released a public statement clarifying that they welcome LGBTQ+ people but will not allow them to hold positions of leadership. Josh and Reed were asked to step down from their leadership roles as a result, nonetheless, they have chosen to continue participating in this congregation.
In the ongoing social media conversation about this, some people have treated Josh and Reed as heroes, while others see them as brainwashed fools. I thought it might give us more context to hear from other people in similar situations. There are many people connected to the New Direction community who willingly remain in churches with more traditional beliefs on LGBTQ+ matters. I asked them some questions, and I received responses from people across Canada, both men and women, ages 20-60, representing several denominations. Below I’ve shared some of their responses. I’ve kept their identities anonymous to allow them greater freedom to speak honestly.
By posting these responses, it is not our intent to discourage or shame LGBTQ+ Christians who choose to attend affirming churches. When Danice and I moved to Toronto, we felt it was important to attend a church that would affirm and support our marriage. We know many other LGBTQ+ Christians who attend affirming churches for good reasons, not least because these may be the only places where they can use their spiritual gifts. We plan to highlight their stories in another blog post. Our hope in this series is to humanize all LGBTQ+ Christians as people listening to God as best they can in the midst of real tension, and seeking to serve God in the communities to which they feel called.
1. What do you love most about your church?
The space created for me to approach Creator God. As a creative, musically inclined person, scripture/study-based worship isn’t always supportive of my spirituality. My church creates room for contemplative worship and art in the sanctuary, for a corporate and still artistic approach to our God.
The thing that I love most about my church community is that they try very hard to keep God as the central focus. They try hard to make decisions based upon what they believe will honour God. In the past, they have made very difficult decisions after lots of prayer and consideration that have resulted in some difficult financial situations. Still they believe God to be larger then the cost, and seek to honour God as responsibly as they can while still trusting God will provide.
I love the teaching. I want to be in a church that really digs deep into Scripture, which enables me to grow stronger in my faith, deepen my relationship with Christ, and better live out my faith in daily life.
I think the thing I love most is that my values and priorities align very closely with my church’s teachings and priorities. My church places the emphasis on the pursuit of being Christ-like, caring for people’s practical needs, being selfless, and seeking to understand people with differing perspectives. While the church has its own beliefs on many aspects of life, the church recognizes these as being entirely secondary to the basic message of Jesus, challenging everyone to sort these out individually, but not requiring everyone to conform to the conclusions it has reached as a church.
I love the community I have there, which includes most of my close friends. I also appreciate the senior pastor’s teaching. With some exceptions, I find it to be a very balanced and biblically grounded.
I love the way every Sunday service slowly ingrains in us deeply theological truths: the way the whole service is full of richness such that the preaching of the Word is not minimized, but the fullness of what brings us together is also elevated; the way many faces are seen up front so as not to turn our pastors into sensationalized demigods, but rather to learn to each take responsibility for our participation in the Kingdom and to be affirmed in our responsibility as a priesthood of believers; the way our prayers direct us to a daily life of renewing all things in Christ rather than just a Sunday of passive consumption.
What I love is the people. I have cultivated deep, loving, meaningful friendships within my church over the past eight years. They feel like family members to me.
I love that week after week I show up and find myself face to face with the gracious, loving gaze of God. Through the songs I’ve sung dozens of times that have sunk deep into my gut, the people who by simply being in that place—and despite theological disagreements we might have—act as icons of Jesus and the Kingdom of God. And my/our weekly, unconditional gathering around and participating in the broken body in the Eucharist.
I like that my church supports New Direction. A few people are actually genuinely friendly to my partner and myself. Our pastor is great and exhibits hospitality and “generous spaciousness” 🙂 Most importantly, my partner and I feel comfortable and safe