Does Your Church *Like* Gay People?

On Sunday, while I was in Denver to see my brother and sister-in-law, I visited House for All Sinners and Saints (HFASS), one of the most well known queer-inclusive churches in the country, I suppose. But that reputation wasn’t the only reason why I visited, despite my obvious personal investment in those matters and my intense curiosity on that front. Mostly I chose to visit because I’ve been pretty powerfully affected by Lutheran preaching—with its law/gospel dialectic—and HFASS’ pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber, is preaching some of the most potent Lutheran sermons around these days. I first heard about HFASS and Nadia from this article by Jason Byassee, I think, and then I read Nadia’s book Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint. Suffice it to say, since then, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to hear this tattooed, foul-mouthed preacher in person, and this last Sunday was my chance.

Now, I disagree with Nadia Bolz-Weber pretty seriously on a whole host of things, many of which I take to be urgently central matters of Christian faith and practice. As a theologically conservative believer who thinks that traditional Christian moral teaching on (say) gay sex can’t be neatly separated from creedal orthodoxy (as if the former were revisable, with the latter able to be preserved intact), I don’t want to offer unqualified praise in this post for what Nadia Bolz-Weber’s ministry is about. Still, though, I find myself agreeing with Rod Dreher that I have something—or more than one thing!—to learn from her about what it means to be a Christian. As I sat there on Sunday night watching her interact with her congregation, and listening to her preach, I found myself wishing that what she models were more characteristic of the conservative churches and communities in which I live and minister. In short, I’m provoked and instructed by her, and I expect to go on learning from her in the coming years.

I’m often asked, when I speak about homosexuality at various churches and Christian gatherings, what individual Christians and congregations can do to be more welcoming to LGBTQ people. I often feel at a loss as to how to answer, keenly aware of the great responsibility it is to address a question like that in the abstract. Often I just give illustrations from my own experience, stories of how I’ve felt welcomed (or not) in churches I’ve belonged to in the past.

Sometimes I mention relatively little things, like when a pastor of a church I attended was preaching on Romans 1:16—“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek”—and he said offhandedly, almost as an aside, “This verse means that the gospel is for everyone who believes—no matter whether you’re black or white, upper- or working-class, gay or straight, Israeli or Palestinian, young or old—everyone is welcome.” He didn’t flesh out any of those contrasts, but the fact that he mentioned sexual orientation as a marker of varying identities spoke volumes to me at the time. It made me feel that my particular sexuality had been on his mind as he had been preparing the sermon during that previous week, and that was a small but very real encouragement.

(Here I’d like to echo my friend Brent Bailey’s counsel not to underestimate the significance of those small gestures: “Without a doubt, someone’s willingness to broach LGBT issues in any sort of positive or empathetic tone is the clearest and most visible indicator they might be prepared to listen to me talk about my sexuality.” Even an occasional Facebook post or tweet saying that you read an article about some LGBTQ matter can go a long way.)

I sometimes mention bigger things too, like varying your sermon illustrations to include more single people and/or sexual minorities. Or, along the same lines, I sometimes encourage pastors to think about the unique challenges facing gay people when they’re preparing their sermons and then mention one or two of those from the pulpit. My priest did this recently: In the course of a sermon about Jesus’ redefinition of family as the community of his disciples, he mentioned how encouraging this may be for gay people pursuing celibacy—people like me, in other words—in our church, to know that we belong in the kingdom of God as spiritual “eunuchs” (Matthew 19:12).

(I could multiply examples here. Think how easy it would be, if you’re preaching from Romans 8 on our “waiting for the redemption of the body,” to talk about the longing to be sexually whole, freed from shame and guilt and lust. Or think how little extra effort it would take, if you’re preaching from John 11 on Jesus’ relationship to Martha and Mary and Lazarus, to talk about the universal human experience of and need for familial friendships, including same-sex friendships.)

Or I often suggest that churches forego yet another Sunday School class on parenting or strengthening marriages and instead feature a class or a retreat on friendship, hospitality, or community life—things that every Christian, regardless of his or her marital status or sexual orientation, can glean from.

