The Church is Responsible for This

 

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by Candice Czubernat

I hold the church personally responsible for any LGBTQ person who walks away from God and Christianity. Every week, I get emails from individuals all across the country who are full of desire to be a part of a church. They want to go on the church-wide mission trip, join the choir, serve in the youth group and attend a small group. These are people who long to serve God, connect with other Christians and be a part of a wider community.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Here’s the heartbreaking part: they write me because the church won’t let them do those things and they don’t know what to do.

Their church has found out they are LGBTQ and because of this are no longer welcome to join in these church activities they long to be a part of. The worst are the emails I get are from young people who are no longer allowed in their youth group or who are bullied at church camps because of their sexual orientation. You might not think this is a big deal, or would just tell that person to go to a different church. You might be so used to the idea that those in the LGBTQ community are not welcome at church that this does not alarm you.

But WAKE UP. THIS NEEDS TO GREATLY ALARM YOU.

People are being turned away from the body of Christ.

Shouldn’t that bother you?

“But whoever causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe in Me–it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” – Mark 9:42

I don’t know about you, but I never. ever. ever. remember Jesus preaching in any way that would allude to a church making this kind of decision, of turning people away. To the contrary, even when the disciples asked Jesus about turning people away he always told them to – at the very least – leave people alone. To stop bullying them.

“Whoever does not gather with me scatters.” – Matthew 12:30

This week wasn’t the first time I personally experienced this kind of rejection, but it was the first time I did so as a new mom and it’s left me feeling sad, hopeless, angry and in tears. In the past, my wife and I weren’t super careful about what church we attended. What I mean is, we spent time attending churches that weren’t super clear about their stance on homosexuality. Even though we would have liked a clear support, it wasn’t a deal breaker for us. But now that we have children, it totally is. We don’t want to feel anxious about a “well meaning” person indoctrinating our children in a way that makes them question their moms salvation, or even their own. We also want a place where we can serve the Church; we both attended Christian colleges and seminary, so we have much to contribute to a church community. And lastly, we want a place to grow in community with others where we can make friends with other parents.

I think if you ask any parent, this is exactly what they’d say they want in a church. When I look at my own parents and their closest friends, those friends are people they made at church when my brother and I were toddlers. These families are the people I grew up around and who my parents still spend time with to this day. It was (and is) such a beautiful, loving way to grow up and I want what my parents had. I want a safe place to serve, find belonging and community and to grow in my relationship with God.

I was once young, now I am old. And in all that time, I have never seen a godly person abandoned, or their children forced to search for food. Such a thing is unthinkable. (Psalm 37:25)

I live in southern California, so as we set out on this journey to find a church I didn’t think it would be very hard. I ache for those people living in rural areas, or middle of the country places where they don’t have access to variety of church options, making it difficult to find a church that is open and affirming.

The first church we attended was great! It was filled with gay and straight people alike, all worshiping God. We could feel the genuine kindheartedness of the people and very much liked it. But there were only a couple other families with children, and it was roughly 40 miles from our home. That’s a long way to travel for church with two infants in the car. We left there feeling encouraged, sure that it won’t be hard to find an option just like this closer to our home. So, the next Sunday we attended a Methodist church. It was beyond beautiful inside and how could we not feel welcomed in a place where this was stamped on the front of every bulletin:

“We are a warm and loving Christian community of faith where we continually strive to create meaningful opportunities for growth and service.  First church is also a Reconciling Congregation which intentionally welcomes all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race, ethnicity, age, physical or mental capacity, education, and socioeconomic or marital status.”

This statement is so beautiful and I’m not sure I’ve read anything so Christlike in a long time. Still, while this church had the heart and the location we desired, I’d say roughly 90% of the people were over the age of 60.

At this point you might be saying to me, “Listen lady, stop being so picky, beggars can’t be choosers.” To that I say, am I a beggar? I suppose on many levels that’s exactly what I feel like, a beggar. Why do my family and I have to choose between driving an hour every Sunday, or go to a church with people who are so much older than us? Is it because we are gay beggars? In the following week since last Sunday I’ve spent much time researching churches via the web and calling 3 particular churches.

