‘World first’ as Pentecostals welcome gays
Written by Peter Hackney
Wednesday, 28 October 2009 11:05
In what’s believed to be a world first, a pastor from a Pentecostal Christian church has issued a call for acceptance of GLBT people, and unequivocally invited queer people to join his congregation.
Pastor Rob Buckingham of the Christian City Church, also known as the C3 Church, issued the call during his weekly sermon on Sunday.
Buckingham is Senior Pastor of Melbourne’s Bayside C3 Church, which has three locations in Melbourne (Cheltenham, Frankston and South Melbourne) and a combined congregation of several thousand.
In the ground-breaking sermon delivered by Buckingham, the pastor said that real Christianity was accepting, and that people – not God – were anti-gay.
“Often the church is viewed as anti-homosexual,” he said. “Real Christianity is accepting … God is not presenting the attitudes sometimes presented by Christians and by the church.”
Referring to research published in the landmark book unChristian, by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, Buckingham said the church’s stance on homosexuality was its number one problem today.
“Christians’ criticism of gay people doesn’t just drive a wedge between the church and the gay community. Many [heterosexuals] in our community are not anti-gay, so when they hear an anti-gay message coming from the church it actually drives a wedge between Christianity and them as well.”
Buckingham went on to say that Bible stories were being erroneously presented as anti-gay. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah did not concern homosexuals, he said, but rather people who were “overfed, unconcerned, lazy, had lots of resources” and refused to help the poor and needy.
Speaking to SX after his sermon, Buckingham – a married heterosexual with three children – said he had broken with Pentecostal tradition because he firmly believed that GLBT people had a place in his church.
“This is simply something that we feel strongly about,” he told SX. “We believe that God loves everyone and that he sent his son Jesus to bring salvation to all … Bayside Church welcomes GLBT people to find God’s love and grace and to worship him freely within our community.”
Anthony Venn-Brown, convenor of Freedom 2 B[e] – a support group for queer people from Pentecostal, Evangelical and Charismatic Christian backgrounds – said Buckingham’s stance was “very significant because Pentecostalism is traditionally quite conservative”.
But he said it also represented changes that had already occurred within the denomination.
“More than half of the Pentecostals anonymously polled in the Australian Church Life Survey [in 2004] said ‘yes’ when asked if homosexuals should be accepted as members of the church on the same basis as heterosexuals,” he said.
It remains unclear whether Buckingham’s views are shared by others in the C3 hierarchy.
A spokesperson from the church’s main Australian campus at Oxford Falls, Sydney was unable to provide a statement to SX by press time.
Buckingham told SX he did not “in any way speak for Christian City Church on this issue”.