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It’s time for an honest dialogue.
The Summit has always, like from the very beginning, been a faith community that welcomes all people. We have two slogans to attest to this: “All are welcome at The Summit” and “Belong, Believe, Become.” We have worked hard to create a place where people feel like they belong to God and each other. If you’ve come to The Summit divorced, tattooed, or ________ (insert whatever counter-cultural trait you own), you’ve hopefully felt that big ol’ Summit welcome. We’ve even welcomed friends of all sexual orientation and gender orientation. But we haven’t had The Talk. You know, the one many denominations and churches have had or are having. The one where Christians talk about if “homosexuality is a sin,” which is a phrase we choose not to say again in this dialogue because it has been incredibly hurtful to gay Christians.
It all goes back to Free Hugs.
In 2018, a few of our Summit leaders decided to go to Blue Ridge Pride in Asheville and give out Free Hugs. The point was to show gay people that they are loved unconditionally by us as Christians and by God. We felt like that’s where Jesus would have been – hugging people who may have felt rejected by the church. Around 15 Summit members and friends ended up attending. Our leadership was blown away. We realized many of us wanted to love on LGBTQ friends, especially since our experience at Pride seemed to help heal their painful experience with Christians. We’ve given Free Hugs a couple more times and plan to do so at the new Sylva Pride this year on September 4 and at Blue Ridge Pride on September 25, so it’s time to have a talk.
What will our Free Hugs dialogue look like?
Your preaching staff has been researching and preparing a five-week sermon series presenting the biblical and theological framework for our study. Each week will be recorded so you can join us in person or listen later. We will also have two Rise Up Convos surrounding our Free Hugs dialogue. The first one on Sunday, August 19, will be only for our church family members who are struggling or have a lot of questions or concerns about moving away from a “traditional” view of biblical interpretation. The atmosphere will be safe and open to your questions, struggles, and thoughts. We know that many of us that grew up in church were taught a biblical sexual ethic that excludes same-sex relationships in God’s plan, and we want to make sure the August 19 dialogue is a safe space to unpack that view. Our second Rise Up Convo on Free Hugs will be Sunday, September 12, and will be for our church family members who are either already affirming of same-sex relationships or who are almost there.
This is what we ask of you, Summit church family member:
- Join the dialogue. Please don’t get mad and leave. We’re calling it a dialogue because your background and experience and thoughts matter. If you’d like a private conversation, contact Steve or Tracie. We would love to chat with you.
- Pick up our recommended reading – “God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationship” by Matthew Vines. Matthew is a gay man who is also an evangelical, which means he has a very high view of Scripture. He has taken research on this topic seriously. You can read this book on your own or in your small group. Other recommended readings are “Changing Our Mind” by David Gushee and “Torn: Rescuing the Gospels from the Gays vs. Christians Debate” by Justin Lee.
- Come to the Rise Up Convo that fits you at the time. The August 19 dialogue for those with a traditional view and the September 12 dialogue for those with an affirming stance will both be a safe space for your questions, concerns, and thoughts. They will both be from 5 – 7 p.m. and will include dinner and childcare. In these dialogues, we will focus on what you’re hearing and learning in the sermons and what you’ve read in “God and the Gay Christian” by Matthew Vines. We cannot emphasize enough how important these Rise Up Convos are to us and to our dialogue.
- If you’re ready, plan to be a part of The Summit’s activities that encourage reconciliation and healing. We’ll be at Sylva Pride on Saturday, September 4. Amanda is organizing our part in this event as a church that welcomes all, so be on the look-out for more info about how you can get involved…if you’re ready. We will also have a Safe Zone training on Sunday, October 3, for those interested in becoming allies to the LGBTQ community, and we’ll be taking a group to give free hugs at Blue Ridge Pride on Saturday, September 25.
Our goal is simple: we hope that through this series we will begin to see that there is a way to affirm our LGBTQ friends through the lens of Scripture, through experience, and most importantly by the Spirit of Jesus. We believe that the Summit will come to an even richer understanding of God’s inclusive love! We know that The Summit is a loving and welcoming church family, and that you love God and neighbor. That is what truly excites us as we move ahead into the conversation. We realize that those of you coming from a traditional interpretation of scripture on this topic may have a hard time thinking outside that understanding. No matter where you stand at the end of this sermon series and the Rise Up convos, YOU ARE STILL WELCOME AT THE SUMMIT. There is a place for everyone here as we continue to move towards understanding the inclusive nature of God’s love.
God’s arms are big enough to include all of us.
We are so excited to go on this journey together, and we need all of us. It’s a journey of love, hospitality, and inclusion, because none of us really deserve God’s love or grace. But we all still receive it – equally. Kinda like a big, free hug…
Free Hugs Sermon Series
August 22 // Tracie
Walk a Mile in My Shoes: How the Church has Failed Gay Christians
August 29 // Steve
Twisted Scripture: An Interview, A Signature, and The Law (Old Testament)
September 5 // Steve
Twisted Scripture: Can We Know What Paul Really Meant? (New Testament)
September 12 // Jim P.
Matthew 18:6 and the Scapegoat
September 19 // Tracie
The Image of God: So……Is God Male or Female or Both?
Recommended Reading List
Everyone – “God and the Gay Christian” by Matthew Vines (a gay male Evangelical Christian) – our Rise Up Convos will focus on what we’ve learned from this book
Those coming from a traditional view of human sexuality – “Changing Our Minds” by David Gushee (a straight male Christian professor)
Those who want to hear from another first person account – “Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate” by Justin Lee (a gay male Christian)