Dear Mercy Family,
This weekend, as you look toward Uptown, you’ll see a double rainbow. No, this won’t be the result of some impending rain, but rather the multicolored lights of the Duke Energy Center and the Bank of America building lit for Charlotte Pride. Officially begun in 2001, Charlotte Pride is one of many nationwide festivals designed to celebrate the culture and community of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other non-heterosexual people. This weekend will fill Charlotte with loud music, bright colors, tons of excitement, and, if I could be honest, I feel conflicted.
You see, I’m a God-fearing, Christian man. I’m also attracted to other men. By the labels of the world, I’m gay. This weekend is supposed to be one in which I embrace my attraction and celebrate the hard-won freedom of the LGBTQ+ community. In order to do so, however, I would have to reject my belief in the conservative Christian ethic; something which flies in the face of my love for God. Therefore, this weekend reminds me that I’m caught between two worlds deeply opposed to one another.
I confess these things because this time last year the Southern Baptist Convention released a declaration of the Church’s view of people like me. Publicly announced August 29th, 2017, the Nashville Statement is a 14-article document outlining the official stance of the Southern Baptist Church with regards to homosexuality and transgenderism.
Before assumptions about my opinion are made, allow me to say I wholeheartedly agree with the Statement. In fact, I believe it’s time a document like this was formed. It creates several needed opportunities for the 21st Century Church. First, the Nashville Statement allows people like me – the people in the sexual minority – to stop hiding among the Church. Second, the Statement opens a conversation about how Christians minister effectively in an increasingly LGBTQ+ affirming culture. Third (and in my opinion most importantly), the Statement invites every believer to consider the truth of Scripture for themselves.
Now, I am not a representative of the whole LGBTQ+ community, Christian or not. But I can confidently say that it’s important for members of the sexual minority to be seen in the local church. The LORD said it’s not good for man to be alone (Gen 2:18) and calls upon us to bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2). For generations, Christians in the sexual minority have borne the struggle of sexual sin in relative silence, often to dangerous ends. Because people like us exist in the cleft between the world’s “follow your heart” philosophy and the Church’s infamous reputation of hate-filled rejection, the idea of “coming out” is loaded with fear. The Nashville Statement is a catalyst by which churches can become a safe-place for people to share their broken sexual desires. Furthermore, God’s grace would abound for a non-believer to see both same-sex attracted and straight Christians living faithfully as they are equally loved within the spiritual family.
Imagine with me the ripple a statement like this can have as we proclaim the Gospel in today’s world. Scripturally, affirming the LGBTQ+ lifestyle is dishonorable because it exchanges the truth of God for a lie (Rom 1:25). Those who do this have sought mending for their broken hearts apart from God. But hasn’t every Christian, at some point, sought healing elsewhere and exchanged the same Truth for a lie? If we are a restored and a redeemed people, we should carry the message of hope and reconciliation to everyone, no matter the nature of the sin they carry (Psalm 107: 2 Cor 5:11-21). The church in the past has often, even if unintentionally, made the sexual minority seem like an “other” type of people we then fear approaching. The Nashville Statement affirms me as a person made in God’s image in desperate need of God’s grace. In the common nature of sin and in the common salvation from Christ, I find common ground with my brothers and sisters in Christ. In other words, the gospel grants me unity, a unity that emphasis on particular expressions of sin seeks to destroy.
The final beauty of the Nashville Statement is this: God has ordained a group of men to equip our Church and make us more like Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16). Part of carrying the message of reconciliation to others is understanding it ourselves. Use the Nashville Statement as a guidepost as you approach scripture. Take the questions posed in it and learn what the LORD says. And, as you learn, trust Him to speak that same Truth through you.
Allow me to close my letter with a charge.
To the Christian in the sexual majority, learn. Ask questions! There are valuable resources online and books written by faithful Christians with non-heterosexual perspectives. Don’t be afraid to stumble or offend. The mistakes we make are how we learn.
To the Christian struggling with homosexuality or gender identity, let yourself be vulnerable. Yes, it’s terrifying. I know because I’ve done it. I also know that there are brothers and sisters who long to love us should we let them. If you struggle to find people like this, feel free to contact me. This is not a struggle you were meant to bear alone. Additionally, extend grace. Our brothers and sisters are human. Mistakes will be made. Remember, the LORD can redeem any fault for the good of His people.
Finally, to the non-Christian who may have found this, hear the words of many wise pastors, feel free to put the issues of God and homosexuality on hold. The world bears this debate every day. Don’t let it be what keeps you from hearing Jesus for yourself. Sex was not the point of Jesus’ ministry – you were! I encourage you, read a Bible (possibly start with the Gospel of Mark) or attend a local church service. Let Jesus speak for Himself.