Welcoming and Affirming FAQ
What does "welcoming and affirming" mean?
For us, this means that all are welcome and affirmed in our congregation, including LGBTQ+ persons (people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions). We are a church that tries to extend welcome and hospitality to all, because we believe that God graciously accepts and welcomes each of us as children of God.
Oftentimes, churches will say that “everyone is welcome,” but what they mean is, “You can attend our church, but we want you to change who you are. We won’t marry you or ordain you, and oh by the way, we’d prefer if you dressed a certain way, too.”
That is not what we mean! We really do welcome everyone, and we believe that whoever God sends in our doors should be invited to full participation and membership in the life of our community.
What does LGBTQ+ mean?
LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and others) is an acronym used to describe various sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions. Sometimes you will see folks write LGBT, or LGBTQIA, or others. We are trying to cast as broad a welcome as possible. If you don’t see a letter that represents how you identify here, we want you to know you will still be welcomed and affirmed here.
If my partner and I attend (we are a same-sex couple), will we be able to become full members of the church?
Absolutely. We believe that, as a church, we are called to come alongside people in spiritual formation, worship of God, mission engagement, and fellowship together. Part of that is pledging to walk alongside people in all that life and church has to offer. That includes marriage, baptism, baby dedication, church leadership, ordination, calling, vocational ministry, and whatever else you can imagine. We believe that God is calling and equipping all of us to be God’s presence in the world.
Are you just a “gay church”? Do straight people attend?
No and yes! Most of our members are proud that we are a welcoming and affirming church. Many folks who look into attending our congregation are straight individuals and families who are seeking an inclusive church and are grateful that our values align with theirs. Many of us straight folk have LGBTQ+ family members, friends, and loved ones, and we know that God is present and at work in their lives just as much as God is in our own lives. We want to be a part of a church that values and welcomes them, too.
Do you have gender-neutral/gender-inclusive bathrooms?
Yes, all bathrooms are gender-neutral/gender-inclusive.
Doesn’t the Bible clearly condemn gay marriage and homosexuality?
There are a few passages of Scripture that have commonly been interpreted as condemning same-sex relationships and homosexuality as a sin. Most of us in our church disagree with those interpretations. When we read Scripture carefully and closely, these few passages suggest to us condemnation of exploitative, harmful, and abusive sexual relationships, but not loving, commited, consensual same-sex relationships. Oftentimes our English translations obscure difficult interpretive decisions that translators have had to make in rendering vague and difficult Hebrew and Greek words into English. If someone says, “the Bible clearly says that homosexuality is a sin,” we’d kindly ask them to show it to us in the Hebrew or Greek language.
Jesus never talked about or condemned same-sex relationships. Paul never spoke about homosexuality. In fact, the understanding of homosexuality as a sexual orientation didn’t emerge until the 1800’s. There was no such thing as “gay marriage” in the first century for the authors of Scripture to condemn.
Beyond the 7 or so “clobber passages” in the Bible, we see a wealth of other passages in Scripture that speak to God’s welcome and acceptance of all.
For example, when we read the creation stories in Scripture, we see that God creates all people in God’s image—that includes LGBTQ+ people.
Over and over again in his ministry, Jesus welcomes those who are the most marginalized in his society—especially including those that the religious leaders condemn the most! (That fact alone should give us reason to revisit traditional church interpretations and teachings!)
Time and time again in Scripture, there is a clear mandate for people of faith to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8). We see our welcoming and affirming stance as one expression of God’s desire for justice in the world.
Finally, the theme of liberation runs throughout Scripture—perhaps most powerfully in the Exodus story. God is in the business of setting people free to flourish in this world. We believe that in welcoming and affirming all people in our congregation, we are participating in the movement of God toward liberation and flourishing for all.
What about sin?
We do believe in sin. In fact, we open up the newspaper (or more likely scroll on our phones!) and see the effects of sin in the world every day. We just happen to think that one’s sexual orientation or gender identity doesn’t mean someone is inherently sinful in that way. By sin, we believe that all of us live in ways that are selfish and self-serving, and all of us fail at times to live in right relationship with others, God, our true selves, and creation.
We believe sexuality is a gift from God. All of us have the capacity to use our sexuality in harmful and even sinful ways. But we also believe that all of us have the capacity to experience deep, meaningful, and life-giving sexual relationships, regardless of one’s sexual orientation.
Why do you have to say you are “welcoming and affirming”? Why not just say “everyone is welcome”? Why do you have a rainbow flag or banner out front sometimes?
It is important for us to be welcoming and affirming because people who are looking for a church home need to know that this is a place where they will feel truly safe and welcome. Many people have been deeply wounded by churches who have tried to change them (e.g., shaming or conversion therapy). Being open about our W&A stance can make a big difference in terms of someone feeling safe coming into our church building. Without any explicit indications that we are an inclusive congregation, we probably look and sound like every other church from the outside. For example, if you are a parent of a transgender child, you probably want to know before you set foot in the church that your daughter or son will feel safe and won’t have to “hide” their true self in the congregation.
What if I’m not sure what I think about all of this? Will I still be welcome?
Of course! We believe that all of us are growing and learning and are “in process.” This is part of the movement of God’s Spirit in our lives. Religion isn’t supposed to be static. Faith is dynamic and we are always learning as a part of our discipleship journey. Sometimes we have to “step out of the boat” and encounter something new or uncomfortable to allow God to shape and form us!
We will do our best to welcome you, trusting in the knowledge that everyone who walks through the door will change us as a congregation, and that we will likely change them as well. God is at work in all of our lives as we journey together as people of faith.
So you have it all figured out, huh?
Of course not! We are still growing and learning, and we recognize that God is still teaching us how to be church together. We will probably use the wrong terminology sometimes. We may ask the wrong question or say the wrong thing. If we do, please tell us! We want to get better at this. We are trying hard to live out our calling to be a church that practices radical hospitality and welcome for all.
I am an LGBTQ+ person, a family member, or an ally. Where should I go to find information, community resources, and support?
If you are looking for an affirming church, check out https://www.gaychurch.org/find_a_church or https://awab.org/find-a-church (for Baptist churches specifically). Of course, if you are local, we’d love for you to come visit us!
We have some helpful resources and will be regularly adding to this list:
Psychology Today – Use the search tool to find an LGBTQ-friendly therapist, psychiatrist, treatment center, or support group.
Free and Low-Cost Legal Aid – Get free or low-cost legal advice or representation if you experience discrimination because you are LGBTQIA+
*Credit: Many thanks to Williamsburg Baptist Church for giving us language to share our hearts.