The issue of gay marriage is more than divisive on the nation's political and religious fronts. As time progresses and public opinion transitions to become more accepting of homosexuality, pro-gay Christian initiatives are experiencing rapid growth. Recently, a West Michigan campaign called "Gay Christian? Yes!" launched in an effort to "proclaim the good news that God’s love in Christ extends to all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity."
With a billboard and a set of talking points, gay Christians and their supporters are ready and willing to engage with critics about a plethora of issues.
Rather than embracing the typical Christian belief that homosexuality is not what God intended for mankind, the group is trying to transform the image -- and level of acceptance -- of homosexuals in church culture.
On the campaign's web site, the group says that it hopes to "see West Michigan become a region where our vision becomes reality." This vision is to see every LGBT (lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender) individual "walk freely in the love of Christ."
The initiative is being spearheaded by Gays in Faith Together (GIFT), a group that is working for gay equality in Christian circles. The campaign's web site explains its goals in detail:
The “Gay Christian? Yes!” Campaign is a bold and broad faith-based collaborative movement designed to make it clear that God does not exclude or withhold love because of who we are or how God made us. It is also an opportunity to foster healing, understanding, awareness and an acceptance of everyone and everything God has created. [...]
The first part of the message is that yes, you can be gay and Christian. We proclaim the love of Christ for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people—and those who support them. The Bible’s invitation of new life in Christ extends to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBT people can—and many do—love Jesus and follow Jesus. This is the sincere testimony of those of us leading the Campaign.
The second part of the message is that we affirm the presence of LGBT people in the Christian community. We applaud all the ways that the Christian community is already welcoming and affirming LGBT people, and we invite—we challenge—the Christian community to continue on the journey toward fully embracing LGBT Christians.
The campaign is essentially answering the ongoing question of whether an individual can be both gay and Christian. The Blaze explored this issue last year, with the majority of respondents -- 71 percent -- claiming that it is possible to be both gay and a practicing Christian.
"We are just opening so many doors, and that’s what’s so cool, especially during this time of year, when people who are gay Christians feel like they can't step into their churches," said campaign organizer Theresa McClellan earlier this week.
Watch McClellan discuss the campaign, below:
"Almost all pastors know they have members who are gay, and they care about their own members, but they’re not sure how to care for them, added The Rev. Jim Lucas, GIFT’s chaplain. "Every congregation has some gay members, whether they realize it or not."
Lucas continued, delving into some of the more contentious areas when it comes to addressing homosexuality in Christian circles.
"People cannot change their sexual orientation; it is who they are," he said. "It’s a message of invitation to the larger Christian community, to say as Christians, we really need to welcome everybody who wants to follow Jesus, and that includes those of us who are gay."
But Steve Demers, senior pastor at Lighthouse Community Church in Allendale Township, disagrees.
"We're about forgiveness. And we want to offer people God's forgiveness. We want to offer them God's love," the pastor explains. "We just believe that there is a deception that homosexuality is not sin and God calls us to help people and to call them to repentance. There is a generic love being offered that does not hold us accountable to each other and the scripture doesn't really know that kind of a Christianity."
Demers' church is splitting with the Reformed Church in America over the issue of acceptance of gays and lesbians, among other issues.