A year ago, for nearly two months during the summer, I gathered families who worship at Valley Christian, many of whom are leaders, who were directly connected with the LGBTQ community. In the room were:
• a person dying of AIDS
• parents trying to figure out what it means to have their child come out gay
• grandparents who have a transgender grandchild going through a sex change operation
• students who are wrestling with their own sexual orientation
• siblings who are supporting their gay siblings while trying to figure out the Scriptural expectation
• a man whose faith journey brought him from homosexuality to heterosexuality
I asked Pastor David Sell to join with me. As we went person by person in the room, I simply asked, “Tell me your story.”
As the focus went from person to person, I don’t ever recall a more emotional conversation in all my pastoral years than what came forth. What was startling to me in everyone’s story was their apprehension to let any of this information ever surface in their home church.
Below is the content of a document drafted by families at Valley Christian who find themselves wrestling with both the theology and sociology of the LGBTQ community. It attempts to hold fast to the traditional views of the Scriptures, but pivots our behaviors on the LGBTQ reality that is currently here in our church and school. The Pastors have processed this document, as well as the Board. It is a bold statement that strives to address the judgmental attitudes of the church in the past, retain scriptural norms, and pave the way for a better future for today. It is written by Valley Christian families for Valley Christian families.
An Invitation to the LGBTQ Community from Valley Christian Center
At Valley Christian, we invite the LGBTQ community to join our pursuit to worship Jesus and reach cities He loves. We understand this relationship may be awkward at first, but we believe it can be mutually edifying and encouraging. Since this is a new journey for us both, we wanted to lay out a path of success.
1. EVERYONE is welcome at Valley Christian.
And we mean everyone: believers, unbelievers, skeptics, cynics, straight, gay, single, married, widowed and celibate, rich, poor, down-and-out, up-and-out, ex-cons, current cons, addicted, sober, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and unaffiliated—Niner fan and Raider nation, Giants, A’s and yes, and even all Windows and Android users in the house of God (Mark 2:17; Luke 14:23).
EVERYONE is welcome at Valley Christian Center!
We believe that is how people felt around Jesus…Welcome. People who were nothing like Jesus – liked Jesus. He had a way of letting everyone who would listen to Him know that God is for them, with them, and the Kingdom of God is open to them.
2. EVERYONE deserves dignity, respect and kindness.
We embrace the golden rule of Jesus, “Treat others the way you want to be treated” (Matthew 7:12). Others for us include: atheists, skeptics, people of other faiths, those with whom we disagree and even those who may be hostile to us (Matthew 5:43-48).
Valley Christian teaches that attitudes of judgment and condemnation, words that are demeaning and demoralizing expressed by anyone in the Church on the topic of same-sex relationships do great harm. Valley Christian in no way endorses or condones such hateful attitudes or actions toward those who believe differently than we do on this topic. We deplore any contribution churches have made to create an atmosphere of alienation and hostility toward people within the LGBTQ community. We are saddened by the barriers such mindsets have created and long to enter a new day, a time where mutual respect and kindness create the foundation for meaningful and lasting relationships with the LGBTQ community.
3. EVERYONE here are sinners in need of a helping hand.
You probably already know that. We wanted you to know that we painfully realize that as well. The truth is NONE of us in the church are without fault. The disease of sin still affects all aspects of our being. Our thoughts, our desires, our will, and our ambitions are still tainted with selfish and evil inclinations. We struggle with issues such as fidelity, anger, lust, fear, insecurity and greed. Many of us have a long way to go to see some victory in these areas. We are sinners in need of the grace of God through Jesus Christ. So we enter this relationship from this clear understanding of our own human fallenness and frailty.
4. EVERYONE is called by Jesus to sexual purity.
Truth be told, we need a lot of help in this area. Many of us have strayed far from God’s call to sexual purity (Ephesians 5:3). Pornography, lust, fantasies, fornication, adultery and divorce are all too familiar places for the people on this Hill. Regretfully, many have entertained sex outside of its God-given context. However, we also believe that moral purity is possible according to the power of the Holy Spirit that works within us (Ephesians 3:20 and 2 Peter 1:3).
We repent of our waywardness and missteps in this area and invite you to join with us in living in harmony with the beautiful road of marriage God has designed for His people.
We realize that every person is not necessarily attracted to members of the opposite sex. At Valley Christian we acknowledge and accept this reality. Our commitment is to help the LGBTQ community discover a way of life that allows one to receive the full biblical blessing of God. Each individual is different and his or her path may also become somewhat different. For some, a life of celibacy may become their road of choice. For others, their faith might even result in marriage to one of the opposite sex. There may even be other eventualities, and in these cases we rely on the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit to guide us toward God’s path of freedom.
Whatever the path chosen, as a church we stand committed to go the distance with you, believing for God’s will and very best for your life!
5. EVERYONE is encouraged to join our covenant community.
There usually is a moment in every relationship where distant strangers become close friends. The Bible uses ceremonies to recognize changes in relationships. In the same fashion we want to invite you to join with us in this journey. We want you here. Come join our family.
6. EVERYONE is invited to leadership roles as they submit to God’s standards of leadership.
The Bible has two standards: one for the people of faith (Ephesians 4:1; Philippians 1:27 and Colossians 1:10) and another for leadership (1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9). There is a higher standard for leaders who minister directly to people. It is our desire to see you fulfill all that God has designed for you. Your success is our joy. Let us strive together to live lives that emulate Christ and compel people to His amazing offer of grace (1 Corinthians 4:16).
7. EVERYONE is needed.
Paul says, “Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27
We regret and repent for the decades of division and discord we have created that have shunned and demoralized the LGBTQ community. We understand it may take time and work to tear down the wall of separation and rebuild trust.
We believe you are worth it.
We believe this honors Christ.
We believe we will be both better for it.
We are up for the challenge.