Cards on the table: I believe that the best and most faithful readings of scripture support full inclusion of LGBT folks in the full life of the church.
To me, it comes down to the Love Test — what fulfills Christ’s command to love best and what produces love in others the best; and the Fruit Test — what produces healthy fruit in people’s lives… Intimacy with God, lasting authentic relationships, impactful ministry, etc.
BUT, I recognize that not all faithful Christians have arrived at this place (yet). Some of the people I most respect and have been mentored by, do not share this position. I believe we need to not just create safe spaces and places for LGBT folks to encounter God, but also safe spaces and places for leaders, pastors and churches to work through these issues. For example, I just had a great conversation as part of a podcast with Pastor Joshua Gagnon on this very issue. I attended Josh’s church, we disagree on this issue, but we both have a deep love and respect for each other and are willing to show grace as we enter the conversation together. (You can listen here)
Brian Houston, lead pastor of the Hillsong movement, released a statement (click here) recently affirming their love for gay people. Gay people are genuinely welcomed and loved and, if I read his statement properly, even allowed into membership. But they cannot be involved in ministry/leadership. In other words, they are not allowed to exercise their spiritual gifts in the church (especially if those gifts involve leadership, preaching, teaching, worship leading, etc). That is, if I were to attend and even be a member at Hillsong, I would not be permitted to use my gifts to help build the church.
This is where the (gay) rubber meets the (church) road.
To me, this is a violation of the love and fruit tests. It also is contrary to what evangelicals teach. We are taught that every Christ-follower needs to “discover their SHAPE” and use their gifts in ministry and mission to help build the church and expand the Kingdom of God. We are told that this is critical to discipleship, spiritual growth and sanctification. It is taught that this is core to what it means to be a follower of Jesus — unless, of course, you are LGBT.
I am about to attend the annual Willow Creek Association Leadership Summit. I go every year and make it a non-negotiable in my annual leadership development strategy. Leadership is my strongest spiritual gift and the Summit feeds my soul, sharpens me, equips me, challenges me.
I am already anticipating the annual “challenge” from Bill Hybels… Discover your holy discontent, get in the game, pursue your higher calling, all it takes to change a church is a leader willing to step up… Change a church and you change a community… There is nothing like the local church and the local church needs more leaders…
But there is an underlying message, that while not spoken I am aware of: the people who host the Summit and sponsor the Summit do not believe I am worthy to be in leadership in the local church because I am a follower of Jesus who also happens to be gay.
I choose to live with this tension and I don’t allow it to ruin the Summit for me, but I am aware of the tension and it can be painful at times.
My prayer for the church universal is that we would keep talking, learning and loving… Because we can do better, we must do better, and I believe by the leading of the Holy Spirit, we will do better.