welcome but not affirm this

November 21, 2012 | 27 Comments

Empty table in the Fall

Welcoming but not affirming is a term I heard a couple of years ago. I’m sure it’s older, but I’ve been out of the church-loop long enough that I missed it.

As I understand it, welcoming but not affirming means that churches will open their circles to LGBTQ, but not affirm the lifestyle. Which… boils down to the sex part of it, I guess. Because I’m pretty sure they’re not talking about LGBTQ social functions or fashion, if those exist.

I want to be angry, but I think I’m sad. And tired. Like, really… this is happening? Still? Ever? Why?

And these “progressive” churches announce it with pride. Like, “Look at how open-minded and tolerant we are that we share space with you! That church next door wouldn’t let you past the door. Please, come and we’ll show you how defective you are.”

Bollocks to this!

I don’t think you can welcome someone without affirming them. How is rejecting part of someone’s identity welcoming? It ain’t, man.

I’m only an ally of the LGBTQ community, so it’s maybe silly for me to speak on their behalf. Perhaps the community feels welcomed by churches with this philosophy? Maybe they appreciate the church’s attempt to create welcoming spaces?

My gut tells me no. My gut tells me no because if someone were to welcome me, but not affirm my heterosexual lifestyle, I would assume they find me disordered. The subtext is: I hope you change.

Okay, maybe I am angry.

I wish I had more intelligent things to say about this.

STOP IT.

That’s all I got.


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  • http://www.living-authentically.blogspot.com/ bill dameron

    Speaking for a part of the community, you are correct, we are not appreciative and it is perhaps more a slap in the face than other churches that do not try to hide their bigotry. It reminds me of the line “Hate the sin, not the sinner.” It is a pompous statement because we are all sinners. Thank you for standing up and speaking out!

    • Shannon

      Thanks for letting me know, Bill. It felt right, and I passed the entry by a couple of friends part of the community first… but I still wondered if it was my residual issues with the church steering. And, maybe it is, but I think that’s okay, too. I left for a reason. I think I’m just surprises, after leaving, to keep finding reasons to stay away. Or maybe I’m not.

      It is right up there with love the sinner hate the sin. I agree. I’m glad you’re here. I appreciate your voice.

  • Nicole

    It is in no way silly for you to speak up. I’d suggest it’s maybe even more important that allies speak up. See this: http://www.salon.com/2012/11/13/dan_savage_launches_blog_thanking_straight_gay_marriage_supporters/

    • Shannon

      What a neato tumblr page! I got goosebumps. I love love.

      Thanks, Nic. xo

  • Dave

    You are probably right. Belief in the bible is kind of old fashion these days. I have a friend who is gay and he was totally welcomed in my church. He was always there. He knew that we didn’t agree with what he did, but he also knew we didn’t agree with murder, theft,, lying, etc. And the churches that say they agree with homosexuality, welcome everyone, but doesn’t mean anyone actually goes. I appreciate what you write Shannon, as if you say you believe in something you should be willing to stand up for it! Keep up the excellent writing!

    • Shannon

      See… that’s the problem, Dave. Some churches (like yours) classify homosexuality as sinful. So, while your friend was welcomed insofar as he was permitted to be amongst the community, a chunk of his identity was fundamentally shamed and rejected. That doesn’t fit my personal definition of “welcoming.”

      I suspect he stayed because he loves the people, and because community and belonging is what we crave. Sometimes we’re so lonely, we settle for community in façade form.

      • Dave

        He felt welcome there. He was treated like a human. There was no I’m better than you. He has done things wrong and I have done things wrong. I know that there are people who blow things out of per portion at churches. But what if all the “sinful” things are on equal playing field, then in that case I have done just as much wrong as him, just different stuff. My belief comes from the Bible as you know. I believe that everyone deserves to be loved, so if I’ve already done wrong then I can not sit and judge someone else actions. We are in the same boat, and I can care for them the best that I can

        • Shannon

          Maybe he felt welcome there, Dave, but only within limitations. He wasn’t free to date anyone in the church or feel attracted to them or to act on that attraction or to openly discuss his love interests or to parade his partners. That’s big part of our humanity. Some part of you must know this?

