A friend of mine from church took a job five hours from here and moved his family out of the city just before City Church of Long Beach started our LGBTQ Study Team. He was so glad to get out just in time. I can relate. It was a hard two years.
Out of the blue he wrote me a long email this week. It captures so much of the process for us as a church and how good our journey has been. Not easy, but good.
I thought I’d share it with you as well, so here it is.
I was just flipping through the church website for the first time in a while and scrolled across your “letter to the church” video about the wrap up of the LGBTQ discussions you have been having. That focus began shortly after we moved out of town and stopped attending on a weekly basis so we have largely been spared from the divisiveness that I know this conversation created.
My first reaction when I heard what City Church of Long Beach was doing was a relief that I was not going there and that I didn’t have to address that type of conflict head on with a lot of people I love. My heart has always been torn on that issue as I was always raised very traditionally and to take the Bible at face value in many ways; but my heart has always felt that the way the LGBTQ community is treated by the church is wrong.
At the same time, I can’t say I really know or am friends or acquaintances with anyone in that community either. I really don’t feel comfortable around openly LGBTQ people and I wish that weren’t the case. I still don’t really know which side of the fence I find myself on with LGBTQ morality issues, but I do know I fully agree with what City Church came to – that all ought to be welcomed and included.
“I realize that while we were spared the divisiveness, we also missed out on a great opportunity to learn and grow.”
After watching your video, I realize that while we were spared the divisiveness, we also missed out on a great opportunity to learn and grow. When we keep ourselves protected from difficult things, we may not hurt, but we certainly don’t allow ourselves to grow. We don’t grow by relying to on the habits or the traditions or the things that we feel we have figured out in our lives… we grow by realizing that all we have learned needs to be broken apart as God calls us to new uncomfortable places. As God calls us alongside him in his mission, then that completely destroys the lives we want to live… even the lives that we think we are living as “good Christians.”
Bill, you are a fantastic example of what that looks like to me and to everyone around you. While I know you are flawed and have your struggles like the rest of us, you clearly allow yourself to be molded by what God is calling you to do, even when that means embarrassment, judgement, frustration, and probably even some hate from those around you… from those who you considered friends. I obviously don’t know all that pain that has happened in City Church over the recent years, but I can imagine there were plenty of moments where everyone in leadership questioned whether or not they were on the right path. I am incredible thankful that the team continued on and saw these tough conversations to some form of completion (not that any potentially divisive issue is ever brought to completion.)
I just wanted to say that I truly miss you and although we have found a wonderful church home here, I still miss and long to be a part of CCLB. Thank you for your daily devotions. Thank you for being different than other pastors. Thank you for your leadership.
I wish we were still close enough for an impromptu game of Dominion!
God bless you,