But last Sunday, sitting and trying to be unobtrusive on the back row of the circle of chairs at House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver and watching the eclectic crowd gathering around the central altar, I thought of another thing I might say to pastors and churches about offering a welcome.

Apart from any specific programming or practice that a church might implement in order to be more hospitable to LGBT people, I think I’d suggest that churches would simply do well to ask themselves: Do we want—do we really want—queer people walking through our doors and sitting in our pews and sharing in our post-service potlucks? Are we asking about how to welcome them because we feel that we must, or is it that we really do want these people among us because they’re our neighbors and friends?

I watched Nadia on Sunday walking around the room greeting people who were there. I saw her giving long, tight hugs, high fives, and warm smiles to dozens of folks, lingering to talk with them and (it appeared) hear their stories and concerns from the past week. I watched her during the ten-minute interlude after her sermon, as she cradled one of the infants of the congregation on the edge of the room. And my main impression was, This woman just likes this ragtag bunch of people here. She liked them. She was happy to be with that crew. And they, in turn, seemed happy to be in her company. They seemed to want to talk a bit longer with her, and they didn’t resist those hugs and high fives at all.

After the service was over and I drove away, I found myself thinking of one of my favorite quotes from the theologian Karl Barth. An aspiring minister once asked Barth, “What one thing, sir, would you tell a young pastor today if you were asked, is necessary in this day and age to pastor a Church?” and Barth answered:

I would ask you… are you willing now to deal with humanity as it is? Humanity in this twentieth century with all its passions, sufferings, errors, and so on? Do you like them, these people? Not only the good Christians, but do you like people as they are? People in their weakness? Do you like them, do you love them? And are you willing to tell them the message that God is not against them, but for them? That’s the one real thing in pastoral service and that is the question for you.

I feel that I saw Nadia Bolz-Weber embody Barth’s words last Sunday. She seemed to like the queer people who were there in that church service. She hugged them and sat down next to them. She talked with them. And it didn’t seem like a chore for her, like a polite gesture she was having to perform on the way to doing something more pleasant.

Speaking for myself and my own individual gay celibate life, I’ll say that that’s what I feel is sometimes missing when I go to church. It’s not that there aren’t enough programs or small groups or Bible studies or retreats or sermons aimed at my particular needs. It’s not that I don’t feel supported and instructed and offered forgiveness and nurtured and held accountable in church. Rather, it’s that I’m sometimes left to wonder, Am I liked? Is my presence enjoyed? Am I wanted for the person I am? And I don’t think I’m alone in wondering these things.

If more of our churches extended the same fondness Nadia Bolz-Weber offered to the queer folks in her congregation, I think we’d be moving in the right direction.

45 thoughts on “Does Your Church *Like* Gay People?

  1. Love the Barth quote. FWIW, I don’t think the problem is so much to do with people in churches *not liking* gays, as it is to do with:

    1) People *looking down on* gays. I remember hearing a sermon preached by a traditionalist Catholic priest at a Latin Mass in which he asked, “why are Latin Mass Catholics such a tiny minority within the Church despite the fact that they have such gorgeous and beautiful liturgy, the riches of tradition, and so on?” The answer, he thought, was simple: most Latin Mass Catholics tend to look down on those who don’t already worship like they do, and the fact is that simple human psychology means people do not want to go to a new place where they know there are going to be a bunch of people looking down on them, even if there are tonnes of other things about the place that would, in other circumstances, make it an attractive place to be. I think its the same for gays and churches in general.

    2) Gays are often only socially welcome in church communities on the condition that they (a) lead celibate lives or (b) hide the fact that they don’t lead celibate lives (“you can come to the potluck, but don’t mention your partner” — that sort of thing). But the fact is, for better or worse, most gays aren’t leading celibate lives, and, again, simple human psychology means most people don’t want to spend huge amounts of time in a setting where they have to carefully hide things about their lives. I would think lots of gays are drawn to Nadia Bolz-Weber’s liberal Lutheran services for the same reason lots are drawn to Andrew Marin’s conservative evangelical bible studies: because they don’t have to hide what their life is really like in order to feel accepted as part of the community.