Jesus said, “It’s not right to take bread out of children’s mouths and throw it to dogs.” But the woman was quick: “You’re right, Master, but even beggar dogs get scraps from the table.” (Matthew 15:26-27)

When you’re gay and you’re looking for a church, they fall into two main categories; those who state clearly that they are welcoming and affirming to the LGBTQ community and those who say something like, “This is a church for all people” but don’t mention the LGBTQ community by name. The “welcoming and affirming” speaks to a church that believes it’s not enough to simply be willing to have you come to their church without blocking the door, but is willing to take a stand with and for the LGBTQ community. For example, I know of a church that chose to stop performing marriages until everyone was allowed to be legally married. The entire congregation was willing to suffer with the LGBTQ community in what it was like to lose the right to marry. These churches allow everyone, gay and straight, to be members and serve according to calling and ability. That’s what I am asking for, begging for — to be treated fairly, equally, and have a community that supports that pursuit. In this time, we wouldn’t think of treating anyone else unfairly in the Church — except for gay people.

In the research I’ve done, there’s one major theme I found with those churches that are up front about welcoming the gay community. They are filled with older people. And when I say older people I don’t mean 40’s and 50’s, I mean white haired, elderly people. Which is so amazing and sweet, but my young family and I desire to build community with people who are closer to our stage in life in addition to those whom are much older than us.

Knowing this trend had me reaching out to three particular churches that I could easily see our family fitting into. Their websites were cool, hip and filled with images of young families. Their worship bands have banjos (our family loves music like Mumford & Sons or Bob Dylan) and their children’s ministry is just as vibrant as their church service for adults. I felt so excited in finding these churches, but also equally as nervous knowing I needed to call them in order to make sure my family and I were welcome before showing up on a Sunday morning. We could have just gone and I’m sure no one would have said anything mean to us like, “Get out of here gays!” but we didn’t want to get attached to any particular church that we’d eventually have to leave. It would be far too painful to attend a church that we loved only to find out we weren’t allowed to become members or serve in any way. My calling of these churches was a self-protective measure.

You can’t imagine how vulnerable it is to leave a voicemail that sounds something like this, “Um, yes, hello Pastor So-and-so… um my name is Candice and my wife and I and our children are looking for a church… I’m calling… well… wondering if we are welcome to attend your church? What I mean is, well — I’m having a hard time finding the words, but… will we be discriminated against? Or told we are sinning as homosexuals if we come to your church?” Clearly, I have not found the best language in order to leave this message! I suppose I have a hard time finding the right language because it’s kind of a vague and yet huge thing I’m asking and trying to describe on a voicemail.

Leaving this kind of message left me feeling shaky and exposed. Now all I had to do was wait for the pastor to call me back.

I’m not over exaggerating when I say this but all three pastors said the same exact thing and almost in the same exact tone. It was so eerie and similar that I wonder if they all went to the same training on how to reject a homosexual while sounding super nice about it.

“You and your family are of course welcome to come to our church, but I don’t want to mislead you. If you wanted to join our church or serve in any way, you wouldn’t be allowed. Our congregation is mixed on the subject and to my knowledge there aren’t any other gay people.”

They follow this statement up with a, “But I’d love to help you and your family find the right fit for you in the way of a church community” and with one swoop, I felt my humanity go out the door. The pastors all mentioned the few churches that I had already found that are filled with grey haired people. So I said to them, “We want to come to a church like yours where the worship is contemporary and were we’ll find other families our age. These churches you mention are filled with old people, what should we do?” The pastor follows up with a, “Hunh. Yeah, I guess your right, hmmm…” And then silence.

Silence.

