Texas pastor on how churches can do better when reaching out to homosexuals
For many Christians, the Bible is clear on homosexuality: it's a sin. But there's a real struggle among believers on how their convictions should play out when engaging with homosexual persons.
How welcoming should churches be without compromising their beliefs? Should church membership be open to homosexual persons? How should parents respond to their child coming out as gay? How do you know when to apply grace and when to apply truth?
As a pastor, Bruce Miller empathizes with those struggles.
He recalled in a webcast this week that he became friends with a lesbian who decided to attend his church, Christ Fellowship Church in McKinney, Texas. He welcomed her to Thanksgiving meals at his house, where she felt loved and said that she never experienced a "healthy family" before.
After joining a small group, she revealed her personal story and the group just loved her, Miller said. They also laid hands on her and prayed with her. It was a powerful expression of love and she was moved by it.
All the while, she was having tough conversations with Miller. She would ask him if he would really welcome her to his church if she were to meet another woman, considering he would not officiate her same-sex wedding. While Miller affirmed that he would not officiate, he still welcomed her to church and said "we can sing praises to Jesus together."
The woman has since moved to another state.
"It's been a struggle," Miller admitted. "It was difficult."
But to him, it was all about caring for the individual person and loving that person.
The Texas pastor is still trying to think through the polarizing issue but he feels churches need to start owning up to all the ways they have failed homosexual persons.
The common public narrative is that "Christians hate gay people" or that they condemn homosexuality as the "worst sin," he lamented.
"You want to show the love of Christ to people and yet our history, if we're honest, hasn't been so good. Churches in America, generally speaking, ... failed in the AIDS crisis. ... The church really wasn't there to go care for people. Many churches have not been welcoming, far from affirming. Gay people have come to churches and not been treated so well. We've got to own that.
"In some ways, gay people themselves are like a lost people group in the way that the church has treated them."
When he invites gay people to church and tells them they're welcome to come, the common reaction is: Are you for real?
So Miller, who believes marriage is between a man and a woman, encourages churches to "go overboard" in communicating their welcome to homosexual persons, considering the history.
"What's really hard to convince someone of is that we really love you, that we really want you to come and hear about the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ," he said.
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