Rev. Mark Feldmeir of St. Andrew Methodist Church weighs in on being LGBTQ and a Christian.
Q: Can you be LGBTQ and Christian?
A: I guess it depends on whom you’re asking, and what you mean by “Christian.” There are plenty of pastors who will tell you that homosexuality and Christianity are incompatible, according to the Bible. They can point to a small handful of verses in the Bible that condemn certain behaviors. These authors were speaking to a particular audience, at a particular time in human history, addressing the needs and challenges of their day.
Our challenge is to interpret God’s revelation in our own historical and cultural context. Even Jesus did this, in his own time. In Matthew 5 he says, “You have heard that it was said in the Hebrew Law, but I say to you…” What he was saying was “Real people come before archaic rules. Love transcends the Law.”
To be a Christian is to follow Jesus’ lead on this. What do we know today about God, and humanity, and sexual orientation that our biblical ancestors did not? What do human reason, the advances of behavioral science, and personal experience have to say about this issue?
I absolutely believe you can be gay and Christian. I don’t think the question, “Are you gay or straight” will be on the final exam. But Jesus told us what will be on the final exam. “Did you feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick? Because when you did it to the least, you did it to me.”
I seriously hope I’m right on this one, because I can’t imagine spending eternity with a bunch of boring straight people talking about Costco, minivans, and Golden Doodles.
Q: Why is inclusivity important?
A: I wish the word inclusivity wasn’t even necessary. The phrase “inclusive church” should be a redundancy. But the truth is, churches are widely perceived as exclusive, judgmental, and hypocritical. As a pastor, I’ve lost count of the number of people who have confided in me that they’re gay, or parents who’ve confided in me that their children are gay. They’re not sure if they’ll be welcomed. It’s heartbreaking to think that they have to even ask this question, but I’ve heard too many stories of judgment by churches.
As a father of a gay daughter, it hits close to home for me. When our daughter first told us that she was gay at sixteen, the principle of inclusivity became deeply personal. I wanted to make sure she felt safe in a church and I want to make sure that inclusivity is non-negotiable.
Q: What are ways the Church can become more inclusive?
A: I think it starts with being very clear in your messaging that the doors are wide open and to actually say the words, “You can be gay and Christian,” and “You’re welcome here, regardless of who you love.” Too many churches like to say that they’re “inclusive,” but they’re often cryptic in their messaging because they don’t want to offend those who aren’t quite there on the issue. I’m a fan of being clear and upfront. It makes vulnerable people feel safe.
Q: St. Andrew is known as a reconciling Church. Can you explain what it means to be reconciling?
A: To be a reconciling church is to publicly affirm that all people are of sacred worth, and that our sexual orientation is a gift from God meant to be celebrated. It means that you can be your whole self and that you don’t have to hide or pretend to be someone you’re not.
Q: Do you pERform same-sex weddings?
A: While our denomination prohibits pastors from performing same-sex weddings, we are not going to allow that to stand in our way of loving and serving people. I’ve been performing same-sex weddings for many years. Our policy is that, if we’re truly inclusive as a church, then we’ll marry anyone who happens to be in love.