Since last summer’s Supreme Court decision regarding gay marriage, the leadership here at Central has engaged in what we’ve called “conversations” about the issue. We’ve spent a few Saturday mornings together, elders and ministers, talking and studying and praying about our God’s will and listening for his clear direction. We started with “Scripture and Theology,” an in-depth look at what God reveals about homosexuality through his Word. We moved to “Gospel and Church,” listening to a panel of our own members whose children and siblings experience same-sex attraction. We mainly listened to our own brothers and sisters share their pains and their heartaches, share the experiences that, frankly, most of us elders and ministers don’t have. Then two weekends ago we went to “Ministry and Mission.” We brought in Sally Gary, the founder and director of CenterPeace, our sister and partner in the Gospel, to meet with our families, to talk and teach with our leadership, and to address our entire church during our Bible class hour on Sunday morning.

It was a powerful weekend for all of us.

Yesterday, Mike Robertson, one of our shepherds here at Central, talked to our church about our leadership conversations, a couple of key conclusions, and some next steps we’re already taking as it relates to ministry and mission in this volatile issue. I’ve condensed the text of his announcement here. This is for Central members who were absent from yesterday’s assembly, those who might want to be reminded of what was said, and anyone else who might benefit from our feeble efforts to walk faithfully with our God and his people.

“After the Supreme Court decision regarding gay marriage, your elders and ministers began studying what God says in his Word about the subject. As a result, it’s clear to us how God feels about sin — not just sexual immorality, homosexuality, or pornography; not just the sins we elevate and place on a high platform. Scripture lists dozens of sins Satan uses to tug at our hearts to pull us away from God. To be honest, some of the lower profile sins like greed, obscenity, course joking, and gossip hit much closer to home.

It has become painfully evident over the past few months that some of our own members at Central struggle with same-sex attraction. Also, a number of our Central families have children or other relatives who experience the same thing. We’ve listened to families describe the emotional scars they hold inside for fear of what their Christian brothers and sisters might think. One family here told us it was nearly six years before they could share their burden with their close friends at Central. One family feels their Bible class to this day is not a safe place for them to share their struggle and pain.

We should have been talking about this issue and the resulting pain ten years ago, not just beginning it now because the Supreme Court pushed us!

Once our deficiency became excruciatingly obvious, our staff led us to reach out to Sally Gary. We thank God for Christians like Sally who are willing to stand up and share their personal struggles and help others walk with God. But ministry on a deep and personal level like Sally’s can only occur where there is a safe Godly place for support and love.

I hope that you were blessed as I was by her presentation during our class time two weeks ago. I know there were a number who weren’t excited about the topic and a little fearful as to what would be said. Initially, I was there with you. But God has been working on my heart through this process. Sally’s story impacted me not because of the topic but because of the message. She grew up in a loving, Godly family and, as she said, a “good little Church of Christ girl.” But her family, both physical and spiritual, was one with which she could not share her struggles. As a father of three grown children and three additional children by marriage, a grandfather, a husband, and now an elder, I’m not sure I have been that loving, nurturing person with whom my family, physical and spiritual, can feel safe sharing their hurts, their pains, and their sins and still know they’re deeply loved. I may have been the firm, strong father rather than the safe, loving, nurturing father. Since Sally’s presentation, I have asked God to show me how to be the safe, loving father and husband and elder and servant of Jesus Christ. I refuse to be an un-safe servant of Christ. Hopefully, soon, I will know what that looks like and I pray that you strive with all your being to be a safe place through which God can work and minister. Our vision at Central is “Becoming Like Christ for the Sake of _______.” I personally feel like over the past few months, my blank has gotten bigger.

So, what’s next for Central?

~ We envision that the body of Christ at Central will be a safe place for everybody. As a leadership, we pledge to do the hard work necessary to make Central a place where we can talk openly and honestly about our struggles without wondering whether or not we’re going to be loved and accepted.

~ We may not always know what this looks like, but there are those who have walked this road and gone before. On the issue of same-sex attraction, one such individual who has walked a lonely road is Sally Gary. We will utilize her experience to guide our efforts. Her CenterPeace ministry offers numerous retreats and resources for both those who experience same-sex attraction and for their families who struggle with them. If you or your family feel like you could benefit from a CenterPeace retreat, we’d like to help you make that happen. We want to minister to our church family.

~ We do pledge to listen to where God is calling us to minister. Don’t be surprised if God taps you on the shoulder and asks you to be a safe place for ministry.

~ Please do not let your fears or your opinions or pains on this issue build this into something it’s not.

~ We all need safe avenues within the church for honest conversation. We are going to be safe elders and safe ministers. And we all envision a congregation full of safe brothers and sisters who can talk openly about anything in a context of unconditional love and support.

If you have any questions, please visit with an elder or minister. If you or your family are currently struggling with any sin — any sin! — or any issue, please know that the leadership here is a safe place for sharing and walking side by side.”

I’m grateful to belong to a ministry-minded church like Central. I praise God that he placed my family and me with a congregation of brothers and sisters who are not afraid to learn new things, who display little fear in branching out to try new ministries in new areas of need, and who tackle all new opportunities with gusto. And, man, our elders! What a great bunch of godly men who pray without ceasing and who would much rather err on the side of love and grace than write policies and rules.

May we be wide open to whatever our Lord is sending our way. May we love and minister, console and teach, in the name and manner of Jesus. And may our God’s will be done here at Central and in Amarillo just as it is in heaven.