The Redefinition of Welcoming

Recently, James White, lead pastor at Mecklenburg Church in Charlotte, NC, posted a blog that really spoke to me. I use a lot of his stuff.  This particular blog, however, could have come directly from my pen. So, with credit given, and a small rewrite to reflect my own life, read it as if I wrote it–I could have, easily. . . .

I recently read an article which, once again, talked about a church being “welcoming” to the LGBT community.

Let’s define “welcoming,” shall we?

Historically, it has meant you, um, welcomed them. Said “hello,” that kind of thing. You were friendly and you seemed glad they had arrived. There weren’t cliques, there wasn’t racial or socio-economic bias or prejudice. You were an equal opportunity “welcomer.”

Yet today it means something different. It means “affirming.” As in, “whatever you do, say, practice or believe is fine by me and we embrace not only you, but ‘it’.” It means you condone, approve, and even facilitate their lifestyle. As a result, churches that are not “welcoming” in this sense are seen as, well, not “welcoming.”

 Can someone say, out loud, that this is officially insane?

 If acceptance becomes the same as affirmation, and welcoming the same as condoning, then Houston, we have a problem.

 Here’s why: It would mean that any relational embrace would necessitate moral endorsement. Let’s play that out, shall we?

 I am a father of one and grandfather of four. Any parent knows the two words “tough love.” You can love your child – fiercely – but not affirm their lifestyle. In fact, sometimes, a parent’s greatest act of love is “tough.” I can love you but not facilitate your drug habit. I can love you and not condone your life of crime. I can love you and visit you in prison, but not embrace what led you there. And this “tough love” is also going to add in a ridiculous dose of grace in the process that understands we could just as easily be standing in your shoes as you are.  Is this such a hard idea?

I believe our church is incredibly welcoming of… well, everyone. No matter their lifestyle, no matter their history. But we are not condoning of everything. The reason is simple: we so love people that when a lifestyle is damaging to them physically, spiritually, emotionally or relationally, we want them to know. We want them to turn from it. Even if they don’t agree, we’re going to stay in their corner and keep hammering away at what is best for them.

 It’s what love does.

 So come to our church. We welcome you. Really.

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