Five Reasons Why Affirming Christians Should Leave Their Non-Affirming Church
I take this matter very seriously, and I think you should, too.
Hopefully you’re all caught up in this series. If not, here’s where we’ve traveled so far:
Today, I’d like to offer five reasons why I think you should leave your non-affirming church if you yourself are open and affirming toward LGBTQ people.
Then next week I’ll offer some final thoughts on the matter, including responding to some of the messages, push-back, and questions I’ve received during this series.
Let’s dive in.
And, as always, I welcome/invite/cherish your feedback.
Do you agree with my reasons?
Do you think some are bogus?
Would you add a sixth or seventh reason?
Let me know in the comments below, and then consider passing this on to your family/friends if you think they either need to read it, or would enjoy reading it.
REASON 1: IT’S A JUSTICE ISSUE
The biggest reason I believe affirming Christians should stop attending non-affirming churches is because I believe the inclusion and embrace of LGBTQ people is a justice issue.
Meaning, at the foundation of this particular topic exists a matter of ultimate right and wrong.
I believe it is wrong tell LGBTQ people that they are less-than because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
I believe it is wrong to tell LGBTQ people that it is sinful to be in a same-sex relationship, or to undergo gender transformation to better align with one’s identity.
I believe it is wrong to deny queer people marriage, deny them worship and service opportunities, and/or require of them a forced celibacy.
I believe it is not a sin to be gay, but it is a sin to say that being gay is a sin.
I believe discriminating against someone because of their orientation or gender identity is wrong and should not be supported.
Look, church is complicated and messy and weird. And people leave for all sorts of reasons that I think they should not, and they don’t leave for reasons I think they should. I’m not pretending it’s always clear and obvious when a person ought stay or leave.
But if the core issue is a matter of justice, a matter of rightness vs wrongness as it relates to the acknowledgement of a person’s inherent worth and dignity, then I think the answer gets real clear real fast.
Similar to how, if you took a time machine back to early 20th century America—when most of the country had concluded that slavery was wrong—and if you found a church you really liked but the leaders still believed that slavery was acceptable, then I’m assuming you would leave and never go back. I think it’s a similar situation here.
Churches that misuse the Bible to justify discrimination against LGBTQ people are wrong—morally and theologically—and I don’t think it’s the ethical decision to attend and/or support one that does.
REASON 2: LUKEWARM COMPLICITY IS BEWILDERING
In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr bemoaned the white moderate as being just about as detrimental to the cause of civil rights as the KKK.
The white moderate, he wrote, “is more devoted to "order" than to justice,” and they prefer “a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”
I don’t think it’s a stretch to make a similar assessment toward the Christian who themselves affirm the full dignity and belovedness of LGBTQ people yet who, in their practical living, tolerate (or even support!) an organization that does not.
“Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection,” King wrote, and this is how I feel towards people who stick around their non-affirming church.
Don’t be lukewarm, my friends.
You have a conviction, you have a belief, you have a value! And it is a good one! Yes, you are correct, LGBTQ people are beloved children of God just as they are!
Now, muster the courage you need, and put that conviction into action!
There are few things in life as magical as when we align our outward actions with our internal convictions.
Feel the magic, y’all.
REASON 3: THE LGBTQ PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE ARE WATCHING
If you have LGBTQ people in your life (or, maybe you don’t know explicitly that you do, but odds are, they’re probably out there), I wonder if you’ve asked them how they feel about your choice to remain at your church? Or if you haven’t asked them, why not? Is it because you know what they’d say?
Or maybe you have talked about it and they’ve told you, “It’s fine! We totally understand.”
And, yeah, okay, maybe they do.
But also, maybe it’s possible that their heart breaks a little every time Sunday rolls around and you head off for an hour of worship.
Perhaps it’s time you practice that ol’ adage, “actions speak louder than words.”
Consider what I said last week, that it’s possible someday down the road one of your kids or friends or family comes out as LGBTQ, and wouldn’t it be so much better if they already knew without a doubt that you will love and accept them?
And how would they know this?
Not just because you said so with your words, but because you were not, to return again to MLK’s Letter, “adjusted to the status quo.”
And rather than be a “tail-light behind other community agencies” you chose to proactively be a “headlight leading men to higher levels of justice.”
REASON 4: CHURCHES NEED TO FEEL THE PINCH
One of the main reasons why many pastors don’t come out of the theological closet is because they fear they’ll lose their job. Which is likely true, of course (see: Yours Truly).
It’s also why many church boards/leadership groups choose to not go fully affirming: they fear donors will leave and/or stop giving. Again, also probably true.
But if all the congregants who are themselves affirming suddenly stopped attending or supporting churches, it might actually start signaling to pastors and the leaders, “Hey, maybe we should rethink this.”
As long as all the incentive points toward staying entrenched in non-affirming theology, churches may never shift.
But—sad as it is to say so—if the money actually starts flowing the other way, it could seriously be a force for people to open their minds anew.
And in the fight toward full inclusion, and away from discrimination and shame, we’ll take all the help we can get.
REASON 5: THE HARVEST IS PLENTIFUL BUT THE WORKERS ARE FEW
There is so much work to be done, dear ones.
Not just in cleaning up the mess of conservative Christianity, not just in healing the wounds of religious trauma inflicted upon vulnerable people by toxic theology, not just in caring for those the church has harmed through their discrimination, but also in terms of building a brighter, more connected future.
We need you out here. And by “out here” I mean, beyond the walls of traditional Christian doctrine.
We need your time and energy, volunteering for organizations for care for the least of these.
We need your love and support, lifting up the arms of those on the front lines.
We need your money and resources, because the answer to “bad churches” is not to destroy them, but to build better ones (although, if a few do get torn down and left behind in the process, that’s fine too).
Leave your non-affirming church and start pouring in to a community that not only lines up with your values better, but that can seriously (SERIOUSLY) use your help.
I’ve been trying to develop and lead a progressive faith community in San Diego for almost eight years now, and I gotta tell ya, it’s hard work.
It is good, holy, and restorative work, yes.
It is life-changing work, totally.
It is work that has saved people’s lives, restored people’s soul, and brought life back to weary bones.
Yes, yes, and yes.
But holy crap it’s also so, so tiring. And hard.
One of the things that sustains this work the most is when people or families show up, having recently left their non-affirming churches, and they show up with passion and energy and enthusiasm and money.
Their sense of, “I’m here to help, what can I do?” is what keeps the thing going year after year.
So friends, please, don’t just consider leaving your non-affirming church because of the negative reasons about staying (though that ought be enough). I invite you to also imagine all the bright, positive, incredible reasons connected to leaving.
Lots of good work to do out here.
Come join us!
We welcome you with open arms.
THE ALTER IS BAAAAACK!
Phew! It has been a minute!
Finally, with the holidays behind me, and 2+ weeks of Covid dealing in our house, I’m ready to get back to regular episodes of The Alter.
Today I’m going live at 2pm PST on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Twitch. I’ll be joined by my friend, Josh Lee, a Progressive Christian pastor in New York. We’re gonna discuss this whole matter of “attending non-affirming churches.”
He’s got a story I think you should hear.
MY CONVERSATION WITH ATHEIST YOUTUBER, SHANNON Q
I had a fascinating and fun conversation on Monday with Shannon Q, a popular YouTuber who comes at the world from an ex-Christian, currently atheist worldview.
She was intrigued by my advocating for LGBTQ inclusion, and she read (and liked!) UnClobber. So when she invited me to join her show and chat, I was all in!