A new website called Church Clarity launched today with the goal of encouraging churches to be clear about their policies about LGBTQ people. They don’t advocate for churches to be affirming of same-sex relationships or non-affirming; they simply want churches to be transparent about their policies. Here’s why this is so important.
It’s common for LGBTQ people go to to a new church where people enthusiastically welcome them. (It’s also common for LGBTQ people to go to new churches that do not enthusiastically welcome them, but that’s a different post for a different situation.) In this friendly church, leaders will grab coffee with the new person to get to know their story. The leader will say they understand this new person is gay or bisexual, and the minister says something like, “man, we believe Jesus loves everyone and we just want to be a safe place for you to encounter Jesus––we want to do life with you, wherever you are!”
The lesbian couple or trans person is thrilled about this, and they start to connect with more people in the church. They attend coffee hours after the service and hit it off with a couple who lives a few houses down from them. They go to a small group, where they grab beers with folks afterward and make fast friends with others in similar life stages. After several months or years of sharing their lives with people in this church, they start to feel like the community is an extended family.
At this point, the LGBTQ person thinks, “Gosh, I want to give back to this community that’s become such an integral part of my life. I already love playing the piano, so I should ask about serving on the worship team!” Or they feel so moved by the way their small group welcomed them that they want to use their gifts by starting a new small group.
That’s when they run into problems. When they go to the pastors to share their desire to lead, they find out the church believes same-sex relationships are sinful. This is the point when the gay person learns that the elders and pastors are all in agreement that an orientation to love people of the same sex is a form of brokenness. The pastor reminds them how much they love and value them as people, but says they just can’t allow them to serve in leadership unless they commit to lifelong celibacy and submit themselves to close accountability to ensure they remain faithful.
That conversation is devastating for LGBTQ people. I know countless people who have been crushed to learn there were always unspoken barriers that would keep them from serving fully in the life of the church. They wish they had known their leaders’ blessing was contingent upon them aligning with a particular doctrinal statement about same-sex relationships long before they came to love and trust everyone so deeply. The gay couple wishes they would’ve known earlier that the pastor wouldn’t marry them or baptize their new baby. They might’ve chosen to invest in the community anyway, but they could’ve set expectations for where things would end up down the road.
This is where Church Clarity comes in: they encourage churches to be clear about their policies so LGBTQ people know what they’re getting into from the start. If you go to their website, you’ll see they rate churches based on whether they’re clear about being affirming or non-affirming, unclear, or do not disclose it at all. There is a form you can fill out to ask for clarity about churches that aren’t on the list. And they make it easy for you to tweet to your church leadership to ask about their policies.
Some will say a church can be safe and loving toward LGBTQ people even if they believe same-sex relationships are not morally permissible. I’ve been involved in these kinds of churches myself. A lot of LGBTQ people choose to go to churches that ultimately don’t believe God blesses their relationships because they like the preaching and feel accepted by friends in the community. But we all know how important communication is in our relationships, and our relationship with a church is no different. These churches show love for LGBTQ people when they openly acknowledge the limits of their support. That way sexual and gender minorities can make informed decisions from the outset.
If a church is unclear about their policies because they’re honestly working through their theology around same-sex relationships, that makes total sense. We are at a moment in Christian history when we’re asking new questions about what it means for people to be honest about their sexuality and faithfully follow Jesus. The Church Clarity website encourages churches to be open about that with their LGBTQ members and to offer a time frame for how long they plan to engage in this discernment process.
I know a lot of Christians grieve the way the church has harmed LGBTQ people in the past, and they want the church to do better. Church Clarity is a resource that can start valuable conversations to help Christians love LGBTQ people better. Head over to the website and share this with your pastors!