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Advice For Church Leaders

Embrace Teesside exists to share God’s love with the LGBTQ community but I also hope that non-LGBTQ Christians will also benefit from this project. If you are reading this as a church leader or vicar/pastor, it may be that you have recently discovered that your church has LGBTQ members and that you are wanting to respond to that person with Christian love. If that’s you, I have compiled some advice that I hope you will find helpful.

Let’s start with a personal disclaimer. I cannot speak for the whole community. I have consulted LGBTQ Christian friends and drawn from personal experience, but we are all different and I can only offer guidance.

I also come from a perspective that being LGBTQ is not a sin. You may agree with that or disagree with that. I’m cool either way. It’s fine for Christians to disagree on theology as long as we respect each others right to view things differently.

Preachers at my church always seem to use seven points so even though I am definitely not a preacher, here are my seven points:

1. Have an open mind.

Go in with an open heart, an open mind, and pray that God will reveal his truth in the matter. Do this before anything else. I am sure that you would want to do that anyway.

2. Be loving.

You may or may not know everything about sexuality and gender issues but you do know about Christian love. The fact that you are here suggests that you are already doing that which is brilliant, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t.

3. Consider you may be wrong.

We don’t know everything about God or the Bible. People interpret scripture in different ways and we will all make mistakes and get things wrong. Look at the verses again, consider their context and listen to different ideas about how to interpret them. Then consider the wider context of the Bible and the teaching of Jesus and consider the rules we no longer follow. They have been set aside, should others be? Consider context and how ideas have changed. Women now serve in leadership roles, short hair for women isn’t shameful, slavery is wrong. I could honestly go on. You may decide that being gay or trans is in fact a sin, but at least you will have looked at the issues fairly and not with a closed mind. If that happens, check that you maintain Christian love and of course, respect those of us who take a different view. You are potentially asking the very reasonable question “have you considered that you may be wrong?” and the answer is yes. For most of my life I have struggled with that and I still consider it today. When you read this site, hopefully you will notice that I often say “if I am wrong…” usually followed by the fact that Jesus died for me and so my mistake, along with my sexuality, will be forgiven.

4. Keep it in proportion.

I suspect that you know this next point already but it’s worth saying as some Christians turn homosexuality and gender issues into something massive. Actually, there are six passages in the Bible that discuss homosexuality and Jesus didn’t say a single word about it. He did talk a lot about love and how we treat each other and he reserved his harshest words for the religious leaders who used scripture to make themselves morally superior instead of recognising that we all fall short of God’s high standards. Like most of these points, that last point cuts both ways and those of us who view scripture the other way must not use that to bash those who respectfully disagree

5. Be careful with words.

Words can hurt. Don’t say ‘love the sinner hate the sin’. It comes across as judgemental and it’s really God’s place to judge, not ours. Think about how your words will impact before using them. Again you’re here, suggesting a real desire to do that, but be aware that sometimes you may intend to be loving but the person you are talking to may be mentally prepared for the opposite and may take your words in a way that you may not have intended.

6. Ask tough questions and think it through.

Some Christians conclude that we chose to be this way but why would we choose it then struggle so hard against it? It doesn’t make sense. Ask LGBTQ people about their personal experiences and listen to the answers with an open mind.

7. Listen to other ideas.

There are lots of books about different interpretations of those few passages. They do not disregard the bible or the passages. They look at translation and context. My own pastor always says read books rather than websites and although I run a website, I kind of agree with him. That requires an investment to some degree but it is important if you really want to understand the issue.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope that it is helpful. If you would benefit from further communication please contact us. I can only give you the perspective outlined on this site, it’s for others to give you the alternative view, but I can answer questions honestly and I will respect your right to disagree in a Christian loving way.