We welcome you with open arms…until you want to join

This is a letter written to John Shore who has posted it on Patheos about a gay couple that has been welcomed into a church, then told they couldn’t officially join.​

Have a read

Hello John,

First I want to thank you for your book, UNFAIR. I only wish I had read it before meeting this past Tuesday with the new pastor of our church.

Due to the very things you write about, I left the church many years ago, as I could find no place within it for a gay man. My partner of thirty-three years did not have the church upbringing I did, and in the past had some bad experiences of his own with Christians and Christianity. So it took God working double-time to get us back into church.

We met several people in the community who, with genuine love in their hearts, invited us to visit their church. We eventually started attending there. The people of the church welcomed us in. After six months of regular attendance, we also started attending the church’s Sunday School classes.

At the end of April I had a heart attack, and found out two weeks later that I had cancer. The people from the church—including its new pastor of seven weeks, who prayed for my recovery—rallied around us, giving us love and support.

We were both feeling like we had really found a church home.

After church two Sundays ago, our new pastor asked to meet with my partner and me. We set up a Tuesday afternoon meeting with him.

My partner did not feel well that day, so (feeling pretty weak myself, due to my chemotherapy), I went to the meeting by myself.

It started out as being what I thought was the new guy getting to know his church-goers. Thinking that he was my spiritual counselor, I opened up and shared with him the abuse I suffered as a child and teenager at the hands of people in the church. This is something I rarely share with anyone.

About thirty minutes into our discussion, the pastor shifted positions in his chair and said, “You’re not going to like the direction this conversation is about to go.” He proceeded to tell me that since my partner and I are homosexual (which he said like it tasted bad), he wanted to save us the embarrassment of being publicly refused when, as he knew we intended to do, we requested to officially join the church.

“We don’t allow homosexual members here,” he said. He added that we were, however, welcome to continue worshipping there on Sundays.

I was floored, hurt, and not sure what to say when he then asked how I could justify saying that I was a Christian homosexual.

Then he asked for my thoughts on what he’d said.

All I knew, and know, is that God loves me—which for me just then meant having to get out of there. Saying there was nothing left to say, I rose to leave. He stopped me, asking how he could he have handled this differently. I said, “Well, you could grow a set and stand up for what is right.” As I was walking away, he came after me again, wanting to know if we could talk again sometime. I shook my head no.

I came home that Tuesday afternoon devastated; I cried, and I cried some more. All I wanted to do was go to church, help out if needed, and enjoy Christian fellowship. Now I have been made to again feel like a second-class half-Christian again. It brought back so many old feelings of self-worthlessness and damnation.

Then I got on the computer and started searching for answers, and God led me to your book. Next time I get clobbered with scripture, I will have some clobber verses of my own.

When we told the people who invited us to the church—the ones we knew before we started going there—what happened, they were all hurt deeply by their pastor’s words.

I am not going to let this weaken my spirit, but I am so wary of organized religion, it will take a big push from God to get me inside again. I continue to read my Bible and pray and search for that safe place where we can learn about God’s plan for our lives, and I pray for His mercy.

Thank you again.

Here are my only real thoughts around this issue. Show me anywhere the message of Jesus that people came away from interactions with him with “feelings of self-worthlessness and damnation”...let me help you out here, you won’t find it.

I have long held the belief that if you are commanded to love, then the person who is the ‘target’ of that love, need to feel loved. If a person has an interaction with you, and goes away feeling anything but loved, then you have not loved them.

Many in the church over the years have hidden behind cliché, unbiblical sayings like “love the sinner, hate the sin” to spout hate, bigotry, and judgement at people in their communities who they are commanded to love.

I have used this clip before, but it might be a good time to remind us all today of the message that Tony Campolo gives about a ‘gay son’, I would say this relates to not just the LBGTI community, but any group that the church chooses to condemn whilst they hide behind ideas like ‘hating your sin’ 

John Shore is a blogger and author. His latest book is UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question which doesn’t seem to be in any NZ Christian book stores (strange that) but you can get it at Fishpond.co.nz


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