Why churches should avoid 'agreeing to disagree'
It only leads to more pain in the long term - better to declare where you stand on the LGBT issue from the outset, writes JT
We are Christian parents of Christian children - one of whom is LGBT.
A few years ago, following our LGBT child coming out at his baptism, our (Baptist) church debated the LGBT issue. Two sessions were held by our pastor – one outlining a potential new inclusive approach and the second the more traditional position.
Whilst at both sessions those present listened respectfully, it was clear that our family was in the minority. Comments were made to me after the meetings such as ‘Well we won’t be compromising on this’ and ‘I’ll pray for your child to be healed’. I tried to personalise this issue by offering to discuss this issue with other members of our church on a one to one basis. Sadly, no one ever approached me. As a result, our family was left feeling extremely isolated.
Following the debates our church ‘Agreed to Disagree’ – i.e. the church parked the problem without a decision or solution, but while maintaining an ‘All are welcome’ public profile.
Some members, people we had considered ‘friends’, were openly hostile to us at church members meetings and on social media. They hammered home that they were entitled to their traditional view, while apparently failing to recognise that they were publically degrading us as individuals and as a family.
Reluctantly, mainly due to the LGBT issue, we left this church with heavy hearts - particularly as we knew we were leaving LGBT friends at the church who we feared would eventually be rejected by the majority of un-affirming church members.
Sadly, very recently we were proved right. One of a married LGBT couple, who had been worshipping at the church for about four years, asked to be baptised. The minister said yes, the leadership team had doubts. A church meeting debated this, and rejected the request to be baptised.
The couple left the church feeling extremely hurt and bewildered. They had been welcomed into the church, but at the very point they sought to express their deepening faith, the church members rejected them.
A wise person said this to us regarding this matter:
“In so many ways this is exactly the challenge that the un-affirming church faces.
At what point does it reject?
At what point are people unwelcome? How do you love someone and then drop them?
Such a tragedy, for the church but also for the couple.”
Our reason for writing this article is to try to prevent churches from hurting anyone in the future.
It would, in our opinion, be far kinder for churches to publicly make it absolutely clear where they stand - and not to ‘fudge the issue’, to ‘agree to disagree’, to claim to be ‘welcoming to all’ when they’re not.
Can a church truly claim to be ‘welcoming’ if it will ultimately refuse to baptise an LGBT person, or prevent them assuming a leadership role, or anything else that prevents them from growing into the person God intended them to be?
One church on its website says this: “Our understanding of Scripture is that any practice which blurs the binary gender roles such as homosexuality, transgenderism or genderlessness is sin.”
While we personally disagree with the above statement - this church makes it very clear that LGBT people are not welcome there. This type of public declaration by a church will prevent any LGBT person thinking of attending that church from doing so.
It will prevent an LGBT person from attending a church and thinking they were welcome, but finding out, eventually, they were not.
It will prevent hurt and long-lasting pain and damage to an LGBT person.
Will a church (Baptist or otherwise) have the integrity to publicly declare where it stands on the LGBT issue - or will it continue to falsely claim ‘All are welcome’ when they are not?
Image | Geralt | Pixabay
JT is 50+, married with two children, one of whom is trans and from the West Midlands. He is a supporter of Affirming Baptists and member of Diverse Church Parents (part of Diverse Church), in addition to his local church
He is happy to discuss the issues raised in the article with anyone. If you want to get in touch with him, or have a view for our letters page, contact us here.