Bethany and LGBTQ+
Each and every person is welcome here. As a church family, our greatest commitment is to love God and one another. We believe all people are created in the image of God, or Imago Dei. All, regardless of gender identity or sexuality, are welcome to participate in the life of the church, including membership, sacraments, service, and leadership. We understand this has been a disputable issue for Christian churches, and we seek to follow Jesus together despite our differences.
With our feet firmly planted in Jesus, we are comfortable with and appreciate conversations beyond our full agreement and understanding. At Bethany, we live into the motto: In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can LGBTQ+ persons join Bethany in membership? Yes
Can LGBTQ+ persons be considered for serving and leading at Bethany (ex. Youth leaders, Worship Leaders, Sunday School teachers)?
Yes. There are no exclusions to leadership for LGBTQ+ persons in these areas. Our 2017 leadership statement states: “Authority to approve all non-ordained volunteers and leaders will rest with ministry area staff members and elders as delegated to them by the session.” Bethany currently has LGBTQ+ persons teaching, serving, and leading.
Can LGBTQ+ persons be considered for serving as ordained officers of the church and in governance (ex. Pastors, Elders and Deacons)?
Yes. The background paper to our 2017 Statement on Ordained Leadership says this about our mutually discerned calling of officers: “We recognize that the stewardship of one’s sexuality is one of many factors in the call process. Our position is that one’s sexual orientation and living out of that orientation – through chastity in singleness or fidelity in marriage – does not preclude consideration for ordination.” Authority to elect ordained officers rests with Bethany members. (The full 2017 Statement on Ordained Leadership with its background paper can be found here.)
Can LGBTQ+ persons be considered for positions on staff?
Yes. Our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion statement can be found here.
Is Bethany an Open and Affirming church?
No, we are more of an Open and Welcoming church. We discerned in 2017 that God was calling us to open our sanctuary to all and to embrace LGBTQ+ persons into the life of our church, including leadership. At the same time, as a body of believers, we acknowledge in the background paper to our 2017 Leadership Statement that we are:
“Not United in our understanding/beliefs about the place of individuals in monogamous gay relationships in the life of the church. Some of us believe that the Bible gives clear prohibitions against homosexual acts and that Jesus followers may not be in a same sex relationship while still remaining faithful to our Lord. Others of us, while acknowledging these Biblical texts, believe they address ancient Roman and Greek homoerotic practices that were oppressive and idolatrous, rather than the monogamous, committed relationships of some in the Christian LGBTQ+ community. As a body of believers, we are not of one mind on this matter, and we live in the tension of this reality.”
We find that both an affirming and traditional view can be reasonably held and that people who hold opposing views are welcome at Bethany at the table of Jesus Christ. This is part of what we mean when we have said we are trying to pursue a Third Way. We believe that this is an element of church life in which faithful Christians can disagree but remain in communion with each other. We embrace this key motto for theological differences that emerged in the 17th century church in Europe: In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.
(A more detailed outline of “traditional” and “affirming” approaches to scripture can be found here.)
Is there room in Bethany for those who faithfully disagree with where we are and the inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons in leadership?
Yes. We believe that faithful people can and will interpret Scripture differently. As a church body, we value empathy and relationship over agreement and certainty. We named our disagreements in the background paper to our 2017 Statement on Ordained Leadership and Program Staff and noted that we are united in defining ourselves not at the boundaries of our faith, but, rather, at the center of our faith, Jesus Christ.
Can Bethany pastors officiate at same-sex weddings?
Yes. Pastors in the PCUSA are free to officiate same-sex weddings. We have ordained pastors on our staff and in our congregation who will, and some have, officiated same-sex weddings.
Does Bethany allow same sex weddings on the church campus?
No. There is no change to our policy established in 2014 which prohibits same sex weddings on our church campus. Here is what we wrote in the background to our 2017 Statement on Ordained Leadership and Program Staff under the heading “Regarding Weddings on the Bethany Campus” (see pages 5-6 here).
Where has Bethany been historically on this issue?
God has been leading Bethany on a journey regarding LGBTQ+ persons in the life of our congregation. Up through 2017, Bethany welcomed into membership, but generally excluded from leadership LGBTQ+ persons. This policy changed in November 2017 when we implemented a new statement on leadership after a Holy Spirit-led process of discernment, while still naming the reality that we are not all in agreement regarding our leadership standards. Participation of our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters in the life of Bethany has grown: sharing in worship, receiving the sacraments of baptism and communion, working in ministry, joining in membership, and serving in leadership. God continues to lead Bethany on a journey.
What led to these 2017 changes in policy at Bethany?
For the best understanding of our journey, please see the background paper to our Statement on Ordained Leadership and Program Staff starting at page 2 here.