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No, Church Clarity is not Fundamentalism. It’s a step towards freedom.

If you don’t frequent Christian social media circles, you probably haven’t heard about the new project that started recently called Church Clarity. It’s an organization that is advocating for churches to disclose policies surrounding sensitive topics with their main emphasis being on LGBTQ policies and practices within churches. They score churches in a few ways, which can be seen here, ranging from undisclosed to unclear: non-affirming/affirming, or clear: non-affirming/affirming.

For someone like me, a queer Christian who still engages in non-denominational and evangelical circles, this project is a huge blessing because so many of us have said, “God, wouldn’t it be great if we had a database that was up to date and accurate?” Because so many of us have been burned by the ambiguity of a highly visible church who seems loving and accepting, but then, after months of investing time, energy, and even resources, we learn that we are unable to participate in certain ways because of our sexuality, gender identity, partnership, etc.

In my own experience with the church that I still go to, I was told by a pastor that I was wanted. Not just welcome, but wanted. And that for me felt like a green light. Despite there being no public policy, I trusted what my pastor told me. Only to have just weeks later, my volunteer position as a bible study leader taken away because me, a queer person in lay leadership, would be “church leadership making a statement we’re not ready to make yet.”

Even though there was no qualifications I needed to meet, no references I needed to provide, no application process to go through. I just had to say, “I want to serve.” At least that’s how it was, and is, for every other assumed straight, cisgender person.

That pain I had to go through, the embarrassment of having to tell my group that I couldn’t lead them anymore because our church couldn’t hold space for me, because they accidentally lied to me about what I was able to do as a queer person in a pseudo-progressive congregation… heartbreaking doesn’t begin to describe it.

And that all could have been avoided if their policies were known across the board. I could have saved myself the emotional labor of investing months of my time, energy, and my money I gave through tithing. Funny enough, I still go to this church, because I have hope that they can change for the better, but in the meantime, I wish they’d just be honest about who is actually welcome and able to participate.

Now, what’s interesting to me is that there are a lot of those well-meaning, “loving-but-not-affirming” (LBNA) Christians, and even some celibate Side-B Christians (Christians who are attracted to the same sex but believe in a traditional interpretation of scripture), who say that Church Clarity is akin to fundamentalism. Most notably, and most annoyingly, Preston Sprinkle:

 

Here’s the deal with all this: asking for what an organization’s policies are, be it a church or a corporate identity, is not fundamentalism. It’s asking people to tell the truth. And the Jesus I follow said that the truth would set you free. (And honestly, he needs to look up the definition of fundamentalism.)

And I get it, I really do. There are plenty LBNA Christians out there who are seeking to faithfully engage with the queer community as best they can while remaining faithful to their convictions. They are kind, nuanced, sensitive, and they understand that the discussion around sexuality and gender is much more complicated than what it has been historically been.

However, at the end of the day, LBNA Christians are still not affirming. There’s no way around that. And congregations that are LBNA are still not affirming. And trying to sweet talk your way into the hearts of vulnerable individuals, especially queer folks who are earnestly seeking to engage in faith communities, isn’t going to do anyone any good. People will get hurt. People are getting hurt! This isn’t theory. I have been the victim of ambiguous, pseudo-non-existant, LBNA stances. So have countless others.

Openly queer Christians are the ones who will bear the brunt of the emotional tax in that relationship. We are the ones who are being shut out. We are the ones who are getting limited in our participation. We are the ones who will go into spaces and ultimately be deceived by nice, well-meaning individuals who cannot or will not hold space for us and our beliefs surrounding gender and sexuality.

And, I argue, Side-B folks are not being erased. I’ve actually met a few Side-B Christians who are continually frustrated that there aren’t spaces that honor their path of celibacy, and have no space for them in their congregations. It’s either affirming spaces or non-affirming spaces who still believe that you can pray the gay away, and neither one of them is a fit for someone who needs a different kind of community to affirm and hold space for them.

