Finding a place to worship can be a challenge for gay Christians. Some churches condemn homosexual lifestyles and do not allow gays in worship, while others may appear to welcome gays but have hidden agendas of disclosing "sinful" behaviors and trying to "heal" gays of homosexual tendencies. However, there are several spiritual organizations that are committed to welcoming people from sexually diverse backgrounds, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual individuals. The formation of gay-friendly churches began in 1916, when the Liberal Catholic Church in Sydney, Australia created a church specifically for gay Christians. In 1946, an archbishop celebrated mass for gay men at the Eucharistic Catholic Communion in Atlanta. In 1968, the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Church opened its doors in Los Angeles and became the first official gay, lesbian and transgender-specific denomination. Since that time, many churches have started welcoming people of all sexual backgrounds. Use these tips to find a gay-friendly church that meets your spiritual needs.
Method 1 of 3: Understand Gay-Friendly Church Terminology
Understand how to recognize a gay-friendly church, based on terminology.Many churches that welcome gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual individuals use the terms "Welcoming Church" or "Affirming Church" in their marketing materials.
Realize that the definitions and use of gay-friendly terminology vary. There is no standard definition for exactly what a welcoming or affirming church is. Some affirming churches do not consider homosexuality to be a sin, while others may welcome gays in worship but do not recognize gay marriage or allow gay members to hold leadership positions in the church. The definition and use of welcoming and/or affirming may be set at a denominational level or by an individual church, which accounts for the variances in the terminology.
Contact the church you are interested in attending to better understand the church's use of gay-friendly terminology. Because of the diverse understandings of the terms welcoming and affirming, the best way to discern whether the church is truly gay-friendly is to contact the church directly and have a conversation with the pastor or other church leaders.
Method 2 of 3: Search Online for Gay-Friendly Churches
Conduct an Internet search for gay-friendly churches. Using the search engine of your choice, search for a church, using keywords like "gay church" and the name of your town or city. You also may choose to use the terms "affirming church" or "LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) church" in your search criteria.
Search for a specific denomination or type of religious organization by adding that to the search criteria. For example, if you are looking for a gay-friendly Presbyterian church in Seattle, use the search criteria "Presbyterian affirming church in Seattle."
Utilize a gay-friendly church directory. There are several websites that provide resources to the LGBT community, including church directories. Some church directories allow you to search by geographic area, while others are organized by Christian denomination.
Be aware that most churches and religious organizations provide their own information to the gay affirming church directories, and many directories cannot guarantee the accuracy of the site content.
Method 3 of 3: Search for a Specific Gay-Friendly Denomination
Understand that not all gay-friendly churches are sanctioned by their denominations. Some denominations have adopted gay-friendly beliefs in which they do not consider homosexuality to be a sin. However, while many mainline Christian denominations welcome gay Christians, most do believe homosexuality is a sin, and these denominations may limit the role of gay individuals in the congregations. Many churches have action groups or member-organized groups that lobby the denomination on behalf of the gay population, but those groups are not necessarily associated with the actual denomination.
Consider the following gay-friendly denominations or affirming groups within denominations:
Find an affirming Baptist church. The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (AWAB) advocates for full inclusion of LGBT populations within the Baptist denomination. Baptist churches that are members of the AWAB welcome all people without regard to sexual orientation.
Find an affirming Pentecostal church. The Affirming Pentecostal Church (APC) is a movement within the Pentecostal denomination to welcome people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Look for a Pentecostal church that is a member of the APC. Global Alliance Affirming Apostolic Pentecostal (GAAAP) and Fellowship of Reconciling Pentecostals International (RPI) are also affirming.
Consider a gay-friendly Catholic church. The Ecumenical Catholic Church welcomes all people, without regard to sexual orientation, gender, marital status, race, education, social background or financial status. The Ecumenical Catholic Church is a separate Catholic denomination and is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.
Seek a gay-friendly Christian (Disciples of Christ) church. The Gay, Lesbian and Affirming Disciples (GLAD) Alliance advocates for full inclusion of LGBT individuals in the Disciples of Christ denomination. The alliance has a training process for Disciples of Christ churches who wish to become GLAD-certified.
Find a gay-friendly Episcopal church. Integrity is a grass-roots organization, advocating for full inclusion of LGBT individuals in the Episcopal denomination. With a focus on inclusiveness, Integrity works in the areas education, worship, fellowship, communication, mission and outreach to welcome estranged LGBT Episcopalians back to the church.
Seek out a gay-friendly Lutheran church. Lutherans Concerned is a group dedicated to the full participation of all people in the Lutheran denomination, including people of all gender identities and sexual orientations. The group is opposed to discrimination against homosexuals in the Lutheran church.
Look for a gay-friendly Presbyterian church. More Light Presbyterians is an advocacy group that works on behalf of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people within the Presbyterian Church (USA). More Light Presbyterians provides inclusive ministries, educates churches and presbyteries on LGBT issues, and funds legislation to achieve social justice for LGBT populations.
Find a gay-friendly United Church of Christ (UCC) church. The UCC Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns offers support and sanctuary to LGBT individuals and families. The coalition advocates for full inclusion of LGBT people and works to create open and affirming congregations within the UCC.
Look for a gay-friendly United Methodist church. Affirmation is an independent group, dedicated to inclusivity for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. The group challenges the United Methodist Church to advocate for social justice for LGBT people. Additionally, the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) is a movement of United Methodist churches, ministries and individuals who advocate for full participation of all LGBT people in the United Methodist Church.
Seek out a gay-friendly Metropolitan Community church. Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) was the first church founded on the principles of equality for LGBT people. MCC congregations focus on human and civil rights for all people, regardless of sexual orientation.
Many non-denominational affirming churches are established in a number of cities. Covenant Network is a network of Bible based, Spirit filled affirming churches under the leadership of Bishop Randy Morgan, who is also the founder and senior pastor of New Covenant Church of Atlanta.
If you're looking for a different kind of church or spiritual community, you can search for a Unitarian Universalist church or congregation. They are not usually considered Christian as the Bible is just one source they embrace. Unitarian Universalists were at the forefront of the gay rights and same-sex marriage movement and continue to fight for the rights of all people based on their first two of seven principles, which include "the worth and dignity of all" and treating people with respect and compassion.
Unity churches are considered progressive Christian. They describe themselves as a "positive path for spiritual living". They are welcoming and inclusive and usually have many LGBT people in their congregations. Their services are upbeat and have contemporary music. For a location near you: unity.org
If you can't find a gay-friendly church in your local area, consider starting a church in your home. Often called a "house church," this is a growing trend in spiritual communities. Invite LGBT friends to your home to study the Bible and discuss how God's word relates to the current circumstances in your life.