    • Wesley, I would love to hear your comments about this comment. While I agree with what you write, this comment shows the easy transition from “gay accepting” to “homosexual sin affirming.” Now, I appreciate that you make this distinction very clearly. As regenerate people, we must make this distinction, and I think you masterfully bring this out. But comments like this show that, to unregenerate people, there is really no distinction. Gays who are not at least attempting to live celibate lives – not that I’m saying it’s easy, no easier than fighting any other sin or improper lust – should not feel their sins are any more acceptable to the church than wife beaters or bank robbers.

      • I said nothing about accepting *sin*, only about accepting *people*, and I also said nothing about allowing those who persist in sin to participate fully in the *sacramental and religious* life of the Church (for example, partaking of communion, or taking on leadership and ministry roles), only that they should be made to feel *socially* welcome. I said that gays shouldn’t feel they have to hide what their life is really like, not that every aspect of their lives should be affirmed indiscriminately.

        You are really only proving my point here. Even if I had been questioning or denying the traditional ethic, you don’t get a free pass to hurl gratuitous insults at people (calling them “unregenerates” etc). Spiritual Friendship’s contributors are very clear that we all hold to the traditional ethic. SF is, however, meant to be more than just an in-house echo chamber where people who believe in the traditional ethic pat one another on the back about what good Christians we all are. People who don’t hold the traditional ethic should be able to come here, read some of the stuff, post comments and ask questions without people calling them names. Who knows, maybe some of them will eventually change their mind, or at least shed some misconceptions about the traditional ethic and those who hold it.

      • Aaron Taylor said: “Spiritual Friendship’s contributors are very clear that we all hold to the traditional ethic. SF is, however, meant to be more than just an in-house echo chamber where people who believe in the traditional ethic pat one another on the back about what good Christians we all are. People who don’t hold the traditional ethic should be able to come here, read some of the stuff, post comments and ask questions without people calling them names.”

        Bingo.

        Wesley Hill said: “As a theologically conservative believer who thinks that traditional Christian moral teaching on (say) gay sex can’t be neatly separated from creedal orthodoxy (as if the former were revisable, with the latter able to be preserved intact) I don’t want to offer unqualified praise in this post for what Nadia Bolz-Weber’s ministry is about.”

        It seems to me that Gary’s post is in agreement with WH’s comment. The use of the terms “regenerate” and “unregenerate” are proxies for the words “saved” and “lost.” Nothing more. Gary did not disparage any particular group of people, rather, he specified behaviors. Gary has every right, as WH also did, to say that gay sexual activity cannot just be glossed over.

        If a non-celibate gay person visits any church fellowship and already knows what their doctrine is on that issue, they already know how far their social acceptance can take them. The reason that HFASS is able to successfully engage socially with non-celibate gays is that they already know that this group is accepting of such. If visitors don’t know the group’s doctrine, then Christians have the charge to be welcoming without being affirming initially. But, at some point there will be a discussion.

        Aaron Taylor, please heed your own counsel and allow others to post comments that you disagree with without disparaging them. You have every right to post your opinion, which you have. However, Gary also has that same right to do so without being bullied.

      • “However, Gary also has that same right to do so without being bullied.”

        If you want to hurl insults and liken gays in romantic relationships with the same sex to those who brutalize their wives and harm the communities, I expect you to strap on the big boy pants and suck it up when someone retorts.

      • I would agree with Aaron here re: Gary’s inclination to write non-celibate gay people off as unregenerates and to compare them to wife beaters and bank robbers.

        A more apposite comparison would be to single Christian adults who engage in regular sex with their girlfriends and boyfriends despite their not being married. On the other hand, in my experience in evangelical churches, we don’t generally refer to such people as unregenerates or compare them to wife beaters and bank robbers. In fact, we generally just look the other way and hope that they eventually get married.

