Last week I was so encouraged to read the news that a relatively prominent Evangelical Covenant Church called Vox Veniae in Austin, Texas (read their 2013 New York Times profile here) was choosing to disassociate from their denomination rather than submit to its harmful theology and practices around human sexuality. In a beautiful open letter regarding their decision, the church’s Leadership Board wrote:
In August 2019, the members of Vox Veniae voted to disaffiliate ourselves from the Evangelical Covenant Church in light of ECC policies and practices which conflict with our discerned commitment to support LGBTQ individuals, couples and families who wish to be married and receive the support and blessing of Vox pastors and community members. As of December 1st, Vox Veniae is no longer affiliated with the Evangelical Covenant Church.
By disaffiliating from the ECC, we are preserving our autonomy as a local Christian faith community rooted in East Austin, governed by an internally elected board of leaders, served by a team of appointed pastors and staff, and supported by liturgy, contemplative prayer and discernment practices of our community members and partners. Though we continue to desire connection with an older, larger body of Christian wisdom, that body must also be aligned with our discerned values and practices in support of LGBTQ individuals, couples and families.
As I often do, I took to Facebook and Twitter to add my own commentary:
I’m grateful for this church’s bold decision to leave my former denomination, The Evangelical Covenant Church, over its non-affirming stance on LGBTQ identities and relationships. These kinds of brave decisions literally save lives. Until the evangelical church wakes up and repents of its harmful theology, this is the kind of activism we will need. I hope and pray that many more individuals and churches follow suit. Yes, I am encouraging LGBTQ allies to leave their non-affirming churches. Please pray about it and consider joining and supporting churches that align with your values (like, for instance, The Quest).
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Pastoring a progressive Christian community like The Quest has its challenges. We are smaller than many evangelical churches, and we do not have a large number of young families and children.
At the same time, I often hear families with young children and teenagers lamenting that they don’t like their church’s conservative theology or anti-LGBTQ stance. But that “at least they have a great children’s program/youth group.”
But what about when your son or daughter comes out as gay or lesbian or bi or trans? Will that great youth group or children’s ministry support you and your family?
What about when that great kids’ ministry is teaching bible stories like Noah’s Ark? Are you comfortable with them telling your kids that people were so wicked God just had no choice but to drown all the people and animals in the whole world?
What about the fact that your church, week after week, puts a lot of time and effort and money into an emotional call to salvation, urging people to “cross the line” so they won’t go to hell and be tortured by God for eternity?
Are you able to counteract those harmful teachings at home? Is that great youth group, that big children’s ministry worth it? Do you get tired of having to be one thing at home and another at church?
Sometimes I wonder. Maybe if people would choose to invest their presence, their time and their money in faith communities that teach and live a better understanding of God and love and faith and salvation… Maybe those churches could grow. Maybe they could attract young families and students. Sometimes I wonder.
I know, I know. It’s not about money and size and power. That’s not the way of Jesus. I know this. I believe this. AND I still believe that healthy living things grow. Growth is evidence of life. People want to belong to a thriving and healthy community. And with more people and more resources, we can and will help more people and do more good in the world and reach more people with the actual good news.
I still believe in the local church. I still believe that we can be a force for good in this world. I still believe that we can love and serve and equip and heal people in the name of Jesus. But to be honest, we need you to stop merely talking about your dissatisfaction with your church and do something about it. Please stop supporting non-affirming churches with your presence, your time and your money. As long as you are there – unless you are intentionally, actively working to subvert their toxic theology and discriminatory practices – you are complicit in the real damage done to LGBTQ+ people.
The Quest is located in Novato, California. We are 30 minutes south of Santa Rosa, 30 minutes north of San Francisco, and 30 minutes northwest of Oakland and Berkeley and the drive is gorgeous on a Sunday morning. You can follow Jesus with like-minded believers and skeptics in a space where you don’t have to apologize for your sexuality, doubts or political convictions. You don’t have to believe a particular doctrine, you don’t have to be strong and you don’t have to have it all figured out. And here’s the thing: We actually mean all of this.
Join us this Sunday at 10am and let us prove it to you. And if not The Quest, why not check out other amazing Bay Area churches like LOP Community, MCC San Francisco or City of Refuge or CityChurch or Haven or OakLife or First United Methodist of Santa Rosa or The Vine? ChurchClarity can help you find a church that aligns more closely with your values and doesn’t actively harm LGBTQ+ people. It’s your turn, allies. Please be a part of the solution.