At this point, my mind begins to roll over verses about God not quenching small flames of desire (Isaiah 42:3); that verse in Hebrews where God says he’ll never, ever, EVER leave someone (Hebrews 13:5; Deut. 31:6); the time when the disciples asked Jesus to reject those who didn’t do it exactly the way they were doing it and Jesus says “leave them alone. If they’re not against you, they’re for you” (Matt. 9:40). I mean, how can you reject someone who WANTS to be a part of your church? Even if we went out on a limb and said, Okay, okay, being gay is a sin, well doesn’t Paul discuss with the Corinthians the idea that you never fully reject someone from the local church? Even if someone sins, the Church should make an effort to restore a sense of community to the people it has rejected.

 

Put another way, the Church should at least try. Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, and James never said, “Be ye lazy and inconsiderate, for God in Heaven says some difficult things and don’t try to work it out and be kind to people. It’s cool. Just be jerks.”

I of course could go on, but at this point I’m wondering why so many churches seem to miss these stories (among others) in their Bible. I wonder if the pastor’s silence is them thinking about the same scriptures I’m thinking about? There is the possibility that these individual pastors aren’t the ones who make up the “rules”. It could be that they wish as much as I do that their church was open and affirming and their board or conference or whoever really has the power is telling them, “If you want to pastor this church you won’t let the gays in”. In those cases, I can only imagine how grievous it must be to pastor a church and have a conversation with someone like me, hard in many ways. But I don’t get to know the truth of their heart so instead the silence feels painful. Even if these pastors are as grieved as I am, why won’t they take a stand? At this point in the conversation – the silence – I feel my stomach quickly turns into knots. I get hot, my blood starts racing through my veins and my eyes fill with tears. I break the silence by saying something like, “What are my family and I going to do?! I know we would add so much to your church. My wife and I are creative, smart and seminary educated women. We have much to give and yet your church is going to miss out because we’re gay.” It’s even worse when the pastor responds, “Please do let me know if there’s anything I can do for you in the future.” It feels like an empty statement and with that I know it’s time to end the call.

Perhaps my skin should be thicker, but it only took having this same conversation several times before I broke down. I’m filled with a deep ache that my children don’t get access to the same church experience that I had while growing up and that my wife and I will have to find a community of friends somewhere else. Feeling the personal pain of this experience quickly took me back to all the emails I get filled with similar sentiments from those around the country.

How are Christians reasoning that the LGBTQ community is the cause of the fall of the family, and evil at the core when it’s us, the gays who are wanting to be a part of church but get turned away?! I’m face-to-face with messages from people whose desire to grow closer to God and the people of God is consistently met with rejection and hopelessness. These people have only one conclusion that they can draw from this — that God must not want them. And the Church is responsible.

Let me say that again.

These people have only one conclusion that they can draw from this — that God must not want them. And the Church is responsible.

Usually the emails I get end with something like, “I don’t know if I can be a Christian anymore, or why doesn’t God love me anymore,” or “I feel so alone in the world.” I wonder if the church isn’t responsible for these people turning away from God, who is?

Of course, there is a personal responsibility for every individual to find and choose God. But when people in positions of power who represent God reject someone in the name of God, it’s hard to separate God from the human rejection that comes from a pastor. That kind of weeding out process can take years and requires a certain level of mature brain development in order to understand a complicated experience like this.

I get these emails because I’m supposed to be the professional filled with answers.

But here’s the thing: I don’t have any answers and my heart is completely broken by this fact. I should have a list of 5,000 churches where these people would be welcomed to serve, join and grow in, but I don’t. What I have is a list of churches that are either filled with an older congregation, are far from where these people live, or are more liberal. And that’s for those people who 1) reach out to me, and 2) who are adults able to choose where they worship.

The answers and options for young people still living at home are even more scarce. So instead of sending them to a church to find healing, community and answers I only have one option, I send them to their local LGBTQ community center. They will surely end up finding what they need there in the way of friends and support, but there’s a great chance they will forever be turned off by Christianity, perpetuating the feeling that God does not want them. This is why I can say with confidence that God is deeply grieved by all of this.

Rejecting people from worshipping God is everything – everything – that Christianity is opposed to but we have somehow reached the point where rejecting people is the normal, even “Christian” thing to do.

