I was in Palm Springs to present a keynote and workshop to psychotherapists who work with the LGBTQ population. My keynote was warmly received, as was my workshop about the evangelical church and its rejection of LGBTQ people.
One delightful couple talked with me after the workshop. They are from a city in the west where they work as psychotherapists. In my talk I mentioned that 100 percent of the 100 largest churches in the nation are non-affirming of LGBTQ people.
As we spoke, the couple mentioned that they were a part of a megachurch. I asked the name of the church, and when they told me, I said I used to have a friendship with their senior pastor. Not only that, but a little over a decade ago one of my family members served on their staff. The couple said they would say hello to the senior pastor for me. I told them I would love that, and I would be curious to hear about his response. Because this man has not spoken to me since I transitioned. They were surprised.
There are over 1,600 megachurches in the United States and only a handful (about one percent) are LGBTQ affirming. (Most of the affirming megachurches are affiliated with the liberal wing of the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church of the USA, or one of the other mainline Protestant denominations.)
If you attend a church that has an average weekend attendance of 2,000 or more, it is safe to say there is a 99 percent chance your church is non-LGBTQ affirming. But here is another problem. Almost none of them will tell you that.
These churches will tell you they accept everyone. If you are LGBTQ, they will indeed allow you to attend services, but they will not allow you into leadership, nor will they allow you to lead on any public platform. On the issue of LGBTQ acceptance, almost all of America’s megachurches are deceptive and disingenuous.
Church Clarity is a wonderful non-profit that scores churches on LGBTQ affirmation and women in leadership. If you visit their website, http://churchclarity.org, you will discover that most megachurches will not publicly state what their policy is on LGBTQ issues. The reason is simple. They do not want you to know.
These churches know evangelicals are increasingly supportive of marriage equality. According to the latest Pew Research Study, 51 percent of Millennial evangelicals are LGBTQ affirming. Gen Z is even more affirming. The people who lead these churches know the direction American culture is going, and they know that if the majority of their people are not already LGBTQ affirming, it won’t be long before they are. But their current leadership is non-affirming. And they are the people who hold the power.
There are three megachurches in Boulder County, Colorado, the county in which I live and serve as a pastor with Left Hand Church. All three megachurches are non-LGBTQ affirming. I know scores of people who attend these churches and have absolutely no idea their church is non-affirming.
One of the senior pastors preached a sermon against me. Another, an acquaintance of mine from years ago, pastors the largest church in the county (and the state.) The third remains a friend, though his church has occasionally stated its non-affirming position. When I tell members of these churches that their congregation is non-affirming, and that two of the three have spoken negatively about my transition, they are shocked.
In my opinion, if your church is non-LGBTQ affirming, you should leave. Why? Consider just one small subset of the LGBTQ community, transgender children.
Transgender children whose parents are non-affirming evangelicals have a suicide rate 13 times higher than their peers. According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, transgender children who are called by their preferred name are 65 percent less likely to commit suicide, 35 percent less likely to experience suicidal ideation, and have 71 percent fewer indications of severe depression than transgender children who are not called by their preferred name.
If your megachurch is aware your child is transgender, they will not call your child by his or her name. They will not encourage you or other parents to call their transgender children by their preferred names. They will not allow your children to use the restroom appropriate to their gender. These churches will put your transgender child’s life in danger.
Of course, the likelihood is your child is not transgender. Only .7 percent of children are transgender. Therefore, in all likelihood your child will not have any problems at your megachurch. “And besides, their music is amazing,” you say. “And the preaching is wonderful.” Okay. But by attending that church, you are implicitly supporting a church that endangers the lives of children.
You are probably getting the idea I feel passionately about this subject. Yep! Every month I talk with parents of transgender children, parents who were rudely informed that their megachurch would not support their child’s transition. I see the tears in their eyes and feel the pain in their hearts. If they had known this would be the response of their church, they never would have gone in the first place. Yet their friends continue to go.
If you are an LGBTQ affirming Christian, beware of your megachurch. With their confident opposition to one of the most vulnerable populations on earth, they are hurting your friends and neighbors every single day.
And so it sadly goes.