Radical Inclusion (Anne's story)
I’ve always been pretty open about my struggles with sexuality, so I was up front from the start when I arrived at my church 9 years ago. In those days, there were only a few of us and we met in the minister’s house, so it was very easy to get to know people and build positive relationships.
I have a good friendship with the minister and have often gone for a drink with him to chat about life, the universe and everything! He’s aware of my full story and has seen me at some difficult points in my life. I know that he genuinely cares for me. I also feel free to challenge him on the way we do things as a church, especially when it comes to including people from diverse backgrounds.
When my friend Abby and I talked to the minister about our plans to buy a house together, he was very supportive, especially encouraging us not to worry about what other people might think but to focus on living for God. He has welcomed us getting more involved in church life and we often hold a housegroup in our house.
My church is a conservative evangelical church with traditional views on Biblical sexuality. It’s fair to say that homosexuality isn’t mentioned much from the front, but when it is, it’s always framed in a constructive way in the light of God’s plan for sexuality as a whole. The minister always makes it clear that we all struggle with different things and are all broken in different ways, including our sexuality. When he intends to say something about homosexuality in the sermon, he’ll always run it past me to check how it comes across. He’s also been good in challenging people when they’ve said things that aren’t helpful or supportive towards those who struggle with same-sex attraction.
Last year, we invited Jonathan to come and speak, and we had a brilliant weekend with him. On the Saturday, Jonathan and I led half a day of teaching and sharing. I spoke a lot from personal experience and was bowled over by the response. I had more hugs that day than I normally get in weeks! I also found that people were prepared to be vulnerable with me and be open about their own struggles. Jonathan was invited to speak on the Sunday, and the response to him was very positive. The housegroups were also dedicated to discussing Jonathan’s teaching and applying it in practical ways.
It’s great that people in church feel comfortable talking to me about their own issues with sexuality, and I certainly feel that I can be completely open. There may be one or two people who find it a bit embarrassing, but that’s fine. We’re a family and by God’s grace we can understand each other better and love each other more deeply.
This account by Anne is from a series of articles where churches have included those with same-sex attraction in gracious ways. It was originally published in the Autumn 2015 of the TFT newsletter.