LGBTQ+ at Bethany
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 sexual orientation, are welcome to participate in the life of the church, including membership, service, sacraments, weddings, and leadership.
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+ people join Bethany in membership? Yes.
Can LGBTQ+ people be considered for serving and leading at Bethany?
Yes. There are no exclusions from leadership for LGBTQ+ people. 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+ people teaching, serving, and leading.
Can LGBTQ+ people serve 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.
Can LGBTQ+ people be considered for positions on staff?
Yes. Our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion statement can be found here.
Can Bethany pastors officiate LGBTQ+ weddings?
Yes. Ordained pastors at Bethany and in the PCUSA are free to officiate weddings for any couple they believe understands the nature and values of the marriage covenant and who may legally wed.
Does Bethany allow LGBTQ+ weddings on the church campus?
Yes. Our policy on weddings and marriage is available here. Through a congregational and Session discernment process in 2023 we removed the requirement that weddings in our sanctuary must be between a man and a woman. In removing this exclusion we are putting our trust in the process our church has always followed when it comes to who authorizes weddings: We authorize our pastors to determine if a couple can be married at Bethany through meeting with the couple, praying, and turning to scripture. Bethany hosts weddings for members of our faith community and their children and grandchildren.
Is Bethany an affirming or traditional church?
Given that our members hold viewpoints that range from traditional to affirming, we choose as a church to avoid the labels of traditional or affirming. We are more of an open and welcoming church. 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. We are united in defining ourselves not at the boundaries of our faith, but rather at the center of our faith, Jesus Christ. A detailed outline of “traditional” and “affirming” approaches to scripture can be found here.
Is there room at Bethany for those who faithfully disagree with where we are and LGBTQ+ inclusion?
Yes. We believe that faithful people can and will interpret Scripture differently. We named our disagreements in the background paper to our 2017 Statement on Ordained Leadership and Program Staff. 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. As a church body, we value empathy and relationship over agreement and certainty. For more information on how we agree to disagree agreeably at Bethany Presbyterian Church, please see here.
Where has Bethany been historically on this issue?
God has been leading Bethany on a journey regarding LGBTQ+ people in the life of our congregation. Up through 2017, LGBTQ+ Christians were received into membership but generally excluded from leadership. We discerned in 2017 that God was calling us to open our sanctuary to all and more deeply embrace LGBTQ+ people into the life of our church, including leadership. In 2023 we revised our wedding policy to accommodate non-heterosexual weddings in our sanctuary. 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.