        And this is where I struggle about whether the “celibate gay Christian” narrative is even workable in an evangelical context, or even whether mixed-orientation marriages are all that workable in an evangelical context. Gary’s comment illustrates why I’m coming to this conclusion. When the church views violent felonies, like wife-beating and bank-robbing, as analogous to consensual gay sex, it suggests that something besides Scripture has infected the church’s judgment on these matters.

        I recall leafing through Jonathan Mills’s 1997 book on marriage, wherein he eviscerates the sex-valorizing approach to marriage taken by evangelicals–a view of marriage that had led many gay Christian men to include that they were disqualified from marriage. I asked my PCA pastor about the book’s thesis: He laughed it off, proclaiming that, “Sex is marriage, and marriage is sex.” Unfortunately, Mills’s thesis was largely ignored, and my pastor’s facile conclusion has prevailed. In my view, the valorization of male heterosexual desire has become so central to evangelical identity that it’s almost impossible to imagine what evangelicalism would look like without it. And therein lies the explanation of why evangelicals are prone to compare a sexually active gay couple to violent felons, even while winking at things like premarital sex.

        Celibacy, as discussed in Scripture, is not an individual commitment: It’s a calling that’s lived out within the context of the church community. So, for that to be a workable calling, the individual and the church need to have some shared understanding of the nature and purpose of that calling. But when someone seeks to live out that calling (or even to enter into a mixed-orientation marriage) in a church community that valorizes male heterosexual desire, it’s unclear to me whether those institutions can ever fulfill their purpose in that context.

  2. I think Aaron’s second point is quite accurate. Safety and welcome often feel conditional in conservative churches. If we are honest with other church members, we are expected to talk the right way, use the right words, and we had better be steadfastly pursuing celibacy. And that friend who’s with you had better just be a friend. How close are you? You don’t live together, do you? Paranoia trumps affection, appreciation, and welcome.

    Perhaps that paranoia comes from too much homogeneity. Perhaps it’s because conservative churches are more prone to absorb like-minded believers than they are to actually multiply, resulting in affirmation and affection for people who look and talk and act and believe just like you do. Any new people already “know the rules.” So if and when individuals come who don’t fit the expected mold or think the rules are silly, churches feel duty-bound, either explicitly or implicitly, to remind them of their differences over and over and over again.

    I think that’s where conservative churches should be rightly challenged and questioned: is the message of the gospel compromised by attitudes of genuine affection and welcome within the church? Not how will genuine affection and welcome be perceived? Not what will others (Christian or otherwise) think if we truly embrace all people for who they are? But is the gospel put in jeopardy by such a mindset? And Wes, I think you answer that question with this post. Spot on, sir.

    • I think you are right, Becky, that the underlying problem is social and cultural homogeneity. The resulting homophobia is more of an accident than a cause — LGBTQ are one of many groups that don’t fit the cookie-cutter Christian image and therefore don’t feel welcome in conservative churches.

      Personally, I think one of the best ways of counteracting the tendency to homogenise is to recover the importance of the tradition of *parochial* worship — that we should worship together with other Christians simply based on the fact that we all live in the same “parish” (or whatever name we want to give a piece of territory) and not just because we want to be surrounded with people who share our class background or theological opinions. Leaving aside denominational differences that are fundamental to how different groups of Christians perceive the gospel message, the idea of a “liberal” church or a “conservative” church is really repugnant to Christ’s call to unity.

      • There is something to said for persevering with people you do not like but a mixed “parish” churches are rare (urban and suburban districts are often already self-segregated clusters of people who share the same cultural/class background). When the majority of people in your church are people “you don’t like” or they “don’t like you” everyone feels inclined to shop around.

      • I like the message of Christ but he was naive in his view of human nature to the extreme. To expect gay people to feel welcome in a “conservative” church is like expecting black people to feel welcome at a Klan rally. Why would we feel welcome in a church with people who liken us to rapists, murderers, pedophiles, and bank robbers?

