In the past few weeks two large evangelical Christian churches have announced that they are fully affirming their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in ministry and life, including supporting marriage for all.
The pastors both express the pain they have personally experienced and seen around them during their long explorations and conversations around this very tough question in the church today. They appeal to their congregations to remain united in love, even while disagreements continue. They understand and sympathize with those who cannot accept gay marriage, and they do not call them haters. Yet they believe that they are compelled by their faith to accept all people in full inclusion to leadership and all sacraments of faith and life.
Grace Pointe Church (Nashville)
This inter-denominational church is described as being on a multi-year journey of discussing LGBT issues and gradually opening up the conversation. During the sermon on January 11th, 2015, the pastor declared (during last 25 minutes) that the church would now support a fully affirming position including marriage.
UPDATE: TIME magazine published a brief article on this story with more details.
Pastor Stan Mitchell began his sermon with the account of the two people on the road to Emmaus in Luke's gospel. He showed how even though they had knowledge of the Scriptures, and direct experience with Jesus, they did not understand what they read until Jesus revealed it to them. His point was to show that simply having the Bible does not mean we can get all our answers from the text alone. We must interpret it through our experiences with those who bear the image of God – the people around us.
The TIME article ends with a brief description of what has been happening since the announcement:
GracePointe’s move is not without concrete consequences. January giving usually is about $100,000–so far this month the church has brought in an estimated $52,000. When GracePointe began the listening process in 2012, Sunday attendance averaged 800-1000. The Sunday he preached the inclusion sermon, attendance was 673, and two weeks later, it was down to 482. “It’s a gut punch,” Mitchell says. “I know a year from now, I’m going to feel a whole lot better, but right now it is just hard.”
For now, spiritual and Biblical convictions are pushing GracePointe and its pastor forward. Pastors are coming to him quietly and undercover from all over town, he says, to talk with him about how to have this conversion in their own evangelical churches. And, while a three-year conversation is ending, another one is just beginning. “Could you be a church in Selma and not march, just handle your own community?” Mitchell asks. “I don’t think I can do that. We are on the front edge of a movement that means so much.”
EastLake Community Church (Washington State)
Pastor Ryan Meeks was recently quoted in a TIME magazine article as follows:
He then followed that up with the sermon above, where he described his 5-year journey (reading 70 books along with original language study – way more than me!) toward understanding the gay community.
His entire church staff is behind the shift toward full acceptance, and they will be holding a conference for their church members to discuss the issues in April.
Is the Church moving? Or is God Moving?
Does this mean that evangelical churches are starting to abandon truth, the Bible, and God? Or does it mean that God is living and moving in lives, and revealing new ways of seeing our world and the people around us in love alone, without any form of judgement?