696 thoughts on “The Church is Responsible for This

  1. I know you are a Christian. I was as well from the time I was 9. But when I realized I was bisexual, I knew that particular god hated me. I spent decades trying to make it up to him that I was not straight: I found the most repressive, restrictive forms of fundamentalism I could. I even got into Quiverfull. But in the end, I found there were other gods, some of whom were even queer like me.

    Good luck in your quest. Gods become what the worshipers need. And far too many people need their god to hate the same people they do. May you find the path and spiritual family that are right for you.

    • >>>>Gods become what the worshipers need<<<<
      Sorry, but that is you trying to make God in the image that you want, and that god is nothing more than a figment of your imagination! God is God, and He does NOT become what you want Him to be!
      You can either take Him just the way He is,or not take Him at all! That is the ONLY option, and I pray that you seek & find the truth before it is too late!
      There is only one God! (and He is not allah)

  2. You can argue that God him/her/itself doesn’t see gay marriage and parenthood as evil, but expecting a church to change its policy for the same reason is ridiculous.

    Why would you want to attend a church that doesn’t want you? And how can you trust one that is inconsistent in its message?

    For any religious organisation to modify its core beliefs to suit something they don’t believe in just for the number of churchgoers, and that is the only reason that it would compromise, just pays lip service to you. It doesn’t have your interests at heart, and will not accept you equally.

    Maybe you should start a church that is reflective of your beliefs, rather than looking to one that doesn’t?

    For anyone open and courageous enough to consider reading an alternative viewpoint to both the church and liberal viewpoints on this issue, without labelling it the product of a hateful mind –

    https://ainmiremactire.wordpress.com/2015/03/12/bishop-speaks-out-on-gay-marriage-and-parents-is-vilified-by-colleagues/

  3. Hi Candice. Your article points out a real pain for many people in this world. While I’m not homosexual it hurts me to see people judging others for their emotional/sexual preference. My mentor, the man who formed me more than any one else into the person I am now, was a Catholic missionary. I grew up as a little kid in Central Africa – my parents were expats – and since there was no school he was my teacher. Two years ago he passed away with me having the feeling I lost my father, and the last thing he told me was: “It is time for the Church to grow up and to get rid of all those dogma’s, rules, and archaic texts. Wether Mother Mary was a virgin or not is totally beside the point and unimportant. The only dogma the Church should have and act upon is: Love.” I believe he was right. Would the world not be better if all religion started from the fundamental of love? LGTB’s are people, they deserve respect, they deserve love, and they are worthy of the love of God. And regardless if someone prefers the other gender, or her/his own gender, the important thing is that they love. That is the only thing that matters, and that is the only criterion by which I want to judge people. Take care. Love, Yann.

  4. At the end of the day, only God can judge us. Our earthly definition of love, justice and other values may not be aligned with what He thinks they should be. For me, as long as you love God above all and love your neighbors as you love yourself, you should be good. And if you can’t love them, then at least respect them.

  5. Are you rejecting Christ or His bride the Church? I’m very comfortable with the position that we all are equally struggling with our separations with G-d and our fellow humans. Sorry for your experience! Remember that Christ too was the most loved and hated by members of His faith. Some accused Him literally to death. Others became His disciples. Can you love your enemies? That’s one of Christ’s greatest challenges to his followers.

  6. I’m not gay, but I’m writing a novel about this, because I believe in God and I believe that everyone should find their place in the church, if they so choose. Teach your children the love that your parents, their community and the God himself taught to you. You’re not alone. Chiara (Excuse my English, but I’m Italian 🙂 )

  7. Well said Julie, u r correct in what u say, Christ saves us from sin daily. If we go to Christ, repent humbly of our sin, Christ will cleanse & restore us, daily cleansing of sin is a type of salvation, as Christ did for us our initial gift of salvation, He will clease & restore us to his fellowship if we ask.

  8. Yes, I wrote a poem about this called Garden of Eden on my blog. You’re both holding beautiful babies in the picture, many churches hold the law and campaigns, not people. It is a sad reality that goes beyond the GLBT community. But no group has been more publically and even poltically shamed to even seek out spirituality than GLBT. It is time we pitch the legalities of right or wrong, the distractions of confirming or not confirming, to at least get to a relationship with God that hold us as babes with a love that every man fails with another.