      • Because they liken themselves to rapists, murderers, pedophiles, bank robbers, etc, too. And if they don’t, they’re not properly Christians.

    • A similar homogeneity can be found in progressive churches (the HFASS website could be based on a sketch from Portlandia). Self-segregation and communities of like-minded people are inevitable in an individualistic/consumerist society.

      • That’s what was interesting about HFASS. Bolz-Weber has narrated what happened after the church held its Easter service at Red Rocks park. They went from around 40 people to more than twice that the next Sunday, and the visitors were well-dressed professionals (they had also just moved and the new neighborhood was older, more established, and less hipster). Bolz-Weber struggled more than her congregation about what to do with these “outsiders.” Eventually, though, it was a transgender person in her congregation who helped her accept that those newcomers were a welcome addition to that church.

        So yes, homogeneity is not just a conservative problem, and wherever it occurs, clustering and self-segregation is unfortunate and hinders development of true community.

  3. Well said. I loved PASTRIX and felt myself drawn into a more loving relationship with Jesus as a result of reading it. I hope that would be the same result people would have when I interact with them around the gospel – that they would find Jesus more compelling, more interested in them, more welcoming of them.

  4. I agree that this is an excellent post Wes, and that Aaron’s remarks are a good “addednum” to what you wrote. I would briefly add that (1) what has helped me is to make sure that I place a person’s ‘personhood’ first in any description I use. IOW, using Wes as an example; I would not refer to Wes as a ‘gay person’ (or even as a ‘gay Christian’) but would phrase it as ‘Wes is a person who is Christian and gay’; thereby putting the emphasis on Wes’ personhood and not on his being gay. (2) The kind of change Wes is advocating must come from ‘the top’ and not from the ‘botton up’. Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber ‘models’ the kind of open and welcoming presence that seems to be characteristic of HFASS. If the leadership of a local parish models that type of welcome to whomever walks in the door (despite possible theological differences) then that type of welcomess will begin to permeate the congregation as well. Such welcomeness – it seems to me – woul then allow for productive conversation around (potential) theological differences/concerns.

    I’ve also been thinking that, if nothing else, Spiritual Friendship can offer to the whole community what it means to be in friendship with another person (single, married, etc.). I wonder sometimes, if I had a better understanding of what friendship was all about, what impact would that deeper understanding of friendship have meant in my marriage? A gift that Spiritual Friendship offers to the Christian Commnity (and to the human community as well) is a better and more complete understanding of what it means to be a friend to the person next to me (even is that person is ‘tattooed’ and ‘foul-mouthed’).
    Thank you Wes, and thank you Spiritual Friendship.

    • Excellent insights! I agree that our offer of friendship to both the regenerate and unregenerate should not be conditioned upon the established norms of the moralist-therapeutic deism that has been prevalent in some conservative churches. I would add, though, that there are many theologically conservative churches that I’ve attended and that my friends attend that are truly welcoming to most people. (Though I have found them a bit more closed off to lower social classes, rather than those who struggle with homosexual sin.)

  5. Every person in a church should ask these questions of themselves. Do I like these people? The single mom whose baby’s always crying in service? The self-righteous and judgemental man? The queer, the homeless, the disabled, the marginal? Do I really want them here?

    Every week I go to church looking to receive welcome, love, and acceptance, but personally, it’s very hard for me to reorient my mind towards giving those things to others. Thanks for the reminder that EVERY sinner has to welcome EVERY sinner.

  6. I’m part of a community that significantly defines itself in part as existing for the good of the world. It isn’t primarily a moral community and there are many in the community who think that this partial definition is hypocritical, yet this partial definition remains, persists in being significant, and is probably growing stronger. This community is secular (though with a significant proportion of devoutly religious people) and probably leans liberal or progressive.

    At a recent gathering of members of that community in my area, we went around and gave short introductions of ourselves, introductions which included saying where we work and what we do there. Someone said that he works with a tobacco company at improving the effectiveness of tobacco delivery in that company’s products. At that statement the room grew awkwardly still; a few people laughed.

