An Open & Affirming Church

Our faith calls us to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus said when we do something for the “least of these,” we are doing it for him.

As a life-long member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), I was never aware of my church openly denigrating minorities or homosexuals. In my youth, though, I recall the church I attended was all white. Who knew if there were homosexuals who were members?

During my career, there were a number of gays and lesbians where I worked. They worked alongside the rest of us, usually not calling attention to their sexual orientation but not trying to hide it either. These co-workers became my friends and support system.

During this same time, people joined my church; some were gay, some were not. Some people left the church because they didn’t want the church to be seen as a haven for gays. Many families with an adult child who had “come out of the closet” have joined because they knew their family member would be welcome.

My acceptance of gays and lesbians grew from getting to know people and becoming friends first. I’ve never been a Biblical literalist; so I never struggled with the notion that scripture condemns homosexuals. As the science about sexual orientation grows, we have learned that being gay is not a choice. It is simply a difference, just as is the color of one’s eyes or skin.

People tend to fear what they do not understand. In the 19th century, the mentally ill were often kept in jails because others were afraid of their aberrant behavior. In the early 20th century, people avoided someone with cancer for fear that it was contagious. Now we know better.

Recently, I participated in a study conducted by two seminaries of ten North Texas churches that are Open & Affirming. One impression I had was the ten churches were all glad to be Open & Affirming, even if it caused them to lose members. The churches were generally small with average attendance in Sunday worship ranging from 25 to 200. There was a quiet appreciation and enthusiasm among the church members in the study for being Open & Affirming, a sense that we were living the Gospel message.

As a society, we are beginning to know more about sexual orientation. As Christians, we affirm the life-giving message of God’s love and mercy for each and every one of us. As a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), we are called to be “open & affirming.”