On The Huffington Post, Heidi Hall authors an article about the beginnings of a shift in attitudes toward affirming the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) members of the Evangelical Church. A change which Hall notes is due in part to the church’s own members:
A handful of large evangelical churches are publicizing their supportive stances. The Highlands Church in Denver was among the first, suffering deep drops in attendance and donations but now recovering. EastLake Community Church in Seattle announced its LGBT inclusion and affirmation; Mitchell spent a February weekend there, huddling with church leaders.
But there remains a high price: Last year, the Southern Baptist Convention expelled New Heart Community Church in La Mirada, Calif., after its pastor changed views on homosexuality. More recently, the Chicago-based Evangelical Covenant Church cut off funding for a church plant in Portland, Ore., when its pastor announced his support for LGBT equality.
Several factors are coming into play in the pastors’ decisions, observers say. Marriage equality has reached all but 13 states, forcing churches to confront an issue many have long demonized or simply hoped to avoid. Polling by the Public Religion Research Institute survey shows 43 percent of white evangelical millennials support same-sex marriage, double the percentage of the oldest generation of that demographic.
At the same time, gay Christians raised in and rejected by evangelical churches haven’t lost their love for those roots, said Scott Thumma, a sociologist at Hartford Seminary who has studied both homosexuality and megachurches.
“To be an evangelical Christian is more than the theology. It’s the tradition you were raised in, the songs and hymns you sang as a kid,” he said. “There’s a pull to the expression of Christianity they grew up with, where they feel at home and where they feel the deepest connection to God even if the theology said they didn’t belong there.”
In some ways, the change is happening from the inside out. Gay-friendly mainline Protestant churches such as the Episcopal Church just don’t hold the same appeal for that group, said Brandan Robertson, 22, spokesman for Evangelicals for Marriage Equality.
“It’s not that we’re ashamed or not grateful to be welcomed,” he said. “But rather, we just want to be seen as normal Christians, not part of some ‘special group.'”