Without a doubt, the biggest inclusiveness issue in the church today is the issue of homosexuality. There is a person who has been in a homosexual relationship for a long period of time who was talking to someone about the possibility of coming to church here. Someone asked me how I feel about the gay person coming to church here. I believe I have been clear about this in sermons. I said if the person is looking for a pastor who believes that a homosexual lifestyle is appropriate according to the Bible, and if this person wants a pastor that approves of that lifestyle, then I am probably not the right one to be his or her pastor and this is probably not the church for her. But if he or she wants a pastor and a congregation that will love him or her unconditionally in spite of our disagreement on this issue, then I am the right pastor and I believe this is the right church. There are certainly clergy and churches that he or she could go to that go beyond the social principles of the UMC to the point that they teach that homosexual relationships are not contrary to Biblical teaching.
I remember Adam Hamilton from Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas relaying a story in a sermon a year or so ago that best exemplifies my understanding of an inclusive church and ministry. I will never forget it. He said that he and his youth pastor were at a bar about 10 p.m. having a meeting, quick to point out they had ordered soft drinks and appetizers. Hamilton had his Church of the Resurrection t-shirt on. The waitress sat down at their table and said she had been a Wiccan witch the last eight years and it was not working out so well for her. She wanted to know if his church (not knowing he was the pastor) would let someone who had been a Wiccan witch for the last eight years attend. I think I remember his exact words. He said, “I can tell you unequivocally, you would be welcome at our church.” In the sermon, he told the congregation that he didn’t want to appear melodramatic, but if she would not be welcome there then he did not want to be their pastor.
While I believe homosexuality is against Biblical teaching, I also believe that not loving those who disagree or those who are homosexual is against the Bible as well.