  9. I am deeply sad that people have walked away from the church. But this life style that you speak of is not of the Lord. He explains it Genesis and throughout scripture. Paul explains it best to the Romans in Romans 1. How can someone serve the Lord living such a lifestyle that puts tears in His eyes. But if they were to repent of this sin and come back to the Lord, can you imagine the party that will be thrown in Heaven?

  10. It’s reasons like this that baffle me on why the lgbtq community would care to be a part of the organization that’s responsible for much of their societal ailments… but to each their own I guess.

  11. You may have to just give up on the God thing and save yourself the anger and disappointment that wanting to enter where you are rejected brings. Ex Catholic

  12. Sadly there is a box and if you don’t fit in it you are out. God loves all his children but action speak louder then words. There isn’t much love shown from Christian tothose who don’t fit in that box. This applies to people of all sorts.

  13. All believers who have accepted Jesus Christ as lord and savior are the body of Christ which is the church. We as the body of Christ, i.e. the church need to obey John 13:34 in which Jesus says a new command I give you; Love one another as I have loved you; so you must love one another.

  14. I find it all very odd – god creates LGBTQ people, but at the same time preaches intolerance towards them, makes the church (his representatives on Earth) actively reject them…but yet christians still claim god loves everyone. Well, he clearly doesn’t.

    It’s all contradictory, nonesnsical and, when you stop to consider everything, downright ridiculous. He says one thing and yet does another…or is the church just plain wrong on this??

    I’m not a religious person, but I’d find it a whole lot easier to stomach if it wasn’t so intolerant at times!

  15. I live in the UK and find that – in general – the church has lost touch with ordinary people’s lives. Most churches are led and frequented by middle-class, married, straight, comfortable financially etc. They do their ‘good works’ but often they fail to understand the complexities of every day life for people who live outside this middle-class bubble – and worse, judge them for the ways some are forced to live. For example in poorer areas, domestic violence is commonplace and boyfriends come and go. The victims often have several children and struggle to survive both financially and emotionally; and thus tend to either have their abusive boyfriends back again and again – or move to yet another ‘Mr Right’. This is just one example of my gripe with the British Church. I love God and have studied long and hard in the social sciences to which He led me, waiting for the right time and place to help. But I find myself unable to go to church without feeling angry with God’s church and their ignorance. I guess what I want to say to them about such things is: ‘let he who is without sin cast the first stone!’. And my message to you is don’t ever forgot God loves you just as you are – and that the church is manmade. So from my perspective they’re the one’s with the problem: I follow God not people! God Bless! Xx

  16. I’m not sure how helpful my perspective might be, as a straight, hetero married woman in a small church that to my knowledge has no gay members. But we had some political turmoil about the time my second child was born that resulted in pretty much all the young families stomping off mad, while God made it clear we were to stay put. (Long story I’ll skip for now). Anyway, that summer if we didn’t attend, there were NO CHILDREN in church at all. It was a very “grey” church and I also wondered if my children would enjoy the sort of upbringing I had.
    But…we stayed because we had no doubt that’s what God was telling us to do. The church healed, people changed, and the petty political bickering stopped. The church is now healthy, growing slowly, and best of all, young families are finding us and joining.
    So do pray about revisiting one of those older, welcoming churches. Don’t be so quick to write off the benefit of a bunch of white haired grand parents who will treasure your children as the future of their church. Because you may just be the change that God will use to pull more families into that congregation. My kids are 7 and 5 now, I’m running our third annual VBS program this week, and we have 21 kids just from our church (some non-attending grandchildren). We still have an average age over 60 in our congregation, but the children’s ministry is active and growing, and my kids have friends their age in church now. Even if it’s not exactly what you want (we didn’t want to stay that summer, either), an older church family that loves you is better than none at all.

  17. I always believed that Jesus Christ hated sin of all sorts, but loved the sinner. The Christian church is like a hospital for sinners and is not bulls**t as someone described it. Some where close physically to you Candice is a church who will be age-approprepiate to your family. I’ll be praying for you!