    A few people later into the introductions, someone else said that he’s a doctor who does things like treat people with tobacco-induced conditions — or, as he put it, something like “healing people hurt by the work of our friend over here”. Many people laughed.

    I didn’t ask him, but I could bet that my tobacco-delivery-improving colleague didn’t feel very welcome. And I know he isn’t alone: I’ve heard people talk about the welcome and treatment they get from other members of the community when those members find out that they’re an investment banker, or defence contractor, or some other thing that said member both thinks isn’t for the good of the world and isn’t compatible with that part of the community’s definition.

    I think something similar may be going on here. There are good reasons much of Western culture thinks that loving gay people requires approving of homosexuality as you approve of heterosexuality. One of those reasons is that it’s a lot easier than our alternative: loving gay people while refusing to approve of homosexuality as we approve of heterosexuality. It’s hard welcoming people you have good reason to think (or reasonably suspect etc) are unrepentantly violating an important part of your and your community’s moral code. Maybe Bolz-Weber and co just have it a lot easier than we do here.

  7. Your comments reminded me of Paul’s words, “Now we see through a glass darkly, but [in God’s presence] we shall see face-to-face.” These words seemed relevant in two senses.

    First, you knew something about Nadia Bolz-Weber and her ministry through her words, but you learned something more by seeing her and her congregation in person, something you wouldn’t have understood without visiting. And sometimes I wonder if worked the other way too: That God learned something about humanity through becoming incarnate in Jesus that God didn’t understand before.

    Second, you learned more about hospitality and radical welcome by being welcomed yourself, in person.

    So much discourse and communication — and lack of it — happens virtually these days. It’s good to be reminded that “face to face” communication is irreplaceable.

  8. [I don’t want to reignite a label war but] Is there a difference between “Does your church like gay people?” and “Does your church like people who are gay?”

    • I would go with no, but I’m sure someone disagrees. 🙂 The phrases are synonymous. “Gay” is the adjective modifying what kind of people; “who are gay” is the relative clause modifying what kind of people. The only difference is that one phrase has three syllables while the other has five. The three-syllable phrase is more grammatically succinct, and therefore preferable, IMO.

    • Yes – does being ‘gay’ describe one’s personhood, or does one’s personhood describe being gay (or any other variation of being a broken human being)? I believe that the proper order is first our humanness, then what ever else may follow thereafter.

  9. I like this post a lot, Wes. Very small criticism, though: obviously, people cannot control who they like (just as people can’t control who they’re attracted to). Sometimes I look at a person and say, “Gee, God, I don’t understand what you see in him/her, but I don’t see it.”

    Welcoming has little to do with LIKING people. It has to do with the virtue of *kindness*. In Heaven, we will all like each other; here, we just need to act like we do.

    (An interesting parallel, again, with same-sex attraction here — we exert self-control over actions, not dispositions).

  10. This is a well-written and nuanced post. Thanks for sharing it.

    However…Call me heretical, but given that monogamous, homosexual relationships were virtually unknown in biblical times, I’m having a hard time understanding what’s really “so bad” about them today, especially if science continues to show evidence that people are born that way. I have yet to hear an argument that convinces me otherwise. And while God’s ideal family plan may be one man and one woman for the purpose of procreation, the fact that not all straight couples are able to have children makes me think that argument isn’t strong enough to stand on its own, especially because we know from Songs of Solomon that sex is for pleasure and bonding between spouses as well.

    This may just be one of those lifelong “I don’t know” areas for me. But still, great post 🙂

    • Well, there are several reasons as to why, and I feel like much of it can be separated into several basic categories:

      1. The very fact that is in violation of God’s commands. That’s problematic for two reasons:

      A. The fact that this in and of itself is an act against God, and also brings with it consequences. Think of it as being a bit like a speed limit; if you go 100 in a 55mph zone, the very fact of its illegality is problematic, besides whatever reasons there are for the rule.

