Five Reasons Churches Need to “Come Out” on LGBTQ Rights

Our entire family, including my wife, Rev. Amy Piatt, and my two kids, took part in the Portland Gay Pride parade this weekend. We stood on a float in the rain and waved to thousands of people lining the streets, from the park blocks to the riverfront. It truly was a joyful day, but of course, not everyone is comfortable with the idea of the church officially being represented in the parade.

Why not just take part as individuals? Why bring such a polarizing issue into the spotlight, especially one that might make many people uncomfortable?

Here are five reasons we, as Christian institutions, need to take public stands on behalf of our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer sisters and brothers:

Much of the pain, and therefore, suspicion and resentment, lies at the institutional level. It’s one thing for a person who identifies as a Christian to take the risk of putting themselves out there to say they support or affirm someone’s God-given orientation or identity. It’s entirely another when a church body does so. As long as the efforts to reconcile the brokenness between the Christian community and the LGBTQ community remain at the individual level, the history of marginalization and judgment lingers like an ever-present shadow.

The Churches’ window of opportunity to be on the right side of history is closing. At the risk of sounding opportunistic, too many Christians found themselves on the rather embarrassing end of the debate about slavery, desegregation, and even women’s rights and in some cases still today. Nearly anyone with a compassionate heart and some sense of history would look back on those movements as something for which Christian churches should have been champions on the forefront. Yes, some were, but certainly not enough. And honestly, if we continue to advocate for some people being treated as “less than” others in any way, how can we claim the Gospel as our mandate with any credibility?   We’re seeing history change before our eyes with regard to same-sex rights; shall we be remembered, once again, as one of the few holdouts clinging to the social equivalent of a flat-earth mentality?

People need to know where their sanctuaries are. Despite much progress toward equality for LGBTQ persons, there still is an inherent fear, or at least anxiety, about where one will be tolerated, if not openly welcomed. By taking such a public position, churches assure those seeking refuge from a lifetime of judgment or condemnation that there is a place for them.

We’re commanded to go to those in need of God’s grace. Sure, it’s all well and good to take an official stand as a congregation or denomination from a boardroom or in a set of bylaws no one will ever read. But saying we’re affirming of LGBTQ rights takes very little risk on our part. If someone has taken the bold step to be open and forthright about their identity or orientation in the public sphere, the least we can do is act in kind. Yes, it’s vulnerable and a little bit scary to go as a group of Christians to a pride parade. Someone might reject us. Someone might unload their pent-up pain or anger toward Christianity on us. Much like they’ve had people do to them, no doubt, being part of the LGBTQ tribe. Jesus didn’t sit back at the temple and wait for people to cue up and ask for his grace; He went out into the world, noticed where the needs were around him and addressed them, head-on. Why, as followers of the path Christ illuminated for us, should we expect our work to be any different.

Love is without condition. Period.  Perhaps you’re still wrestling with the “gay issue” because of your understanding of scripture. As long as you’re at least wrestling, I applaud that. It means you care. But if you use such reservations about an issue to withhold radical, boundary-smashing love and grace from any of God’s children, you’re denying the humanity at the heart of the Greatest Commandment while navel-gazing and calling it Bible study. Your LGBTQ brothers and sisters are worthy of your love and grace, and God’s love and grace, as much as those you find it so easy to love. But Jesus is clear that we should not be content with loving the one’s we’re already comfortable loving. The very people who you struggle to open your heart to are the ones to whom you are commanded to give yourself fully. With all your soul, strength and mind. And if we can’t stand shoulder-to-shoulder on such principles as this, what in the hell are we worth as Church universal?






About Christian Piatt

Christian Piatt is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.

  • brianskirk

    Thanks for sharing this essay Christian. I make a similar challenge to my open and affirming congregation this past Sunday. I particularly agree with your point that the window of opportunity to get on the right side of this issue is closing. Even for progressive churches, we’ve got to do more than declare we are welcoming and hope/wait for people to find us.

  • SupYo

    I don’t believe changing their stance on homosexuality would do the church any favours.

    If you align the values of a religion with that of secular society then you lose religious capital. Your faith will suffer from the freeloader effect and the identifier “Christian” will essentially become meaningless. For your religion to survive, thrive, and grow – and for members to actively participate you need to make your faith distinct from everything else. Otherwise you blur the line between Christian culture and western culture. No doubt this has happened to a massive extent already. We all probably know Christians who never go to church, wear a pretty cross – but lack any sense of community or religious identity. Lo and behold Christianity is in freefall, church attendance in the UK is around 2% of the population and most of those are over 50. In a few decades we might be talking about Church of England in the past tense.

