journey, we will find much more than just answers to the question of welcoming the LGBT, but we’ll find a greater measure of God’s heart in the process.  I know I risk much writing about this issue, but they are worth every ounce of opposition to me.  If you’re open to the journey, there is more to write.  To be continued.

a year ago I featured a blog post from one of my gay Christian friends who opened up about her journey telling her Christian parents she was gay and her journey with God.  You can read that post here.