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Open and Affirming Congregation Found

By Christine Tofte
For The Register-Guard
Published: Saturday, June 25, 2011 (reprinted here with permission)

My husband and I love God and feel blessed to be part of a faith community. Before discovering our current church, we feared that we might never find another church home that would accept our family for who we are. We were confused and hurt when we left our last congregation after confiding in the pastor that our 16-year-old son had “come out” and confided in us that he was gay.

Although our former pastor was sympathetic, when asked if being gay was a sin, his reply was that the Bible speaks clearly on that topic: “Homosexuality is without a doubt a sin.” We were encouraged to pray for our son.

We were anguished, conflicted and confused. How could our son be inherently sinful for who he was born to be? We looked to Jesus for guidance. We listened to the Holy Spirit. We knew that no matter what anyone said, believing that gay people are an abomination is contrary to everything we know and believe about the teachings of Jesus. We knew we could never return to a church that believed in that interpretation of the Bible.

We floundered looking for a new church. Where could we go? Who would want us? Who would even accept us if we were honest about our beliefs and acceptance of our son? We learned that there is a list of “Open and Affirming Churches” that are accepting of the GLBTQ (Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgendered/Queer) community and their families. There are several churches of different faiths in Eugene and Springfield on the list. We visited a few but felt like we had not found “our church home.”

I shared our story with a friend. She invited us to visit First Christian Church Disciples of Christ. We met with the Rev. Dan Bryant. He affirmed that the church was hospitable to everyone. We were comforted by his description of the embracing climate, but we wondered why it was not on the list. We had lingering concerns about what would happen if the current pastor left the church. Would we have to leave and find another spiritual home again?

We decided to give it a try and soon became official members. Our trust in Christianity was restored. My hope was that other GLBTQ community members would also be able to find the love and acceptance we have found.

My prayers were answered in March when, after a yearlong process of biblical study, discernment and personal testimonies, the congregation reached a miraculous 100 percent consensus to become an Open and Affirming Church.

We have publicly declared: “We are an Open and Affirming Congregation and people of all sexual orientations and gender identities are welcome in the full life and ministry of our church.”

I believe that taking this leap of faith has made our church stronger and united in faith. My new hope is that more faith communities also will find the courage to engage in this critical conversation.

God’s love lies in embracing all beings equally. I find this lived in First Christian Church.

 

Christine Tofte is a member of First Christian Church in Eugene, where she has served with Global Missions as a mission interpreter as well as a deacon. This column is coordinated by Lane Interfaith Alliance to offer inspiration, share personal spiritual experiences and bring a deeper understanding of individual faith perspectives with the intention of blessing our community and the world. For information, visit www.laneinterfaithalliance.org or call 541-344-0430.

 


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