    It’s a trade off the church has to make between appeasing the secular masses, or holding on to its values to remain relevant to actual Christians. It might be good PR but it’s not like now the church accepts homosexuality everyone’s going to be packing the pews every Sunday. This is a surefire way to gain mass appeal whilst making Christianity more irrelevant than ever.

    We shouldn’t twist the discussion to equate ‘no gay sex’ with homophobia. Yes, of course there are homophobic Christians – but that’s a totally different issue to having the church change it’s position on homosexual relationships. Any reasonable Christian would agree that homosexuals deserve to be treated as human beings with all the rights that entails. But refusing to marry homosexuals isn’t a LGBT rights issue – it’s an ‘it’s our church and we can marry who we like’ issue. Just because a church refuses to marry gay couples doesn’t mean that couples rights are being infringed – if the state refuses to give homosexual couples the same benefits straight married couples have then yeah, that is a rights issue but the church has no control over that

    • Nathaniel

      Its not about alining with secular values, any more than the Quakers banning slavery in their denomination was about secular values. Its about justice.

  • bmk

    “Much of the pain, and therefore, suspicion and resentment, lies at the institutional level.” — I think you’re onto something important here. As a Presbyterian, I watched my church (finally) take steps in the right direction on this yesterday. But many of the objections I heard were about the pain this would cause to the institution of the church. That is, we’re still privileging the potential pain to institutions over the actual pain and harms being caused to individuals — and not just on this issue.

    I know that those institutions often represent many individuals, and that it’s not always an easy distinction to draw. But the fact remains that institutions are not people themselves, and we need to consistently remind ourselves of that.

  • R Vogel

    People need to know where their sanctuaries are.

    THIS! For those talking about a so-called ‘third way’ this!!! People deserve to know where they can go and be loved, affirmed and accepted.

  • Christian Wolstencroft

    I’m not wrestling with the ‘gay issue’. Scripture says it’s wrong. That’s it. Just like murder and theft. Only homosexuality comes under the greater title of ‘sexual immorality, which is something that we are told in scripture.. must not even be a hint of it among you (Ephesians 5:3). I’m not at all sure how anyone can be ‘wrestling’ with something so clear. We are to love, to not judge others, but also we are to ‘hate what is evil and cling to what is good’ (Romans). And no matter HOW much the prevailing culture or world perspective tries to tell you otherwise… the practise of a homosexual lifestyle is sin. I’m sorry of we don’t ‘like’ that.. but as the old saying goes.. the truth sometimes really does hurt – and so it should.

    • El_Fez

      I assume then that you stone gays to death? The bible commands it, after all.

  • Jimmy Kinkade

    What a great way to show you have no inheritance in the kingdom of heaven.

    • Lamont Cranston

      Why would anyone want to inherit a kingdom filled with ignorant bigot filth like you?

    • The_Clay_Jar

      I’m sorry you feel that way, but I think you’ll find that Heaven will be a lot more diverse than you can imagine.

  • Katherine Harms

    I find the “logic” of this argument unpersuasive. First, I don’t look to history to discover what is the right side of any moral question; I go to the Bible. Second, a church that is not welcoming to people who are activist for the LGBTQ agenda is probably not welcoming to other sinners as well, which means that it is not a real church. Every church welcomes sinners just like me. Some of those sinners express their sinfulness in homosexual behavior; some express it in heterosexual adultery, and some are just plain thieves and liars. Churches are for sinners, but they are not for making sinners believe that their sin is fine with God. They are for letting sinners know the price that was paid for their sin, because God loves people who sin. God loves sinners. But he only forgives sinners because of Christ. He cannot forgive sinners except for Christ. Christ is the key to our attitude toward the LGBTQ activists and their followers. God loves all those people, and I welcome them into any church I belong to. I just don’t think the church has the right to condone what God condemns.
    The work of the church is to call sinners in and help them know what they need to repent of. When they repent, God is ready to forgive through Christ. That is what churches are for. They are not for making everybody feel good.

  • Vitaly Klitschko

    Love must be objective and it is patently obvious that sin must be recognised for what it is, if one has any respect for God at all. God does not “love” sin. The corollary is that God “loves” rape and child abuse, that is how ridiculous Piatt’s position is. For a Christian, any sexual act that does not involve life is by definition fornication and a grave sin.

    Moreover, the “love” ascribed to homosexual activity isn’t love at all, it is narcissistic worship of carnality. It is a denial of life and a rebellion against the natural order, the same rebellion as that of the Fallen. Real love involves sacrifice and self denial and is about the salvation of souls as well as procreation, it is not about ego gratification and the empty pursuit of worldly pleasure. This is patently obvious and the obfuscation of secular liberals is pathetic and moreover actively harmful. Without sin, the concepts of salvation and damnation have no meaning. The great thing is that, as a Catholic, I anticipate a wholesale departure from these fake Christian institutions in the direction of Rome.