3,508 churches by the end of 2004, an increase of 483 churches. In three years time, God has opened up almost as many church doors to the gay and lesbian community as had been opened in the previous thirty years combined. This has occurred during some of the worst anti-gay sentiment we have seen since the inception of the gay Christian movement some thirty odd years ago.
By Elaine, January 2005
I am a numbers kind of person. For years I ran a software company and designed software for some of the most complex business environments in the world. My college background focused primarily on the linear thinking of computer science and accounting. It wasn’t until later that I realized my real ‘gift’ wasn’t with the technical details of the thing. But with seeing the ‘big’ picture and recognizing the inner beauty, symmetry and pattern in even the most complex environments. That’s what made me a good software designer– not in my technical ability, but my ability to see the underlying pattern of a thing.
God has turned the page on that portion of my life. Today I work on, among other things, the web site gaychurch.org. Part of the ministry of this web site is to provide an all encompassing, world-wide directory of all the Christian churches who have opened their door to the gay and lesbian community.
This directory has been an immense task to say the least. Now the directory is updated on an almost daily basis but the real make over occurs once a year. During that time, I scour every known pro-gay church denominational and Non-denominational directory out there for any new listings (for a look at where some of the information comes from go here). New churches are emailed, church information is updated and some churches are deleted (because they’ve closed their doors, they’ve merged with another church or they no longer want to be known as a gay welcoming congregation). What used to take about a month of full-time work has now grown to over a three month endeavor! Wow…
For months, I was so buried in the details that I didn’t have time to pick my head up and see what God had been doing over the last few years. It wasn’t until I finished that the results started jumping off of the page at me. As I said earlier, I’m a numbers kind of person and these numbers stood up and demanded some attention.
You see, ever since the gay Christian movement started up some thirty odd years ago with Troy Perry and MCC. The churches have labored forth and produced many good works, opening up doors to the gay community where none existed before. When I started pastoring some 15 some odd years ago (yes I pastored and ran a software company at the same time – just a glutton for work I guess) there were approx. 1,000 churches in existence. Back in 1990 when Faith Full Gospel Fellowship was formed we thought we were the only non MCC church in existence on the planet earth! We were wrong.
Slowly but surely we found and fellowshipped with another church in San Francisco (Freedom in Christ), a church in San Jose (Hosanna now known as Celebration of Faith) and MCC of Sacramento. We later found out there were five pro-gay Christian groups out there. TEN, Advance (now known as the Alliance), MCC, Dignity and Dr. Blair’s group Evangelicals Concerned. I praise the Lord for the work these groups did in opening up churches were none existed before. Now turn the page forward several years…
Before I ever launched gaychurch.org I knew that one of the primary missions of the web site was to provide an all encompassing church directory. In preparation of this event a friend and I started searching for every known gay friendly church in existence. My years in ministry had already given me numerous contacts but I knew these only scratched the surface. I was right, and within a year we had compiled a church directory of some 2,500 plus churches. Before publishing the list a little over a year ago, I went through the list again and found it now numbered over 3,000 churches.
Now the church directory stands at over 3,500 churches. This number is even more impressive when you figure that the list was over 4,000 churches before I started the very time consuming task of weeding out all of the duplicate entries, closed churches and churches that no longer wanted to be known as a welcoming congregation. This job was made easier by the fact that only a year or so ago barely a third of the churches had web sites or even email addresses. This year has seen an explosion of online information and so it was my opportunity to contact all of these ‘missing information’ churches and confirm that they were truly welcoming.
With this additional work, I was able to pare the list down from 4,000 churches to 3,500 churches. Thankfully few of these 500 churches turned out to be non welcoming churches. Many were duplicate entries, some had gone out of existence or had merged with other churches that were already on our list.
OK – now for the ‘big’ picture part of this story. Figuring that these 500 deleted churches were erroneous entries in the first church directory, that leaves us with approx. 2,000 churches three years ago. Today the list stands at over 3,500 churches. That’s a 1,500 church increase in three years time. Let these numbers sink in for a moment. Now consider that the social, political and religious environment is about as bad as I’ve ever seen it. Anti-gay sentiment is running rampant and most of the religious denominations and institutions support this bias. After the past presidential election in the United States it seemed like we had everyone and everything working against us, at least in the United States.
Yet in spite of one of the most hostile of climates we’ve ever seen there has been astronomical 75% increase in the number of gay “welcoming” congregations around the world! Think about it! In the last three years, God has opened almost as many doors to the gay Christian community as had been opened in the thirty some odd years since Troy Perry stepped out in faith to start the first gay “welcoming” congregation. Put it another way. God has done in three years, what it took us thirty proceeding years to do. Selah.