I gleaned a number of thoughts from our Bridging the Gap interviews and prepared a top 10 list for a recent speaking engagement. It isn’t THE top 10 list I’m sure – and I hope that others with wisdom and insight will offer additional suggestions in the comments …. but here was my attempt:
Top 10 ways the church can be a safe and welcoming place for those exploring & growing in faith and navigating questions and realities of sexuality:
#10 – Safe communities begin with safe people. Safe people listen well, they are well acquainted with their own struggles, are non-judgmental, and able to navigate disagreements with grace.
Who is safe at your church – and how would a newcomer discover that and have the opportunity to connect?
#9 – Cultivate a realism and understanding of the realities that same-gender attracted and gay people face. Listen well to the gay people you know. There is great diversity within the gay community – generationally, politically, etc. Address stereotypes as they come up in conversation.
#8 – Make room for messy people with messy lives. “No perfect people allowed”. Be a place where leadership are transparent about their struggles. Be a confessional community.
#7 – Commit to non- patronizing pastoral care. No one wants to be the “token troubled Christian.” Remember: “No one needs the grace of Christ more than I do”
#6 – Be a place of rest for the lonely. Psalm 68:6 “God sets the lonely in families”
#5 – Deconstruct the notion of a “big scary gay agenda” and discern between matters of justice that you know are consistent with godly principles and can support – and potential efforts to coerce a uniformity that doesn’t give space for matters of conscience.
#4 – Those who are mature take the lead in calling out motivations of fear and anxiety – and in so doing creating a generous place that isn’t controlling ….. affecting things from appearance, to ideas, to behaviour …… Mature people in the community remind us to humbly entrust people to Christ and the conviction of the Spirit.
#3 – Look for opportunities to speak out against injustice and violence – and find creative ways to link hands through service with gay people in the city.
#2 – Build relationships with gay affirming churches in your neighbourhood.
#1 – Be intentional about opportunities to speak words of welcome and inclusion – and be swift to address language that alienates. Dismantle any sense of “us & them”.