Welcome?

by Richard on September 4, 2013

From Twitter

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?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Chris H 09.07.13 at 9:27 pm

It is complicated though. Does the tweeter mean that gay people are welcome, or that he wants a church that accepts a homosexual relationship, or one that makes no distinction between hetero and homosexual relationships?

I don’t think I’ve ever been in a church where someone who was gay would not be accepted and welcomed. But then all the churches I’ve been in also hold to traditional views of relationships and marriage.

I don’t know how things like this will work out but I one day hope that the tweeter doesn’t feel the need to ask the question.

2

Richard 09.08.13 at 8:13 am

I don’t think it’s complicated at all. Of course you’re right: most churches would *say* that they welcome gay men and women. But how will they then behave towards them? Will the church porch be full of petitions from ‘Christian Concern’? When the gay man offers to serve in some position in the church, will his gifts and talents be considered, or will the simple fact of his gayness be a barrier? I’m in a hurry, so I hope you get my drift: saying and doing welcome are two different things. The church is usually good at the first.

3

Andy V 09.15.13 at 12:43 am

I was one of those visitors. No, it wasn’t easy, yes there were people who objected to our presence/existence. But on the other hand, the majority of people were very accepting, friendly, loving and supportive. There are still people who do not like who or what we are, but they are the exception.
My one disappointment is that our civil partnership can not be blessed, because the Methodist church does not allow it. My family and friends feel they have been “cheated” out of sharing a ceremony to bless our relationship.
However, if I was asked to recommend a “gay-friendly” church, I would find it extremely difficult. Most churches “welcome” LGBT people; but on the grounds of:
a) Permanent Celibacy.
b) Being treated as demon possessed.
c) In need of healing/exorcism.

Or, grudgingly tolerated under the “Love the Sinner - Hate the Sin” banner; which I hate.

Don’t give up Benji W. One day all the dinosaurs will be gone.

4

Richard 09.15.13 at 8:10 am

I wish I could see some sign that the church’s position on the blessing of gay partnerships might change sometime soon. All that’s needed is to give freedom of conscience to our ministers.

5

Kim 09.15.13 at 9:12 am

Not quite, of course. For ministers have to take their people along with them, and the latter tend to be more conservative than the former. As you and Andy know, I speak from personal and ecclesial experience of huge disappointment.

6

Richard 09.15.13 at 3:07 pm

Absolutely. My ‘all that’s needed’ was aimed at the change that’s necessary in governance terms. At a local level there’d be a pastoral task of course.

7

Andy V 09.15.13 at 3:41 pm

Not in my church. The feeling I get, is that the people of the church would gladly have our blessing there; the Methodist rules are the problem. And that’s not about to change, especially for the only two gay Methodists in the village. Seriously, in a circuit of 11 churches, we are the only two gays.

Stupidly, we could have a blessing in a secular venue, and then have our reception at the church!!! How daft is that?

By the way Richard, I think you have to be gay to have “Gaydar”, so you’re better off not getting yours fixed!

8

Richard 09.15.13 at 4:11 pm

I’m sure you’re right that the people of the church would be glad to provide a venue for a blessing service. As to whether you’re ‘the only gays in the village’, you’re a better judge than I. But I do think it quite wrong that as a church we’re prevented from celebrating with 2 of our members.

I’ll leave the gayday well alone - I’ve got plenty of other problems that need fixing!

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