My church, as many of you know, is what's known in church circles as "gay-friendly;" that is, we consider homosexuality - like heterosexuality - to be a part of God's very own creation and therefore good (as God has decreed all creation).
You may not be aware of it, but there actually are a lot of gay-friendly churches and gay-friendly Christians.
The fundamental theological reason is that God's love has no strings attached (the Bible repeatedly tells us it's "steadfast and endures forever").
Consequently, if we are to strive to be holy, as God is holy, then everybody in our holy churches deserves to be loved. Period.
So, in a whole bunch of churches, all are welcomed just as they were made by God. Honest straights and LGBT (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders) are welcomed as equal human beings into the fold of the community.
This broad, open loving embrace seems odd to many, since Christianity has this bad rap around the nation of being anti-gay; but not all churches are anti-gay. We are not.
What's weird is that you may have only just learned this fact by reading it here in the Hometown News.
Of course, some people attempt to demean churches that make the effort to knock down cultural barriers to be as inclusive as Jesus and the early church were (not one person was turned away by Jesus for they way they were born and created by God).
Some claim gay-friendly churches, like ours, are sinning or even non-Christian because we actually follow Jesus' commandments to love all our neighbors and to treat them as we would want to be treated.
Oddly, some also try and paint gay-friendly churches as being gay-only churches, creating the false impression that we somehow exclude non-gays. It's odd because as anyone who has visited a "gay-friendly" church can tell you they exclude no one. The wide embrace is Christ's and we extend it to all.
At our particular gay-friendly church, we are, in fact, a happy mix of straights, LGBT, elders, middle-aged, young adults, families, veterans, disabled, white, black, brown and even an atheist, or two.
We are not just gay-friendly; but rather everyone-friendly as Christ was (after all we are the body of Christ).
Anyone - ANYONE - who wants to come to our church can - just as they are.
If they want to celebrate the Eucharist they can, too - just as they are.
See, we are what our denomination, the United Church of Christ, calls an "open and affirming" church. We are open to all, and we actively affirm that all are welcome. And we really mean it.
My point is that, notwithstanding, what you read or hear in the media or on the streets, or even from other Christians, not all Christians are anti-gay, and no "gay-friendly" church is exclusive of non-gays.
So those of you who are staying away from church because you've heard Christians are all anti-gay, look around find a church that's "gay-friendly" and get thee to it. Check it out.
Straight or gay - or anyone else God has created - you'll be welcomed there with open loving arms. I promise.
And once you get there, you can help transform the world to a better place for all by being a part of, and supporting, love of all neighbors and the treatment of each as you would want to be treated in a community striving to be holy as God is holy.
The Rev. Scott Elliott is the pastor at Riviera United Church of Christ in Palm Bay. Visit Riviera UCC's website at rivieraucc.org. and his vlog at www.youtube.com/AgodVlog.