Gay Christians meet with Rev. Bill Hybels and others at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington by Robert Mitchum and Manya Brachear
"They listened, they ate with us, when a lot of churches struggle to show hospitality to these groups," he said. Betty Schmidt, an elder at Willow Creek, described Willow as a hospitable congregation, even though the church does not accept gay and lesbian members who don't stay celibate."It's a very warm and welcoming atmosphere," she said. "It would certainly be my experience that we would never single out or identify or discriminate against anyone." Schmidt said she feels strongly that people do not choose to be gay, and many in the Soulforce group said they were happy to hear similar sentiments from several church leaders Sunday.But others said such influential churches as WillowCreek could do more to adjust their views on homosexuality and treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families.
Willow Creek Welcomes Gay Rights Advocates by Manya Brachear
Betty Schmidt, a longtime elder at Willow Creek, said pastors there simplify the argument by pointing to only one verse, Genesis 2:24: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."
“Traditionally Christians have founded their basis for human expression for sexuality ... going back to that model,” she said. “That is not a stretch for anyone who adheres to God’s word.”
Willow Creek offers two ministries for gays and lesbians. "A Safe Place" caters to those who are “struggling with same sex attraction” and wish to remain celibate to honor what they believe Scripture teaches. "Someone I Love" counsels families who are grappling with how to accept a gay relative.
Though Willow's Web site offers links to clinics that profess they can alter sexual orientation, Schmidt said that is not the church's mission. If a gay or lesbian Christian wants to join Willow, they must believe that same-sex behavior is a sin and try to remain celibate. The same is true for anyone who might be engaging in sinful behavior, Schmidt said.
"We’re very … welcoming of anyone who comes to the church and is seeking and struggling with whatever it is," Schmidt said. "There’s help in God’s word and help in community and linking up with other Christians.”