My pastor is worried about driving people away.

Many pastors fear that if they welcome everyone, people will leave, funds to run the church’s ministries will dry up, and perhaps they themselves will be sent packing. In such cases, it may be important for lay people to initiate conversations and build support before asking the pastor to provide leadership.

The pastor may not realize how many people are being hurt by the silence from the pulpit—including children and youth who may be realizing that everything they’ve been taught about God’s love doesn’t apply to them. Suicide among such youth in our churches is now known to be a serious issue.

Welcoming congregations gain a great deal.

The best discussion I’ve seen of this is in the little book, Taking a New Look. Based on surveys of thousands of clergy, congregations, and youth in churches, the Christian Community has concluded that when supportive pastors are silent, they’re losing a great deal more than they realize. He cites the following advantages when congregations offer welcome and acceptance of people with various sexual orientations and gender identities:

  1. Welcoming congregations contribute to a positive image of Christianity, especially among young adults, many of whom have rejected the church.
  2. They make themselves much more attractive not only to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people but to many others as well, and thus create an atmosphere in which church growth can happen.
  3. They gain the considerable gifts of diverse clergy, other professional staff, and members.
  4. They become safe places for sexual minority youth and for youth who are struggling with questions about sexual orientation and gender identity.
  5. They make it possible for people who are already members to be open about their identity and fuller participants in the life of the church.
  6. They can provide support to families and friends of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who have in the past felt unable to safely talk about their questions and concerns.
  7. They’re in a better position to offer sexuality education for children, teens, and adults.
  8. They demonstrate the kind of expansive hospitality that God expects of us.
  9. They can stand firmly for human rights and justice not only for LGBT persons but for all people.
  10. They can set people free of the personal distress and even damage to the soul caused by the disconnect some silent friends of LGBT people have between their personal convictions and their public vocalization.

For the research that backs up these claims, please read Taking a New Look. Download the PDF (below) or order copies here.

Taking a New Look.pdf
Contributed by Ann Thompson Cook

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