(Excerpt from enGendered, and a story I tell a lot in speaking)
If you have ever gone through a pastoral search in your church, you know it is a long, drawn out business. Protestant congregations looking for a leader form committees to examine pastor candidates for visible strengths and hidden weaknesses. They must pay close attention to make sure the marriage of pastor to congregation will work.
When I was the subject of one such search, after I preached at the Sunday service the first time, I was asked to field questions from the attendees. This was mostly fun, until a lovely young woman stood up and said, “We sing this song about how, when I come to Him, Jesus accepts me ‘Just as I Am.’ Well, I am a lesbian. If you are pastor here, will this church accept me just as I am?” The room of a few hundred people fell silent. The pause stretched to the length of that moment before the final pitch of the ninth inning when the score is down three and all the bases are loaded. What might the potential pastor say?
Somehow, I did not feel that this was a yes or no question.
I could see nothing else to do but to start talking about relationships. I said that I know that lesbian relationships provide a lot of good things. They must, because they are relationships and can involve love. God, in His common grace, gives blessings to people through all kinds of relationships.
But I also confessed that I personally had to repent over (that is, admit wrong and change) how I conducted some of my own close relationships in the past. I found I had to make reversals because, even though the way I was doing it felt natural, it was not what God wanted for me. There was bad in there with the good. I found that there was a lot more I needed to understand about myself and Him.
God accepted me as I was, but also corrected how I lived. If I really was following Him, I had to be open to that change. Otherwise, whatever I claimed, whether just as I am or not, I was not really coming to the Lord of the universe at all. I said that this kind of thing, allowing God to contradict what we thought was right, would be a common experience for everyone in the church I would pastor.
In this way, I tried to convey to this dear woman that she would be welcome as she was, but not to stay as she was. None of us do. That welcome meant joining us all in our repenting and learning about relationships God’s way.
I did get called to be pastor of that church. Sadly, that young woman did not stick around to join our church. But others in her situation did. And we all learned relationships God’s way.
When you are asked a question like that, how do you answer?