What Does it Mean to be Welcoming: Navigating LGBT Questions in Your Church
By Travis Collins (InterVarsity Press)
Wasn’t the question of same-sex marriage answered in 2015? Haven’t churches already decided where they stand on marriage and sexuality? Aren’t there more pressing issues right now?
Even when people’s attention is on the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial and political tension in the United States, some churches still are examining their posture toward LGBTQ people.
Travis Collins seeks to offer guidance to churches holding to the traditional position on marriage and sexuality who want to welcome LGBTQ people without relinquishing a traditional position.
Collins is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala. He is personally invested in what he writes, having experienced the layers of pain and difficulty associated with the relationship between churches and LGBTQ people.
For those nervous about where Collins might be leading, he states and defines his position on page 10. He welcomes “all people to membership in the church family,” does “not affirm same-sex sexual behavior,” believes all people “are called to be transformed into the image of Jesus,” and that “all are still in process.”
Writing as a pastor, Collins wants to avoid polarization and the bitter accusations and division so often accompanying it. He writes with compassion toward those he disagrees with and those who will disagree with him. He also wants people to be heard and so includes testimonials from people who identify as gay and lesbian, as well as pastors relating what the conversations have meant for their churches.
Collins offers a brief overview of the affirming and traditionalist positions on sexuality, giving more attention to the latter. He also points out problems he sees with the affirming view, making clear he does not see affirmation on balance with traditionalism. His chapter on the key biblical passages related to same-sex sex further confirms his opposition to the affirming position.
The latter portion of the book—in which Collins shares First Baptist Church of Huntsville’s process and position statement, a discussion guide, and resources for further study—will be helpful for churches yet to address their position on sexuality. For churches who still have not done so, Collins asserts that time will come for most of them. They can engage the matter proactively or reactively.
Some of the questions Collins considers may become relics of the past within a decade or so, but they still are live issues in a number of churches at present. Therefore, he intends What Does it Mean to be Welcoming to be helpful for churches, small groups and even denominations as they wrestle with the fine details of what it means to be welcome and traditional places.
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Eric Black, executive director, publisher and editor