I recently shared a few thoughts with a group of pastors and lay leaders regarding the church and the ways we speak of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters. It was a hopeful and redemptive conversation. While I cannot share the details of that conversation (it was had in a private group), I wanted to share my initial post in hopes it spurs more conversation.
May we move forward in love and unity.
We’re at a place as a culture, and as a denomination where we’re no longer able to ignore what’s happening all around us. The issue of sexuality, once considered simple and black and white, is becoming more and more complex. For a few moments, through the lens of the church, and speaking of as a pastor, I ask we consider a few realities:
-1 in 1500-2000 births (or about 180,000 people in the US alone) are born with both male and female reproductive organs. Upon birth, the doctor selects their gender without knowing what they will emotionally and physically be attracted to.
-Of this significant number of people, nearly 41% consider or have attempted suicide.
Speaking of the LGBTQ community in general:
-They have escalated rates of self-harm (2.5x the national average), addiction (3x the national average), and bullying (86%).
-There are roughly 320,000 homeless LGBTQ youth each year (40% of the the entire homeless youth population), and many of them are homeless due to being forced out of their religious homes.
Over and over again, we claim that our denomination cares for the well-being of LGBTQ folks. We claim to be a people who value life. We claim that we want to be a safe place for those who are wrestling with tough issues, and asking difficult questions. We claim that we desire to welcome people as they are, and we believe God will move them along.
I do believe the church is honest in their desire to be that sort of church, however I believe it needs to be admitted and named that we are self-sabotaging our efforts. We, over and over again, make statements about “the gays.” We suggest someone who is trans is simply “choosing” to be the other gender so they can be pervy in the other genders bathroom. We call them gross, confused and when talking about their “sin” we lump them in with child-molesters and pedophiles. (Note: I’ve heard every single one of these statements in the past year from those who are otherwise good and kind Nazarene clergy and leaders)
Do we not see the ways we’re contributing to the above mentioned stats? Do we not see that in our careless conversations we’re pushing the dagger deeper and one day will have to stand before Christ and account for every single one of these reckless words and tragically lost lives? That blood is on our hands.
We’ve placed a “heavy yoke” on their shoulders, telling them if they chose to enter out buildings they’re welcome, but we tell them if they “really want to belong” they better expect to change (with the implication of that change being quickly) rather than helping them learn to trust and follow the working of the spirit in their own life.
This leads me to an increasingly life or death question:
Do we actually want to be like Christ?
Because until we’re willing to fight for the dignity of a group of people (who are literally slaughtering themselves), and until we’re willing to defend them from those who seek to demean them, wound them, and cast them aside (many of which are in our churches), we’ll never live into our claims of being Christ-like. We’ll be more like the pharisees looking to stone the woman than we will be the Messiah leading her into transformation.