          I hope being treated like a human isn’t your church’s standard.

          There’s a barrier in our discussion in that you believe it’s wrong (using your wording from above) to be gay, or to act it out. How could he ever fully feel accepted by you or anyone who believes this? Why do you care who he loves? Why does anyone?

          The thought of this makes my heart ache.

          • Dave

            He was actually dating someone in the church, and is now married to them ( wedding happened in the church too).
            The whole church including me was at the wedding.

          • Shannon

            Oh! Well then why do you say your church is accepting but not affirming? Seems to me they’re both?!

        • Shannon

          And if that’s the case—your church sounds amazing and its not one I’m picking on at all!

          High five to your church!

    • Nicole

      I’m confused about the part where you say “didn’t agree with what he did” (homosexuality) but “we also didn’t agree with murder, theft, lying, etc.” … Equating being gay with murder is a bit extreme isn’t it? A known murderer would be allowed to interact with the church the same way your friend is?

  • Cecily

    I’m a bit more hardcore in that I (a LGBT-identified person) turn my nose up at tolerance. You tolerate it when someone drops an air biscuit at the dinner table. You might tolerate it if someone bumps into you in a crowded shopping mall. We tolerate things that we generally don’t want to put up with or that we otherwise find distasteful, but won’t comment on for the sake of unity or harmony.

    Keep your tolerance. If you can’t fully accept my humanity as a living, breathing, loving, boinking human being, I don’t want to be in your congregation.

    • Cecily

      (I don’t mean you specifically, Shannon, but I think you know that.)

    • Shannon

      I don’t think that’s hardcore. I think that’s sound logic on the topic of basic human decency. I’ve never had much tolerance for the word myself.

      It’s what sparked me to question my commitment to Christianity/the church. I had no interest in tolerating anyone. I wanted to love and fully accept the shit out of them. All of them.

      • Cecily

        Of course, that’s one of the many reasons I’m not a churchgoing sort. The reasons are SO MANY, much to the disappointment of just about everybody else in my bible thumpin’ family.

        • Shannon

          I feel like I’ve disappointed many in my circle. I get that. xo

  • http://lifelearningcollegiate.blogspot.ca/ Kathy

    OMG I love your post! It defiantly speaks to me. I am a lesbian and when I came out we were involved with a church. I was told I am more than welcome to continue, I was taking youth to Africa on a mission trip, but I should keep quiet about my lifestyle.
    WHAT??? Lie? Not really be me?

    Then something amazing happened a few months ago. I recieved an email from a pastor that we know from the community, He sent an email and said he has been wanting to send it for some time…..”Please know you are always welcome here and I know that most evengelical churches come with we accept you but please don’t share our gay, know we will celebrate your life and your wife here, we would love to have you join us”.

    I was floored. We live in a smaller city, that is kind of uppity, but I was happy to see acceptance.

    Thanks so much for being an ally! You rock!

    • Shannon

      That is so amazing! Yay for you and for your church. That’s really wonderful and exciting. Hug them for me. How has it been since you got this email?

  • http://lifelearningcollegiate.blogspot.ca/ Kathy

    One thing I found interesting is when the Jehovah’s came to my house and told me God loves lesbian just like he loves murderers. I said, well does God love you like he loves murderers? She was deaf. She was stunned. She said, “I was born this way, God make me this way”. I said “God loves me like he loves deaf people”.

    In reference to love the sinner, hate the sin!

    • Shannon

      Where did the conversation go after that? I bet she was stunned. Wow. You’re ballsey! Good for you. :)

      • Kathy

        They keep coming back. One man came one time and would not stop pressuring me, I finally told him I am lesbian and Muslim, I a, not Muslim but he has not returned :)

  • Kathy

    I haven’t gone actually. I find I am more spiritual and struggle with organized religion!

    • Shannon

      Makes sense! It’s nice to know those churches do exist, at least.

  • Carollyn

    8/8/2017 To put a really fine point on this, churches should welcome all SINNERS to believe and receive Jesus Christ for forgiveness and salvation for drunkenness, stealing, homosexuality, lying, cheating, lesbianism, bestiality, and so on ad nauseum. The gospel is open to all but not all will repent and quit sin.

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