So what's so important about this message and why am I mentioning it? Well, it was the first time to my knowledge that Brian has publicly acknowledged the harm that can come to gay and lesbian youth from a negative experience with church and the first time that Brian suggested that gay and lesbian people may actually be welcome in the church as they are. This is big news and a step forward!!
I have transcribed the part of the 'Scandal of Grace' message below (from 35mins in) where Brian speaks about 'the gay situation'. You can read this below:
"The one elephant in the room for churches around the world at the moment is the gay situation. What would Jesus do? What would Jesus do? You need to pray for church pastors and leaders around the world because which ever way you turn the scandal is there. You can turn one way and you can tell there would be a great scandal amongst the Christian Church. You can turn another way and you would just cut off so many people. There's lots of hatred out there but in the middle of it all you know there are three things: the world of the times we live in; the weight we live with; and the word we live by.
Think about that! The world has changed quickly. The world has changed and so I'm not saying that the church ever should be ruled by the way of the world but the reality is we are in a world which is changing fast. Here in Great Britain the laws have passed. The world is changing. We've got the world we live in to consider. We've got the weight we live with. You say what's that? Well it's the weight when a young person growing up in a church feels like they are confused in their sexuality. They feel like "maybe I'm gay" and they go to a youth leader and they are rejected. At that moment a great hatred comes in. At that moment some of them have gone so far with the rejection and gone to parents who didn't understand and ended up committing suicide - That's the weight we live with.
There's the world we live in. There's the weight we live with and there's the word we live by. And they don't all necessary align. With the word we live by, many people have various convictions. In the middle of it all know that Jesus when it comes to people would let nothing stop Him from breaking through a divide to help hurting, broken, everyday normal people like you and I. It's scandalous. Scandalous"
If you are like me then you are encouraged to hear Brian's message and hear him speak about gay and lesbian people as human beings who have a difficult time in the church and how the church needs to do better. But it's also important to listen carefully to what was said and what wasn't.
What Brian didn't say:
Brian really didn't share much of his own viewpoint or that of the church's during this message. In the limited time he spoke about 'the gay situation' he chooses his words very carefully, presumably so as not to offend or hurt anyone. Brian acknowledged that the world is changing to support gay and lesbian people (with changes such as marriage equality in many countries) without saying that he or the church supports or opposes these changes. He mentions the difficulty faced by the church and the need to pray for churches, pastors and leaders but doesn't say what the church should do. Brian also doesn't say whether or not he believes you can be gay and Christian nor does he apologise to gay and lesbian people who have had negative experiences or been directly hurt by Hillsong church. I guess you could say that Brian is sitting on the fence?!.
Where Brian Houston and I share common ground:I will give Brian credit for saying that there is no divide that Jesus can't get through. Jesus would want his gospel preached to all people, including those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. It's just a shame that Hillsong isn't doing more to reach them. But then again....as gay Christians that is our job. We are the best people to reach our community with the good news of Jesus Christ and we don't have to worry about offending people. We can just get on with the task at hand.
A word of encouragement:For those gay Christians still at Hillsong I want to encourage you to keep being yourself at church and to keep sharing your story with anyone who will listen. Give your pastors and leaders grace and patience but also keep them accountable.
For those gay Christians at other churches and those currently not in church, I want to encourage you to keep spreading the good news of Jesus Christ with our community. Let this message be an encouragement that our God deeply cares about all people no matter what their sexual orientation. Lets keep sharing about why we kept our faith and connecting people with churches and communities that are safe and affirming.
For straight Christians, I want to encourage you and ask that you do more to welcome and include gay and lesbian people at your church. Many of us still face discrimination, hurt and abuse from Christians and churches. Look for ways in which you can show love or stand in the gap. Be like Jesus!
Ben Gresham (2013)