      B. God makes these rules for a purpose, for our benefits. Violating them exposes us and other to both known and potentially unknown conveniences as well. For example, a spot might be designated as “No swimming” primarily for sharks or crocodiles, but there may also be additional dangers not even listed. Either way, it’s not arbitrary on His part.

      2. The mental/emotional/psychological issues associated with such behavior (and the failure to address them properly). The way in which they relate varies; they may be causative of, caused by, or concurrent with.

      3. The physical harms.

      4. The disregard and disrespect shown to one’s self, God, and others.

      All of these would really need further elaboration, but they are a basic starting point, and I just wanted to head off the notion some have that it’s all arbitrary or pointless, or that it’s no different from heterosexual relationships or behavior.

      Also, I’m glad that you had the restraint to simply say that you didn’t see the reasons without going as far as many do and turning that into an assertion that no such reasons exist.

  11. Great piece!

    Despite my conservative-leaning theological commitments, I’ve wondered whether I wouldn’t be better off in a more liberal church. I honestly don’t get much out of conservative Reformed (EPC) church life besides orthodox preaching. The basic social life of the church revolves around families, leaving single folks largely on the outside looking in. I was thinking about this last night as I was looking at the topic for this Saturday’s monthly men’s breakfast: It’s just another rendition of “How to be a better husband.” In short, while we’re succeeding in our orthodoxy, we’re failing miserably in our orthopraxy. In contrast, many liberal churches succeed in their orthopraxy and fail in orthodoxy.

    So, on the US Protestant scene, we’re often forced to pick between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. I’ve generally opted for the former over the latter. But I’ve come to question that judgment. After all, I can always to to the internet and download any number of orthodox sermons. Downloading orthopraxy is a much harder task.

  12. I enjoy Nadia. Shes got something to say that’s worth listening to. And she has a sincere way of reaching people. True that so many churches lack this.

    In my church experience as one who has ssa desires but does not self-identify by them, I feel most at home and welcome by my co-religionists, whether they know or don’t know about my inner feelings and trials. We share a bond as members of the body of Christ.

    That said I can fully understand the loneliness and alienation of being atypical. That is certainly my experience too. At times needing emotional connection has been more important than at other times.

    There’s much work to be done in welcoming all while maintaining integrity with truth. Lots of lost sheep to go after.

  13. “As a theologically conservative believer who thinks that traditional Christian moral teaching on (say) gay sex can’t be neatly separated from creedal orthodoxy (as if the former were revisable, with the latter able to be preserved intact)”

    Have you written more about this elsewhere? Why would changing one’s mind about same-sex relationships affect one’s creedal orthodoxy?

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  15. I really connected with the part about disagreeing pretty seriously with Bolz-Weber on central things, but wishing that “what she models were more characteristic of the conservative churches…” (Actually, I could say the same about many progressives whose work I’ve come to enjoy.) I’ve listened to a few of Nadia’s sermons online and, yes, even those little gestures mean so much in ways that many may take for granted.

  16. Thanks Wes. In a way, it’s almost a relief that the “Church” has in many ways lost the culture war – or at least it’s learning to lay-down its weapons in the ‘war against flesh and blood’ manner that it has fought against the advance of all things “gay”. Instead, and with great contribution from SF, similar forums, and courageous gay Christians, the Church is learning to minister to sexual minorities. The practical advise you offer is lovely and powerful.

    It’s cool to hear that you were in Denver! (where I live), if I’d known I could have hopelessly tried to track you down to shake your hand and thank you for your book (looking forward to the next one too). I’ve never been to (or heard of) the church that you mentioned, but maybe I’ll check it out.

    It’d be awesome if you and/or other SF contributors could speak about these issues in Denver – would Regis University host something like that? (not sure if they’re on the same wavelength as Notre Dame).

    Regards,
    Rob

  17. I think God wanted me to read this tonight…just got home from a youth group meeting (as a youth leader), feeling discouraged about my interactions with them. Your words apply not only to how to reach out to the queer, but anyone we find different from ourselves. I am praying for more love from God to show to these kids!
    Thank you!

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