My wife and I moved to Austin two years ago and we’re only just now starting to look for a church. There are key marks the church has to hit for me to want to walk through those doors. Here is my list of what I wish all affirming churches were mindful of. 

  1. Affirm, not welcome. 

“All are welcome here” sends a very different message than “We are affirming of all LGBTQ+ and celebrate their love.” Be intentional with your language. 

2. Assume LGBTQ+ are already in your church. 

I was in a church once that didn’t know my partner and I were there and the pastor flippantly stated homosexuality was a sin. We left early, then leadership found out, and they called to apologize. (There’s a lot more to this story here and here).

I like to think if the pastor had assumed that queer people were already seated in front of him, he wouldn’t have said it. Though, I am glad this church’s beliefs were clear at the start for me. 

For affirming pastors in leadership, assume LGBTQ+ are already there. Assume someone has a kid who just came out. Assume someone is trans. Assume someone is questioning their sexuality and/or gender identity. Have grace.

3. Create literal space for queer people. 

I love when we talk about “holding space” – as in listening without an agenda or ego. But I’m talking about a real-life room or table. An affirming book club that meets regularly? A monthly meeting for LGBTQ+ to meet each other? A table at your church that offers resources and readings for those who are affirming and LGBTQ+?

4. Diversify your leadership team. 

I look at a church and not just ask myself, “Would I, a gay woman visiting with her wife, feel welcome here?” but also, “Would my friend of color feel welcome here? Would my female friend who has been on leadership in previous churches feel welcome here?”

So I look at the staff. I look at who the church pays. Are they supporting women and men of color, or is that staff all white men?

5. Own up when you and the Church have failed. 

Not an easy ask, but if your church hasn’t supported LGBTQ+ in the past, and you want to make a shift, please don’t throw a rainbow emoji in your Instagram bio and call it done. 

Apologize. Express that your church has been listening and cannot stay quiet anymore. Say that you will move forward with intention. Hire an LGBTQ+ pastor to consult and evaluate your practices. 

If you only talk the talk, we will know. 

So many of this list is reliant on online marketing. That’s how I find churches I’m interested in, through gaychurch.org and looking at their social media profiles. I’ve never been drawn to flashy Instagrams that strive to be trendy for churches. I’m more interested in seeing pictures of the physical space so I know what to expect and the actual words they’re saying – affirming or welcoming? What did they say during Pride month? What did they say when George Floyd was murdered? What did they say last January 6th?

Even with this list and urgings, I hope the goal of the church is not to get more LGBTQ+ in the door. Some of us are not and may never be ready. I hope the goal is loving the people you already reach a little more like Jesus does.

More for affirming Christian allies here.

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