Welcome again to (drum roll), Church Chat! Isn't that special? But, of course it is or you wouldn't be here.
I recently came across a church whose "what we believe" section was blatantly anti-LGBT, homophobic and transphobic, that is so special I just HAD to showcase it. However, not just for the most apalling tell-all of a homophobic kind, but a very interesting response from the church's pastor that, believe it or not, was pretty impressive. The only way that was possible is that this particular church is one in a big mega church's organization here in Michigan which is spreading like fire. They have some real cool modern way of doing things and a lot of thoughtfulness to what they do and how they evangelize. What does that have to do with it? The bigger you are, the more people you have who might not fully agree with the top-down statements from the main branch, if you will. It is not always the case but your chances are better than if this was coming out of one small church on main street.
Without further adieu let me introduce you to Woodside Bible's statement of beliefs on "marriage" and "human sexuality". This is the first time I personally have ever seen a church address the topic and so poorly BUT pretty revealing of what most churches believe and don't want to say:
Marriage is a covenant relationship designed and ordained by God from the very beginning of creation as a union between one man and one woman. God instituted monogamous marriage between male and female as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. A civil government’s sanction of a union will be recognized as a legitimate marriage by this church only to the extent that it is consistent with the definition of “marriage” as found in this Article.
Genesis 2:24-25; Matthew 19:4-6; Ephesians 5:22-33
Human sexuality is part of God’s plan and a gift to be expressed only within the context of marriage (as described in Section 12 above). God has commanded abstinence from any form of sexual activity outside of a marriage between one man and one woman and that any other expression is a perversion of God’s created order. God created human beings male and female; therefore we hold the distinction between the two sexes to be sacred. We believe that God disapproves of and forbids any attempt to change the appearance or identity of one’s biological sex by medical, surgical, non-binary acts, conduct, or by any other means.
Matthew 19:5-6; Mark 10:6-9; Romans 1:18–32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-19
Yes, it could be Satan WHO WROTE THIER STATEMENT OF BELIEF! Talk about rolling up the welcome matt. It rolled up so much when I read that I was reminded of my penis in below zero temperatures. Was that too much? Oh well! Let's carry on shall we...
I had to write one of the pastors so I chose one of their satellite churches and here is what I said with some edits due to length:
I had heard about this church and was scanning through what the church believes. I was pretty impressed with the feel of it being abudantly clear that those who are gay or transgender would be seen as living in sin right from the outset.
I am a gay Christian. I go to a gay accepting Church. Trust me, I get this is what you and your denomination believes. I've been in many churches like it for years.
If you see this as a sin, then you need to recognize this as no less any sin then any other. More prevelant in churches is the sin of gossip and ego driven spirituality so where is that in the beliefs about humanity?
Do you really want gay people and transgender people to feel that they can come visit your church and hear the Gospel? If you answered yes, then le'ts flip this another way....think of your own sin, whatever is your personal thorn in side....now imagine a church puts that in their set of beliefs as something they don't accept. How likely are you going to want to visit knowing you are walking in unaccepted? You can't proclaim yourselves as "come as you are" with messages like this out there right on your website.
I am not writing to change your church beliefs. I don't believe I can do that. I am writing to effect a heart change on how you treat and what you say directed to those who are already so marginalized ..,of whom Christ welcomed and lifted up, not pushed away. This message in your church's beliefs pushes us away. It lables "sin" on me before I even step through the doors. I hope you think about this.
Thank you for your time.
The pastor makes a response that touches me. It is not what you might think, read on:
Thanks so much for reaching out and taking time to share your heart with me. I appreciate your honesty and respect your opinion and where you are coming from on this issue. It has caused a lot of division in our world as well as the church and many people have been hurt as a cause of it. The church in America as a whole has not handled this issue well and I will be the first one to say we have been wrong in the way we have reacted to those who don’t agree with our specific beliefs and stance. I first ask for your forgiveness.
Don't miss that, he asked for forgiveness. That blew my mind. Of course, you can't expect too much so you know something is coming right? Well its not too bad though...yeah, its the typical thing. He goes on to say "we continue to study and seek to learn and understand what God’s heart is and how we need to follow Him as well as listening to anyone who has a different perspective or doesn’t agree with our beliefs. We are open to anyone attending our church no matter what their sexual identity, race, or religion." Good so far! He then spends the rest of a long paragraph emphasizing that it is the leadership role where people are held to a "higher standard". "Leaders and their influence is important to us," he says. It is interesting to hear since so many leaders in so many churches have fallen into infedility and many other scandals but don't trust the gays because they may lead our sheep astray.
Then he returns though to the side I like best about him:
I am still learning and growing as a leader on what God and what (God) sic Word says regarding how we respond. For right now this is where our church has concluded our position stands based on what we believe God’s Words says. We are not perfect and I am definitely not perfect so I appreciate you sharing where you stand and helping me to continue to humbly learn and grow in this process as I listen to others and where they are coming from and what they believe. I am not any better or worse than you in the eyes of God and I want to see & love others that same way as well.
He concludes with:
Pray for us as we try to follow Jesus the way He has called us to as believers in Him. We are all sinners and need the love, mercy and grace of God each and every day of our lives.
I have to say that I was plesantly surprised. I like this guy probably more than those I have written in this series prior. He asks for forgiveness and though still blind in a way, he is open and sees the possibly of error. He recognizes there has been unfair treatment and hurt. Yet...it almost makes it worse that such a man would put himself under the most vile of statement of beliefs on this subject I have seen yet in my area. I'm sure it is really no different than what most churches believe and just don't say but even so, it brings to light the sad dichotemy of the situation this pastor sits in. A statement of beliefs that has two sections that really say nothing different than the old school days of music and dancing and mixed marriages are of the devil.
Selah. We carry on. And another pastor thinks through what such words do.
I wrote the pastor again giving him a spiritual case for gay Christians and actually offered to discuss the difficult passages with him. I have received no response. I think where he ends in the last letter by saying "maybe we will meet sometime in the future" might have meant when he is on his way to see St. Peter and I'm on my own to see Lucifer...you know, at the intersection of I Know and Don't Know!