In the process of deciding whether to leave my current profession, a college professor, and attend divinity school, I have been visiting First Christian Church in Rivermont (Lynchburg) Virginia for the past couple of months. As a man who advocates equality for gays and lesbians, I am well aware of the struggle for the GLBTQ community to find a place of worship that values Christ’s view of unconditional love for all of God’s children.
I was approached by a worker at my college who informed me that First Christian Church was “open & affirming.” I was unsure. The last church I attended, a contemporary non-denominational entity with rock and roll, had left me with a sour taste for church. The minister had stated that God was not with homosexuals. I immediately indicted an e-mail to him questioning how he could be aware of Jesus and use such discriminatory words.
Putting the experience behind me, and parrying my anxiety, I decided to visit First Christian with the Rev. Stephanie McLemore, a co-worker and friend. I was immediately untroubled, relieved and put at ease as a white-haired lady smiled and inquired about my life and my decision to visit. There were many other smiles and salutations to follow. In fact, one member noted my rainbow WWJD bracelet and said, “We accept everyone here.” Is that not the mission of a DOC church, to welcome all to God’s table? Should not that be the directive of all churches, temples, synagogues and places of worship? How has the message been lost?
My time at First Christian has helped ease my doubt that the GLBTQ community can find a Christ-centered community that would embrace them. The church has incited me to stop thinking about labels and start thinking about the Christ-nature in each and every being. Instead of being dismayed at the latest evangelists attempt to disoblige God’s children, each day, I give thanks for news reports exclaiming that Christian groups are standing up for their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. I take these announcements as a sign that we are moving in the right direction. We are raising our voices in unity. We are standing up for the community that Christ desired—one in which all people (regardless of any status) can come together to worship, to pray, to plan to help the poor, to make this world a place where every person can enjoy equality and love.