I want to go to church, but I’m LGBTQ+. Is there a community out there for me?
There is! Sometimes it can feel like LGBTQ-welcoming churches are a non-existent pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but the folks at Queer Grace can assure you that these churches exist, because we’re part of them!
It used to be that welcoming and affirming churches were few and far between. In the late 1960s a church denomination called the Metropolitan Community Church was started, which was run and attended primarily by LGBTQ+ Christians. The MCC is still going strong today, and if you don’t have any specific denominational ties you might want to check them out!
Since the 1960s, though, many more churches have come to understand that the Gospel calls them to welcome and affirm the beloved nature of all people, regardless of sexuality or gender identity. Many churches today sport rainbow flags on their signs out front, or use words like “affirming” and “reconciling” to signify their LGBTQ-friendly status.
Welcoming, affirming, open, reconciling—what do all these words mean?
There do seem to be a lot of terms, don’t there? But that’s good news, because it means more safe church homes for LGBTQ+ folks! As more and more communities have become accepting of different sexualities and gender identities, denominations have come up with their own ways of expressing this affirmation. LGBTQ-friendly communities in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Reformed Catholic Church, and the United Church of Christ refer to themselves as “open and affirming.” Communities in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada call themselves “reconciling in Christ.” The Presbyterian Church has “More Light” congregations, and the Reformed Church in America specifies that their LGBTQ-friendly churches have “room for all.” The Episcopal Church’s affirming churches belong to an organization called Integrity. And those are just the denominations that have official LGBTQ affirming organizations!
There are also some unofficial advocacy groups that can help you find a church in your denomination. You can check in with LGBTQ Catholics at the Call to Action, at Dignity, and at Equally Blessed; with the Reconciling Ministries Network if you’re part of the United Methodist Church; and if you’re a Baptist you’ll find community in the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. There’s also a group for Reconciling Pentecostals International and for Seventh-Day Adventists at Kinship. For more information on other denominational groups, Wikipedia has a surprisingly good entry you can find here.
The main thing to be aware of when looking for an LGBTQ-friendly church is that some churches may use the phrase “welcoming” to mean that they welcome LGBTQ members, but that they have certain expectations, like celibacy. It’s always best to do a little bit of digging if you’re not sure what the church really means by its language if it uses “welcoming.” If they use “affirming” or “reconciling,” though, you can nearly always assume that the church is entirely supportive of different identities.
What if I don’t necessarily want to go through a denomination? I just want to find a church close to me!
Thankfully there have been a couple of search pages created specifically to find LGBTQ-friendly churches by geography! The first one is Believe Out Loud’s “Find Your Community” page, which is specific to churches in the United States, but lets you select your state and zoom in on a map to find the nearest affirming congregation. It’s possible to filter by denomination, but it’s not necessary.
The second great resource is the Affirming Church Directory at GayChurch.org. The main page allows you to search for churches geographically by entering your address and a maximum search distance, allows you to filter by denomination, and works for churches in the United States and Canada. They also have a second page that lets you select a country code, and that will provide you with a list of all known LGBTQ-friendly churches in that particular country, if you’re outside of North America.
What if I can’t get to a church? Is there another way to experience a service?
Sometimes it’s hard to make it to church. If you live too far from a welcoming church, have mobility issues, lack transportation, or just aren’t sure if you want to go by yourself the first time, you can now participate in services online through many church websites!
One way to find an online service is to use either the Find Your Community or Affirming Church Directory pages above and pick a church, visit their website, and see if they have streams available. Many other churches post their worship services and/or sermons as blog posts or podcasts.
Here are a few examples of LGBTQ affirming churches with streaming services:
* Cornerstone Metropolitan — Mobile, AL — Metropolitan Community Church
* Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church – San Francisco – Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
* Madison Avenue Baptist Church – New York City – American Baptist Church
* Marble Collegiate Church – New York City – Reformed Church in America
* New York Avenue Presbyterian Church – Washington DC – Presbyterian Church USA
* The Riverside Church – New York City – United Church of Christ AND American Baptist Church
* Victory Church – Stone Mountain, GA – Nondenominational
Other affirming churches with podcasts, audio, video, and posts of their sermons:
* All Souls Church — Washington DC — Unitarian
* Covenant Community Church — Louisville, KY — Presbyterian Church USA
* Edgewood — Homewood, AL — Presbyterian Church USA
* Highland Baptist — Louisville, KY — Baptist
* House for All Sinners and Saints — Denver — Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
* Mount Washington Church — Cincinnati, OH — Presbyterian Church USA
* Plymouth Congregational Church — Syracuse, NY — United Church of Christ
* Wall Street United Church — Ontario
Kevin Garcia, “We Started the Church that We Needed” (2017)
Queer Theology, “How find a church that is safe for LGBTQ people“