I have gained a whole new perspective on how to love and accept the gay community and on how our Heavenly Father loves us.
I am writing today as a lifetime member of the Church of the Nazarene—and more importantly as the father of two amazing daughters who are gay and father-in-law to two wonderful daughters-in-law. I am a Nazarene pastor’s son and spent approximately 8 years as a youth and worship pastor in the church. I chose to write this essay because of what I have seen as an extreme failure of the Church as a whole in their response and relationship (or lack thereof) to the LGBTQ community.
Our daughters both came out to us in April of 2009. My first response was one of extreme anger, disappointment, and embarrassment. I grew up and went well into adulthood believing that being gay was a one way ticket into Hell. Fortunately, very early into my angry response to my daughter, the Holy Spirit stopped me and told me to just love her and listen to her. Thus began a sometimes very difficult but also very rewarding journey over the last 14 years. I have gained a whole new perspective on how to love and accept the gay community and on how my Heavenly Father loves us.
I feel I need to state my beliefs early on here in regards to full acceptance and full affirmation by the Church of the Nazarene of the LBGTQ community, since that is in the title of this book. As I interpret what the Bible says to us on the subject, I cannot be fully affirming of the practice of homosexuality. That being said, I do believe that we as followers of Christ can be fully accepting of the LGBTQ community, and include them in our communities of faith as brothers and sisters in Christ. I have full confidence that my four daughters and countless others in the gay community are committed followers of Christ.
When I think of the relationship between the LGBTQ community and the church I am often drawn to the book Us vs. Us by Andrew Marin. His book is based on over 2700 responses from the LGBTQ community in a survey he conducted. Of the respondents, 84% claimed that they were raised in some type of Church community. Nearly all of them were no longer involved in any type of church at all. Also, most of them stated that they would love to return to a community of faith, but did not feel that they would be welcomed. This grieves my heart!
In the church we have made the terrible mistake of categorizing sins and have made homosexuality out to be the worst of them all. While we do this, we knowingly allow people who are practicing all kinds of other sins (gossip, pornography, gluttony, the list goes on) to hold positions of leadership in our churches. This must stop. We must practice Kingdom living as taught by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ who taught us to love and accept all, especially the “least of these”. He called out sinners. He told would-be followers to stop sinning. And He warned all of us to refrain from judging others. We must humbly acknowledge our sins and live a lifestyle of repentance. Christ opposes the proud, for good reason. He must be the King of His Kingdom.
Early in our journey with our daughters, we learned that it was not our job to be the Holy Spirit. That brought us an incredible sense of freedom and relief. Let God be God and love our kids. For a long time I prayed that God would change my daughters and make them not gay. Then, the Holy Spirit changed my prayer to “Father, just help me to live in such a way that they see Jesus in me”. This approach has allowed me to have beautiful and loving relationships with all of my daughters.
When it comes to the Church and LGBT community, I believe our response must be based in Christ-like humility. We can and must accept them as equal brothers and sisters in the kingdom. Thankfully, I am seeing many churches getting better at this. My own Church of the Nazarene has accepted my daughters with love even though they no longer attend regularly. They have also welcomed into our fellowship a beautiful gay woman who has become one of my dearest friends in our church fellowship. She sits on the front row every Sunday and is in my opinion, the most vibrant worshiper of Jesus in the congregation. As one of the worship leaders up on the platform, she truly blesses me every Sunday. I look forward to the day when she feels comfortable enough to be a part of the worship team at our church.
I believe that God has been and is calling us to do a much better job of discipling one another. And I honestly believe that this discipling can work in both directions between the Church and the LGBTQ community. We can and must grow and build one another up in the Kingdom of Christ here on earth. We all must realize that our identity comes not from our sexual preferences, careers, families, favorite entertainments, etc. but from Christ alone and his teachings about Kingdom living.
Obviously I do not have all of the answers for exactly how to accomplish a right relationship between the Church of the Nazarene and the LGBTQ community. But these things I do know, I love all four of my daughters intensely, God loves them infinitely more and that He accepts them right where they are, and that He is helping them grow in their faith on a daily basis.
I have done my best here to share my heart. My prayer is that it helps in some small way as we all navigate our way in relationship with Christ and with each other in our communities of Faith.
Brad Stover is married to Cindy Stover and father to 4 daughters. He graduated from NNC in 1986. He served as a youth and worship pastor from 1986 to 1992. He currently owns Brad Stover Construction LLC and B&D Siding Inc. He resides in Nampa Idaho.