Come as you are....but discover who God made you to be
The Telegraph reports that The Rev Richard Coles is retiring because, “the Church of England increasingly” excludes” same sex couples.
I would like to challenge what he means by “excludes”, because this word is often brandished as a weapon against churches who do not “exclude”, but who simply teach a sexual ethic that may not be palatable to some. And that is the heart of the matter here, what the Rev Coles, and other liberals seem to define as inclusion, is a Church that says, come as you are and stay as you are. Whereas in reality the message which is being given in the churches which are growing is, come as you are, but discover who God made you to be and allow his transforming love to change you.
I am one of those people who started attending church as an adult, actually terrified of judgment, yet convinced that I could find a way to follow Jesus and continue in a same sex relationship. I came as I was, but God had different and better plans for my life and everything changed for me. I was welcomed into a church which included both conservative and liberal Christians, and there I was given space by both sides to discover who God said I was. I didn’t approach my search for faith from the perspective of, “you have to accept me, you have to give me equal status, you have to respect my identity.” Rather I came at it from the perspective of, “if I want to follow Jesus, I want to know what he says and what he expects of me.” I came to realise that not all behaviours are profitable, I gave up my same sex attraction (SSA) because I wanted Jesus more.
I call on all those who experience SSA, and who are exploring faith, to lay aside the hurts and offence of the past, forgiving those churches who got it wrong, and come and seek God. Ask Him what he thinks about you, and what he offers you and you will be blown away by his answer.
You may not be ready to open up your sexuality to God, and like I did, you may start your faith journey adamant that it won’t change your identity. But even when we come at it with preconceived ideas, Jesus can change us. For example I know a lady who started this faith journey saying that her marriage to her wife was non-negotiable. No one in the church challenged her on that, they just helped her come to know Jesus, and after a few months she made a commitment to start living a celibate life because she had received the conviction of the Holy Spirit. She is not alone, there are many other stories of God’s transforming love changing people, but we have to be open to learn, willing to put in time ourselves to get to know God and his word, willing to sacrifice if needed and to surrender our wants for what God wants for our lives.
There are many excellent churches which offer a vibrant and genuine welcome. Judging that welcome by whether they embrace you, or give you a position of influence whilst encouraging you to stay as you are, is somewhat short sighted in the bigger scheme of eternity. If you are truly exploring faith I encourage you to put your own identity to one side, seek Jesus with an open and receptive heart and I promise you will fall in love with him. And once you’ve fallen in love with him, the rest as they say is history…come as you are, but don’t be stubborn and choose to stay there when God has so much more for you.