Six Ways Churches Can Be Safe for LGBTQIA+ Folks

Happy, beautiful, wonderful Pride Month! Oh do we ever love our LGBTQIA+ beloveds in this community! You have made this space infinitely better. We celebrate you this month and every month for infinity. 

Lotta words being written this month about Pride, so I thought for some time about what I could add (besides “I LOVE YOOUUUUUUUUUUUU SO MUCH!!!!!!” which while true might not be particularly useful).

I find myself located at the specific intersection of LGBTQIA+ affirmation and the church. What a simple space! What could go wrong?? Zero head-on collisions here (sic). 

So I’m whittling down this writing to a very narrow demo: Tons of the queer community don’t go to church anymore because it has been so reliably unsafe. Also a bunch of churches are definitively uninterested in being allies and have made that clear. So I suppose I am writing to queer folks who still treasure church (or want to) and churches who still treasure queer folks (or want to).

There are tons of ways to make your church safer for the LGBTQIA+ community, but I think these six are a great start, beginning with the lowest common denominator and moving up in rainbows.

1. Please do not make the grave mistake of assuming everyone in the sanctuary is “us” and the gays are “them” somewhere else in the city.

Every word spoken about the community is heard by the gay people already in the room. Oh yes, sirs. The closeted gay adults, the choir director, the quiet gay couples, the “fabulous roommates,” the inwardly tormented, and maybe most importantly, the gay kids trying to figure out if their spiritual leaders love them as they are or think they are doomed to celibacy or damnation.

Church isn’t an insider club for straights where exclusive language and ideas are agreed upon. You have fragile hearts right there on row nine. I will waste no ink debating that condemnation is “loving,” so you can miss me with that nonsense. Your sanctuary is loaded with gay kids and adults, both out and not, and people who love them. Every word is already registering.

2. Please be clear about your theology.

It is actually BETTER to be non-affirming and crystal clear than non-affirming and ambiguous. The “we welcome all” banner tricks gay folks into thinking they are safe, then they find out later they can’t serve, lead, teach, volunteer, oversee, or mentor. My inbox is flooded with people whose hearts were broken by their “welcoming” churches and later barred from active participation because they were queer. 

If gays can’t lead and serve and are considered “in sin” by church policy, then at least let them know up front. This should be abundantly clear on your website under your beliefs. At that point, it is their choice to stay in that environment if they want to. But please do not soft-sell your theology when it is the source of LGBTQIA+ suicidal ideation, self-hatred, self-harm, and internalized shame. Belonging is too powerful to handle carelessly, and pretending a church is safe when it isn’t is not just cruel, it is dangerous. These dear bodies and souls and hearts deserve better.  

3. If your church is in that disruptive season of reexamining your doctrine around sexuality — if the cognitive dissonance is becoming unmanageable — first of all, WELCOME. You are so not alone.

We know more than ever before about sexuality, biology, and — thanks to a wider circle of scholars including women and people of color — theology. You don’t have to find “a work-around” to change your doctrine. Brilliant theologians have gifted us with an affirming hermeneutic that places theology, science, and faithfulness in wonderful alignment. 

Keep reading. Keep talking. Invite as many LGBTQIA+ folks into the conversation as possible. Call other pastors who’ve led their churches toward allyship. Follow leaders who have gone ahead of you. You can protect the queer community or the religious status quo, but not both. Please note: Be ready and willing to suffer disruption over this. You will lose some things, and it is still worth it. As someone who hit that crossroad too, I can promise: You will never regret becoming an ally and making your church safe. You will only regret taking so long to get there. It is stunning on the other side. Doing the right thing feels so right. 

4. This is such an obvious thing to say, but your queer church folk should be everywhere.

They should be on the stage, making announcements, volunteering in the nursery, preaching, leading worship, supervising rowdy teenagers at youth camp (God help them), leading Bible studies, serving on committees, on the board, on your website. Representation matters so much in the church world. 

But LGBTQIA+ people aren’t tokens or photo ops. They are beloved, gifted, ordinary people just like everyone else and our churches are so much the lesser without their investment. Just like the barren days when women were barred from meaningful church leadership, we are operating at half-mast when the only acceptable gift from queer people is their tithe money. The church needs the fullness of who they are. Gay people should get to be sick of leading the church just like the straights!

5. Preach it.

Representation and full inclusion and affirming policies are monumental, but it is the most healing, empowering thing to hear it from the pulpit on Sunday morning. Preach about the scriptures, preach about exegesis, preach about relationships and love and bodies and science and repentance toward the gay community for abusing them. Hand the microphone to your queer members and let them tell the story. This matters for a million reasons, but see #1: Little gay ears are listening. Every word is indeed registering but for good

Christians are looking for spiritual language and faithful interpretations to create safety in their own homes, workplaces, and families. By preaching affirming theology, you are equipping your entire little flock to become better allies, safer parents, braver leaders, and smarter collaborators. This is leadership. This is discipleship. This is what it means to build the kingdom of God.

6. Go to them.

You can rightly understand why some queer people wouldn’t dare subject themselves to church; why seek out spiritual abuse? But beloved people made in the image of God still crave their namesake. Take your little church to the Pride Parade. March with your big gay rainbow banner. Wear your “Free Pastor Hugs” and “Free Mom Hugs” shirts and throw your arms around as many bodies as you can. 

Love and support the queer people already in your town. Go to their book signings, restaurants, stores, salons, concerts, plays, bars, shops, parties. Support them with your dollars and presence and endorsements. Brag about their work on social media. Leave stunning reviews. Buy their products. Support their businesses. Love their families. Just be a normal, good neighbor. Your life will be infinitely better for knowing them. Sometimes church looks like a 35% tip and a note to the boss praising good service. 

Put your little rainbow flag outside your church as a talisman of safety so the LGBTQIA+ community will know if they want church, they will not only be welcomed but cherished, honored, and deeply included like they always should have been. I see a safer church for the queer community coming, and what a beauty she will be. 

In the meantime, not that you need to hear this from anyone, but let me say to my LGBTQIA+ sibs: You are just oh so lovely and loved by God and exactly right. At no point was your worth a question mark to the heavens. Are we really going to believe that the same God who gave us mountains and tulips and music and sex didn’t also give us GAY PEOPLE?? Come on now. That is just being obtuse. He went about making this world gorgeous and his handiwork is evident. Thank you for the million ways you have made my life better. I love you so dearly. God loves you so dearly. I want the church to love you so dearly too, and I believe she is on her way. 

Happy Pride, beloveds! 


I am honored to share this free webinar with you. I think it will be transformative to you and your family’s journey.

I am joined by iAmClinic founder Isaac Archuleta, LPC (he/they) and we are answering some of the most common questions about raising LGBTQIA+ kiddos.

This webinar is only a small glimpse into my on-demand Me Course: “Parenting LGBTQIA+ Tweens & Teens,” where I am joined by Isaac along with Free Mom Hugs founder Sara Cunningham. You can save 50% with code PRIDE through June 30, 2024 when you register here.

FOR THE LOVE PODCAST: A Moment of Pride: On Being Gay, Christian, and Loved with Sydney Hatmaker

In a profoundly moving encore episode, I am sharing the story of interviewing my beloved daughter, Sydney. This is raw and real, as she vulnerably shares her journey of accepting herself as gay while still holding onto her faith.

This episode has been an incredible force, sparking deep discussions around LGBTQIA+ issues and Christianity in our community.

From mending broken family relationships to causing church leaders to reevaluate their approach, and more,  it is a beautiful reminder that embracing authenticity allows people to flourish.

Listen here.