All Hands on Deck

Column by Rev. Roger Wolsey on 10 August 2023 0 Comments

Folks, this is serious stuff. In fact, managing human-aggravated global warming and climate change is the single most important moral matter of our generation.

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Would a broader acceptance of LGBT members in churches help stem the tide of declining church numbers? 


Dear Reader

Thanks so much for this question – it’s one that I get a lot, and the answer might surprise you. No, LGBTQIA+ acceptance, in general, will not help stop declining church numbers, and more often than not, it will cost church members. But that does not mean that a church shouldn’t do it- I believe it is a Christian imperative to include, accept, and celebrate the lives and love of our queer siblings. While it is true that one of the reasons that most people cite for leaving church or being anti-Christian is that Christians are known for being anti-LGBTQ+, it does not follow that simply becoming LGBTQ+ inclusive will draw those people back in. The real issue at the core of whether a church is LGBTQ+ inclusive or not this is not their theology- in my experience, a community that holds to a “traditional” view of LGBTQ+ inclusion also has a theology of “fear”- meaning that they conceive of God in very traditional, archaic terms, believe in hell, believe in judgement, believe in strict moral codes, and may have pretty moderate to right-wing political values. This fear-based theology is what both draws people in to church- they are compelled to come because they’re afraid that their eternal salvation is on the line- and that same fear keeps them engaged and faithful.
When a church adopts a “love” based theology- one that believes, for instance, that all will be saved, that having the right theology is not a condition for being accepted by God, that is open to various configurations of romantic relationships and families, and focuses more on social sins than personal morality, it is much harder- but not impossible- to keep a community engaged in the same way. Yet the Love-based theology, I submit, is the correct and Biblical theology that we should all be seeking to embrace, but as we do, we must also be willing to rethink what a “successful” or “healthy” church looks like. For most, it will not be measured by how many butts we can get into the pews on Sunday mornings. Instead, I encourage churches to measure their size and health based on how many programs they offer throughout the week and how many people engage in them. You may have, for instance, a yoga class, a beer and hymns gathering, an AA group, or a homeless shelter that your church runs that engages hundreds of people every week- those folks may never step foot into a worship service, but is that really the point? To be a part of the church is to be a part of the community, not to attend worship services.
We must be willing to expand our understanding of what it means to be the church and how we measure church success based on this broader lens and stop comparing ourselves to churches that are rooted in a fear-based theology.

~ Rev. Brandan Robertson




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