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Welcoming Homosexuals to Church

How the Church Can Help Evangelize to the LGBTQ Community

Zach was in fifth grade when he started to realize that he was


different. He believes that it was due to the fact that [he] was
entering puberty, but the fact that he felt attraction for another boy
terrified him. He grew up in a strict Christian family, and he knew
that his father would be furious with him.
This was a sense of shame, fear, and worry, he says of his
experience.
He remained confused of his sexual identity, keeping it a secret
from his family, afraid of their reaction to the truth. In high school, he
became an open homosexual.
In public I was openly gay but at home I was living a double life
and depressed because of it.
Zach struggled with discovering himself and finding his identity.
Where did he find his answers?
The American culture of today has shifted to emphasize the
importance of equating ones sexuality with ones identity. Evangelical
Christians too are caught up in this identity crisis, causing much
confusion and pain to those who are struggling with their sexual
identity within the church. The church has a tendency to focus on the
sin, rather than helping the sinner find redemption. Christian families
have shunned family members who come out as gay.
But gone are the days when it was socially unacceptable to be
labeled as gay. In the secular world, it is celebrated. According to
Mona Shattell, a registered nurse and dean for Research and Professor
of Nursing at DePaul University, Staying in the closet drains vital
energies that could be used in constructive ways. It also matters to
[the] families.
Gays have taken a major role in television programs, in the
business world, and even in churches. This raises an outcry from the
religious conservatives as well as the LGBTQ community.
Conservatives, mainly conservative evangelicals, want to preserve the
sanctity of marriage, defining it as a union between one man and one
woman. The LGBTQ community wants to be heard as well, claiming
their rights. After all, love knows no limits, right?

Pastor J.D. Greear, of The Summit Church of Raleigh-Durham,


North Carolina, states that often gays have been ostracized by the
church, all in the name of Christ. He points out that there are two
reactions that conservative evangelicals have, affirmation or
alienation. Rather than affirming or alienating, however, religious
conservatives need to realize that they are created in Gods image,
just as everyone is. What does this mean for evangelical Christians?
Greer states that same-sex attraction does not define who you are.
Your identity is in Christ! Dr. David Mappes of Baptist Bible College
and Seminary agrees that homosexuals are created in the image of
God, but he hesitates to say, Youre special. Youre unique. Why?
Because we are all created in the image of God. There are no
differences in the way we were created.
It is common for people to struggle with their identity, especially
in the teenage years. We all want a place to belong. Its human
nature. In Zachs case, he found it easier to find sexual partners with
the same gender. He says, Sexual encounters with women were a
mystery to me, and adversely seemed like too much work, while samesex was easy.
What does this mean for evangelical Christians who wish to
reach out to those who say that they are gay? Dr. Mappes states that
the church should have a place to confess their sins. He believes
that a churchs pastoral staff should be able to bring those with
similar struggles together. It is important to remove stereotypes, he
says, People are not political pawns. Realize that homosexuality is a
sin, not a state of being. Finally, he points out that the Body of Christ
should not look at the LGBTQ as a community, but rather as
individuals.
Similarly, Pastor Greear asks of evangelical Christians, Have you
drawn them close? Have you invited them in? Would gay and lesbian
people feel welcome in your home?
Brian Orme, founding editor of websites Churchleaders and
Faithit, echoes this statement by stating, I believe the church should
be a welcoming environment for everyone who walks in the doorsno
matter what background, sexual orientation, or standing in the
community or culture. I do believe that the act of homosexuality is sin
according to the Biblejust like jealousy, greed, lying, or adulterybut
that shouldnt stop us from extending the grace of Christ. In fact, it
might make it even more necessary.
According to Christian Today, a Pew Research Center found that
most LBGT respondents view major religious groups (Christians, Jews,
and Muslims) as unfriendly. In response to this, a Christian Todays

columnist, Timothy C. Morgan states, A new attitude within churches


of openness and hospitality, anchored in biblical grace and truth, would
be a startling response for individuals or couples with same-sex
attraction. We need to repent of the notion that sexual identity is as
easy to change as a light bulb.
Unfortunately for Zach, who did attend a church while struggling
with his sexual identity, he did not find anyone who would listen
without judgment.
They all were bigots. Mind you, this came from my abusive
Christian father, a church who was mean to my sister and I as children,
and the Jesus proclaimers of my high school who would preach Jesus,
but to me would say stuff like, Silly Faggot, Dicks are for Chicks, and
such slanders. Once Jesus alone saved me I came back to church and
they were welcoming to me, but if I had shown up as a flaming
homosexual I bet the reception would have been different.
Pastor Tim Walker of Restored Church in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.,
reminds Christians that we must call out all sin. It has become
common in the churches for homosexuality to be inconsistently
emphasized, while other sins are ignored. Dr. Mappes reiterates this
idea by saying that Christians should not demonize the sin. Rather,
as Pastor Greear states, we have to love our gay neighbor more than
our position on sexual morality.
Zach, who has since proclaimed a heterosexual lifestyle, reminds
evangelicals that they cannot approach all those who profess to be gay
in the same way.
I will say my case is strange, for I have worked with a few gay
people since my salvation, and generally the same-sex desire is a
gradual fade away, or it never goes away. Many Christians who were
gay still have same sex attraction and the battle is just as real for them
as it is for me. Though I fight a battle to stay pure in a heterosexual
way, they fight the same battle in a same-sex way. It is about what we
do with that desire.
While many evangelical Christians have set out to fight against
gay individuals, Walker reminds them of this: The goal is not to
legislate morality, or for the LGBT movement to change to having
heterosexual relationshipsThat wont restore their relationship with
God. The goal is that they would find Jesus, and be changed by him.