Yesterday I posted about my friend Tyler. You can read about him here.
I know a lot of serious Jesus followers who authentically want to create a place within the church for a person like Tyler and for LGBT folks more generally. (I also know a lot of people who don’t!)
But how to do it?
I don’t know all the answers to that question… and I think it is worth exploring more at some point on this blog. But I do know some things not to do.
If you really want Tyler to come to church and have an authentic encounter with God and eventually become part of a community fully devoted to following Jesus, here are some things that will create barriers and get in the way:
Creating an environment where Tyler feels like he has to pretend like he is not gay or can’t say that he gay. Expecting him to use phrases like “I am a homosexual” or “I struggle with same-sex attraction.”
A “don’t ask, don’t tell” environment.
Making it so Tyler can’t bring his boyfriend (and say, “this is my boyfriend”) or get relationship advice in his small group or find a place where they can serve together.
Treating Tyler like a project, instead of a person.
Making the fact that he is gay his primary identity — you know, it is straight Christians who make this an identity issue much more than gay people do!
Constantly talking about how gay marriage will destroy the world.
Say things like “we are excited you are here, but we don’t think you can ever get married, have a fulfilling committed relationship. We also don’t think you should serve in the military, we oppose laws that make it a crime to beat the crap out of people just because they are gay, and we would prefer not to know anything about your gay relationships… but we really are glad you are here!”
Imply that Tyler can’t follow Jesus, serve in ministry, or do anything of significance until he changes.
And do any number of things to communicate that despite what you say, Tyler is a second-class citizen and not really welcome.
On the other extreme, here is what else not to do… tell Tyler that “anything goes”. He doesn’t need or want that either. He needs to know Jesus and he needs to be challenged on how to have integrity in his relationships. He needs to be taught about what healthy relationships and dating looks like.
I know some of those things sound harsh or hyperbolic… but I have seen or experienced all of them.
So let’s talk… how can the church become a place for Tyler? Ideas? Challenges? Thoughts?