I’m Ready to Say Yes | Sojourners

I’m Ready to Say Yes

The year is 2005. We are sitting down to dinner with our friend, Michael, in his apartment. Michael is gay and he’s wrestling with what that means. He is also searching for a church and he is drawn to oursbecause his theology and his understanding of God appear to align well with it. At some point in the meal he stops the conversation and asks bluntly,

"Do you think I would be welcome at your church? Is there is a place for someone like me?"

Jason and I exchange a look and the table falls silent. Finally I look up at Michael and say quietly,

“No. No, I don’t think there is. I’m so sorry.”

Fast forward several years. We’re in a new city and a new church. Jason gets an email from someone interested in checking out said church the following Sunday. She explains that she is gay and believes God made her that way. She’s not interested in debating the point. She’s just interested in finding a church. She thinks ours might be a good fit and asks the exact same question that Michael asked:

"Do you think I would be welcome at your church? Is there is a place for someone like me?"

Jason agonized over that email for days and it pained him immensely to write her back and say no. No, I don’t think there is. I’m so sorry.

This is not to say that there aren’t some churches out there for folks like Michael and the woman who sent the email. Just not ours. And there’s the rub. There are few churches that claim, like ours, to be “scripture-oriented, Christ-centered” churches who also allow space for monogamous gay relationships. 

So what’s a gay person to do? Where should they go if they want to attend an evangelical church with all the attendant theology that brings?

A friend of mine asked me last week when I was planning to write about homosexuality, especially in light of the recent SCOTUS decision. I said something vague, like, “oh someday, I guess.” I told him that it’s just not my thing. I told him it’s not my topic. But you know what?

I lied.

I lied to him and I’ve been lying to myself. If I’m truthful, I haven’t written about it because I’m scared. I’m scared of being subversive and divisive. I’m scared of losing my "street cred" as a Christian. I’m scared of rocking the boat too hard.

But I’m sick of saying no. I’m tired of telling people that there is no place for them at my church. I’m ready to say yes.

This past year a gay woman joined our church community group. We’ll call her Amy. She’s been in a monogamous relationship for more than seven years and she was returning to the Church after a long hiatus.   She was worried last fall when she showed up on our stoop, wondering if she would be able to tell us her story and be herself.

It was a stretch for a few folks in our group, to be sure. Some thought nothing of it while others felt unsure. But here’s what ultimately happened: Amy showed up. Week by week, month by month, she showed up and she showed us who she is. She volunteered with us, prayed with us, discussed and argued over Scripture with us. She laughed with us, ate fondue with us at the annual Christmas party, and responded to the needs in our group with kindness and great care. She threw herself into the group headlong and allowed us to truly see her. The same as everybody else.

We folded her in and she us.

But what of her place in our larger church body? As easy as it would be to skirt the edges on this and speak in subtleties, I think the answer sits in that still murky terrain of marriage. Would we perform the wedding ceremony for Amy and her partner? They desire the covenant of marriage. And they can fulfill all the requirements of that covenant. So could we, would we, perform the ceremony?

If we say no, we'd be saying that even though they show up like the rest of us, even though they are an integral part of our body like the rest of us, even though they exhibit the fruits of the Spirit like the rest of us, and love God with all their heart, soul, and mind like the rest of us — even though all those things — we are still going deny them the chance to participate in the church with the whole of their lives.

We'd be saying that despite ALL those things, they are not enough. That’s what I used to say, and it grieves me to remember it.

For many in the church, the three pillars for discerning the will of God are:

  • scripture
  • tradition
  • reason

Hebrews 4 tells us that the Bible is living and active. If that is true, then our interaction with it also ought to be living and active and to mature and grow like all living things. So we could sit down and argue those six passages about homosexuality until we are blue in the face. Or we could consider the context and the culture and the tradition in which those verses were written and then consider the maturity and the growth that we’ve experienced as a people and as the church since that time. And we could look at Amy.

We could look at Amy, and say yes.

Yes, you are created in the image of God and God was pleased to make you exactly as you are. Come in and eat with us.

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