Welcoming without affirming

CREDIT: Photo UNED, via Flickr.

Last weekend Mandy and I attended the ‘Anglican Future Conference’ in Melbourne.

One of the keynote speakers, Wes Hill, encouraged us to think about the challenge of having our churches open to including people who experience unwanted, same-sex attraction.

He encouraged us to be ‘welcoming, not affirming.’

We are to be welcoming to people with all sorts of backgrounds and experiences, but do so in such a way that we do not affirm behaviour that is against God’s will.

As a basis for his encouragement, he led us through a Bible study on Romans 9 to 11, where he outlined the remarkable way in which God’s gospel makes believers go from spiritual death to life.

And when God acts to save his people, his salvation is unifying.

We who were excluded as non-Jews have been included into the nation of Israel, and it had nothing to do with how faithful we were to his law.

In fact, he included us in order that we might be dependent on God’s grace, not on our own merits.

The result is that “we must forsake our looking down on others.”

For this reason, our church welcomes LGBTQI+ people.

God’s saving message of his love and mercy is for everyone: we are all welcomed, but our sin is not affirmed.

For as we read in the Bible:

Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 9b-11)