My story is not uncommon. I know so many LGBTQ folks who have had the BAIT-and-switch done to them. They spend time investing in a space, creating meaningful relationships, developing love for people who also tell them in return that they love them, just to be wounded later.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again.

Telling someone you love them, only to continually hurt them is not a loving. It’s an abusive relationship. 

Telling someone you love then, then continually hurting them is not love. It's an abusive… Click To Tweet

The most loving thing a church can do when trying to minister to any community, especially the queer community, is to be clear about the policies they have surrounding our participation in their congregation. Will our marriages be honored? Our partnerships? Can we get baptized or receive the sacraments? Can we volunteer in ministry, on different service teams? Will you baptize our children? Are we going to be fully affirmed in our God-given identities or are we going to be limited in our participation?

It’s important to know up front because, again, we will bear the weight of a church’s inability to tell the truth. And I cannot tell you how incredibly painful it is to really love a group of people, to feel like you’ve found a a place to belong, only to be wounded and made to feel like a fool for believing that you might, for the first time, be treated just like everyone else.

Church Clarity is an excellent project. It’s giving some power and agency back to those of us who have had the wool pulled over our eyes, and providing us with a safer way to navigate our way back into church life.

So many folks, especially evangelicals, ESPECIALLY hipster non-denominational Christians, love to throw the word “Authenticity” around like confetti because it makes things feel safer or pretty or something. People are all about getting real.

Well, nothing is more real than an invitation to say what you really think, what you really do, what you really practice. So really, there’s nothing to be afraid of, right? Honestly, Church Clarity is giving churches an invitation that should be most welcome.

Those who really don’t like this project are afraid because, perhaps for the first time, they’ll be seen for who they actually are. And yeah, the truth is scary, but it really does set you free.

#ChurchClarity isn't fundamentalism. It's a step towards freedom. Click To Tweet

And also, if you want to get my thoughts exactly, here are two threads you can read (just click the links to see the full ones):

 

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  • I appreciate the idea of Church Clarity in theory and think this database can help a lot of people. But as a Side B Christian, I do feel erased. Forced to one side or the other with no room for my story in between. I’ve never appreciated the negative “non-affirming” label. Why not “traditional”? Way more of a neutral term if clarity above all else is indeed the goal here.

    CC is a starting point, but I do hope for more to come from this.

    • Of course. And I think it’s just that, a starting point. But it HAS to start because too many folks are getting hurt in the meantime.

  • Brant

    But what about all the churches that truly don’t know how they feel or what they believe? You can’t expect them to “tell the truth”. It would be like forcing churches to decide whether or not they “believe” in partial pretorism. Most of them have no idea. I think that’s what that guy is referencing when he says “more dialogue” because it is through discussion that people come to understand what their own views are. But I do agree it can be an easy way out if that’s what they want.

    • However, a church still needs to disclose that they don’t know what they believe, and push folks to figure it out. Not to mention, there is also a rating on Church Clarity for churches who are actively discerning what their policies should be surrounding LGBTQ folks.

      And honestly, we’re at a point in our history where most folks and most churches know what they believe. They just need to say it. Because in the meantime, marginalized folks are getting burned and being pushed away from Christian community because we don’t know if we have a place or not.

      And by the by, it’s “Preterism.”

      • Ellie Campbell Wilber

        And, if they are not sure, there are some basic yes or no questions to help:
        – can I get married here?
        – can I receive marriage or pre-marriage counseling here?
        – do you support trans individuals leaning into their identities?
        – can I participate at all levels of involvement here? (elder, deacon, sunday school teacher, nursery worker, etc.)

        I’m sure there are better questions, but those are some things I would want to know.

  • Thanks for this article. I hate Preston Sprinkle’s “bait-and-switch”. I bought and read two of his books on homosexuality (I don’t think he uses LGBTQ language) and they purport to offer a balanced debate on the role of LGBTQ people in the church, but always come down on the side of traditional marriage and celibacy for those unable or unwilling to marry someone of the opposite sex.