I look forward to the day when I don't have to email a church I'd like to attend to find out if gay people are welcome or not.
— Benji W (@benjiw) September 4, 2013
I was sad to read the tweet above, but I recognize the truth of it. I remember chatting to a couple of visitors after an evening service some years ago. It has to be said that my gaydar is practically useless (and I see no reason to try and fix it) so after a cheery 10 minute conversation the question came as a surprise: “So tell me. Are gay men welcome here?”
I blurted out my “Yes of course” without thinking and walked home worried that I’d lied through my teeth. After all, how could I be sure? I could speak for myself, but not with certainty for the whole church. In time, those visitors became friends of mine and stalwarts of the church, taking positions of leadership and exercising a valuable ministry. Even so, I’m not sure that they always had an easy time. For some, their sexuality was an insurmountable barrier, a barrier built on a few Bible texts and an awful lot of fear and prejudice.
Of course, the time will come when this will change. There will be a time when gay men and women are welcomed into the life of the church without any hesitation or reservation, otherwise the gospel is no gospel at all. I want those who would deny this to consider the prejudices of the past that we now sneer at. In what Methodist Church would it be acceptable to set out to make black people uncomfortable? Or deny the ministry of women among us? I’m not claiming that casual racism and sexism have disappeared, but I don’t think there are many left in British Methodism who would want to dress up those prejudices with theological justifications. Those who do are simply on the wrong side of history. And they’re very definitely on the wrong side of His Story.
Why should prejudice based on sexuality be any different?