Homosexuality can be a tricky topic for churches and individual Christians to navigate. This page is here to help. In the guide below, there are things to read and things to watch, and then there are suggestions for things to do.

To properly respond to gay and lesbian people, the church needs to go through some steps. In order to encourage the idea of being "quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry", the steps start with listening and reflecting. Then comes the speaking, and then comes the doing.

Step 1. Listen and reflect

  • We may not always realize it, but a significant amount of damage has been done by the church to gay and lesbian people. We need to listen to the stories of gay and lesbian people and reflect on the effects that our current actions are having on people’s lives. This includes ex-gay programs and theology. Damage to gay and lesbian people include:
    • Suicides, particularly of young people;
    • Significant psychological and emotional damage and trauma;
    • Resentment towards the church and towards God;
    • Parents rejecting their gay children;

…and many other consequences. These effects ought to indicate to us that we are doing something drastically wrong in this area.

  • An increasing number of individuals and organizations that have historically held an ex-gay theological position have recanted their positions after many years of working first-hand with gay and lesbian people. It makes sense to examine why those who are most intensively involved in ministering to gay and lesbian people have altered their position on certain issues.
Relevant actions
  • Listen to (or watch on Youtube) the sermon Real Christianity is Accepting by Ps. Rob Buckingham from Bayside Church in Melbourne for an example of how to preach about gay issues. This is a key resource.
  • Listen to the keynote sermon from Rev. Dr. Tony Campolo from the 2010 GCN Conference on the relationship between gays and the church. This is a key resource.
  • Read the book Love is an Orientation by Andrew Marin. (Available from Fishpond, Koorong, and Amazon; also on ebay.)
  • Watch, and encourage others to watch, DVDs that tell the stories of gay and lesbian youth and their parents - Through My Eyes (a documentary about young gay and lesbian Christians), Anyone and Everyone (a documentary about the responses of parents of various faiths to their child coming out) and Prayers for Bobby (a movie based on a true story of a mother's response to her son's coming out - available from Fishpond and Amazon).
  • Watch the DVD series Bridging the Gap produced by New Direction to get ideas about what other churches have done and are doing to bring about reconciliation between gay and lesbian people and the church.
  • Read and listen to web materials from gay-friendly Christian websites (e.g., Gay Christian Network, freedom2b). Freedom2b contains personal accounts of individuals’ experiences in ex-gay programs.
  • Watch the Youtube video Former Ex-gay Leaders Apologize.
  • Reflect upon the effect of current church thinking on the lives of gay and lesbian people.

Step 2. Discuss openly

  • Homosexuality is an important topic that affects people’s lives; both as individuals, and as parents/children/relatives of people who are gay.
  • We need to avoid the temptation to push into the background issues whose discussion makes us uncomfortable, hoping that the issue will go away. Doing so creates normative pressure on gay and lesbian people to leave churches (or homes), to stay in the closet, and/or to not talk about things that are important to them. This is emotionally, psychologically and spiritually damaging to the individuals concerned.
  • Remaining silent about homosexuality also creates a sense of alienation of gay and lesbian people (believers and unbelievers) from other Christians. It creates barriers against gay and lesbian people coming to know God and becoming connected to the local church.
Relevant actions
  • Ask gay and lesbian people how messages about them come across. Things that seem to be said ‘in love’ are usually not perceived that way.
  • Talk openly about the issue at church. Make it clear to gay and lesbian people (and relatives thereof) that our church is a safe place for them to be honest with others about their sexual orientation.
  • Ensure that the goal of discussions is to seek to understand others, to create space in the church, and to love more excellently; not to have the ‘correct’ theological answer to every question.
  • Focus on areas of common ground in discussions, not areas of disagreement.
  • Ensure that more than one person’s perspective is heard. Otherwise it is not a discussion.
  • In all things, include gay and lesbian people. Not doing so would be akin to saying, “We’re going to discuss the rights of women,” but not allowing women to have input into that conversation.

Step 3. Build bridges

  • God loves gay and lesbian people. He has given us a ministry of reconciliation, and made it our job to reach out to those who are often ignored or marginalized by the rest of society.
  • The damage that the church has done to gay people in the past cannot always be repaired; however we can ensure that the same things do not happen in the future by doing things differently to the way we have done them before.
  • A number of models are available that demonstrate how relationships can be maintained in the midst of disagreement about interpretation of Scripture about same-sex sexual behaviour, (e.g., Tony and Peggy Campolo, Gay Christian Network, churches in Bridging the Gap).
Relevant actions
  • Stop telling gay and lesbian people that they need to be ‘cured’. This is probably one of the more significant actions in terms of breaking down barriers that prevent gay and lesbian people from being included in the church and from knowing God. In its place, emphasize a person’s relationship with God.
  • Get to know a gay or lesbian person personally.
  • Include statements on your church website and/or newsletter that indicate the inclusive nature of the church (e.g., that people are welcome regardless of nationality, age, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation etc.).
  • Provide gay and lesbian people with the same opportunities that anyone else would have. Recognize from the models mentioned that differences of opinion about gay sexual behaviour do not have to result in separations or splits.