‘You are welcome here’ is not a phrase GLBT people have come to expect from organised Christianity.
However, a progressive minister at Melbourne’s Pentecostal Bayside Church received a standing ovation earlier this month for preaching just that in a special sermon on how the church should embrace GLBT people.
Bayside Church pastor Rob Buckingham said he wants to “shatter” preconceived ideas that religion must be inherently homophobic.
“I believe the Christian message is for everyone and it breaks my heart that some sections of the church have left people out and even shunned them,” Buckingham told Southern Star.
Based in Cheltenham, Bayside Church is thought to have taken the most prominent stand to date on GLBT acceptance in the worldwide Pentecostal movement.
“I said [GLBT] people were welcome to be with us on this, or any, occasion.  At that point the whole congregation applauded,” Buckingham said.
The pioneering pastor has since received an outpouring of support from church-goers and the GLBT community both in Australia and internationally.
“Some of the stories are heartbreaking and I have been in tears a few times this week reading them,” he said.
Buckingham agreed many parts of the Bible are selectively taken literally when it comes to homosexuality.
“I think it’s time we took a closer look at all the Scriptures relating to homosexuality and, at least, stop bashing gay people with the same verses in the Bible,” he said.
“So much of the Bible speaks of the love and grace of God towards everyone. Why not focus on this?”
Buckingham, who lives with his wife Christie and their three daughters, said both the GLBT community and the church need to form some kind of truce to move forward.
“It’s easy to keep our distance and shoot at each other. I am asking people to stop firing and get to know each other.”
GLBT Christian online network, Freedom2b[e], founder Anthony Venn-Brown said the message was “historic”.
“To have a heterosexual, Pentecostal, megachurch pastor get up in front of the congregation and say the things he said and then for the church to give him a standing ovation, I don’t think that’s happened anywhere in the world,” Venn-Brown said.
“This is not about ‘Yes, you can come and find Jesus and we’ll make you heterosexual’. You’re welcome as you are, without an agenda.”

© Star Observer 2022 | For the latest in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, be sure to visit starobserver.com.au daily. You can also read our latest magazines or Join us on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.