I sincerely appreciate the sensibilities of our leadership group at Central. Truth and grace is not just something Jesus said, it really is a guiding principle for us here. In fact, our elders and ministers are more likely to argue with each other about whether we’re showing enough grace than about anything else. We’ll delay and delay and delay and talk and pray and pray some more to insure we’re expressing enough compassion. We’d much rather risk being wrong about something than to write a rule about it.
And I love that. Not all churches are like this. Not all leadership groups act this way. We’re all very blessed by the merciful and gracious sensibilities of our leaders at Central. Our church is blessed and I believe our city and God’s world is ultimately blessed by the Christ-like attitudes of our leaders.
And lately we’ve been praying and talking together about same-sex attraction and homosexuality. Since June last year. In our staff gatherings and elders meetings. On Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings. We’re committed to having the conversations. We’re committed to talking about this difficult topic. And we’re committed to showing the love and grace of our Lord to all men and women, just like he did.
We’re also dead set on working harder to make Central a safe place to have these conversations. One thing the Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage did was force us to start talking about something we should have been talking about 40 years ago. We’re so far behind on this deal. We’ve put our heads in the sand for too long, rationalizing our refusal to engage the issue because “nobody here is dealing with it.”
Well, those days are over. More and more people are struggling with same-sex attraction issues themselves and within their families. And we must be able to talk openly about it at church. The world is certainly ready to talk about it. We can’t keep ignoring it and acting like nothing’s going on. Following that Supreme Court decision last summer, lots of churches just added two new sentences to their wedding policies and moved on to something else. And we’ve decided we can’t do that. There has to be Christian ministry. There has to be prayer. There has to be loving engagement with the hurting.
Sally Gary, the founder and director of CenterPeace, was kind enough to give up her weekend to spend parts of three days with our church family here in Amarillo. Sally’s ministry is devoted to making churches and families safe places to have these conversations about homosexuality. And having her here to talk to and to process with was a terrific help. Sally spent three hours Friday night with some of our leadership and five Central couples who are dealing with same-sex issues in their families. Blessing them. Listening to them. Loving them. Encouraging them. And showing us how to do it. She spent nearly four hours with our entire leadership Saturday morning walking us through her story, challenging us to “keep the conversation going,” to “keep the doors of communication open,” and to remind people that God loves them. Then today she spoke to nearly 500 members of our church, imploring us to make Central a safe place to talk, reminding us that there are people in our congregation, young people probably, who have questions, who are struggling, who desperately need somebody to talk to. Again, the world is ready to talk. God’s Church needs to be just as ready.
It’s very, very easy for me to get to a place pretty quickly where I’ve got everything figured out. I have all the information, I know what we’re supposed to do, I know the strategy and the course of action, and here we go. And then I have a two hour lunch with a young person struggling with sexual identity or a long phone conversation with a friend whose daughter has come out as gay or a weekend with Sally Gary. And I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what God wants us to do. I don’t have any answers really at all. I’m only convinced for sure that all men and women are created by God in his holy image, that he loves them dearly, and that Jesus died for them all and was raised for them all. And that I’m supposed to love all people. I’m supposed to engage all people with his mercy and grace. His Church is called to show his love to all people. And church should be a safe place for us to talk about anything. We ought to be able to talk and pray together about difficult things and still feel very protected and very safe. And deeply loved. Those are the things I know. And that’s about all I know for sure.
I’m grateful to Sally for the weekend we’ve just had at Central. We all pray for her God’s richest blessings of boldness and courage, strength and peace. And I’m grateful to God for our elders and ministers at Central who are leading us through this conversation. May God’s holy will be done in and through this church just as it is in heaven. And may we be faithful to him, may we reflect his glory, as we pursue the conversation.