  18. I hope as a Christian, is to love like Jesus loved. Zacchaeus, the tax collector and “sinner” spent time with Jesus, simply because Jesus accepted him. Thanks for the encouragement to love all. The church is meant to love.
    Rosie, author of
    NeedingGrace.Com

  19. I’ve been saying this for so long! God is a welcoming and loving God. You ca’t bash someone for how they want to live, but love them for accepting Jesus into their lives and loving and knowing God. We need to show more people to God and love rather than turning them away because how they love and who they love.

  20. Candace, I don’t know if you’re even reading responses after 693 have already chimed in. But as a gay man partnered for 9 years, I *get it*. Even without children, I get it. I am in the “heart of the Ozarks,” Springfield, MO – home to the world headquarters of the Assemblies of God and home to two Baptist bible colleges. Thankfully, there is also Missouri State University and some other civilizing factors….
    The blessing we have found has been with the Disciples of Christ[also known as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) ]. A small but progressive denomination, focused on social justice, with folks at all points in the life-cycle – young college kids, families (both LGBT and str8) and welcoming/accepting/loving elders. It was a place that was instantly welcoming to us, and we’ve stayed from the moment we walked in almost 6 years ago.
    I agree entirely that “Christian” churches in the true following-Jesus mold have become rare like unicorns – and way too many of so-called Christian denominations have become a rubber-stamp for just about everything that is wrong with this country right now. And the sad part is that they refuse to see it. Yes, the “Church Universal” is responsible for this! But because so many of them have been trained to see LGBT people as the enemy, and because so many supposedly-Christ-following voices in their ranks have found LGBT folks and progressive Christians as the #1 and #2 scapegoats of our time, it’s not going to change soon.
    Richard Nelson Bolles, in the early versions of his best-seller “What Color Is Your Parachute,” wrote that there were two groups of people – people who would be bothered by whatever factor you can name (like being LGBT, or progressive, or women, or whatever the hell) and people who just won’t be bothered by whatever “it” is. He said that our job, when we encounter the first group is to say, “Thank you very much, go in peace,” and then run like hell and find the second group. It’s good advice.
    They ARE out there….these people who will welcome us, and bless us, and value us. It’s hard to find ’em, at times – it took us 3 of our 9 years before we found two good congregations. But they are a “jewel of rare price” – it’s worth hunting for them, if you can find ’em. Keep on keeping on.

    • Steve Flower,
      You, Sir or any other LGBTQ person is NOT the enemy, SIN is the enemy!
      And Satan, the god of this age has blinded the eyes of a lot of people like yourself, and many others that are in sinful lifestyles, whether gay or straight.
      I will not claim to speak for all the people that call themselves Christians, but I and others do NOT hate you, or any sinner! I speak in truth and love, that I am a “sin-o-phobe” or a “hell-o-phobe”
      The devil couldn’t beat the Church from outside, so he joined it, in his attempt to blind as many people from seeing the truth as he could. I am certainly NOT condemning or judging you or anyone, because that is Jesus’ job, not mine. BUT, simply put, the Bible clearly states that any & all sexual activity outside the bounds of a 1 man & 1 woman marriage is a sin!!! It is very simple.
      You are free to believe whatever you want, as is your choice. But you or anyone else that sexually sins is only deceiving themselves if they believe that homosexuality is not a sin. Satan is the father of all lies, and I don’t want you or anyone else to take their last breath here on Earth, then when they are kneeling before God to find out that they have been lied to about sexual or any other kind of sins!

      And YES, there are a Lot of corrupt, compromised churches in the world now, and they are deceiving many! Just remember that out of the 7 churches in Revelation, ONLY 1 was blameless and not corrupted! I am just a flawed human, and I don’t have all the answers, but Jesus IS the Answer!
      1 Corinthians 6:11…..In Jesus Love, Sailor Dale

  21. Thanks, Sailor Dale. This is just the kind of “love” that drives people like me away. I’m unsubscribing from updates, now.

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