Christianity as a whole needs to re-evaluate its stance about different lifestyles in order to accommodate vulnerable LGBTQ youths, former pastor Stan Mitchell told a group of Tech students and staff on Oct. 10.
Mitchell, who resigned earlier this month as pastor of GracePointe Church in Franklin, spoke during Wake Up Wednesday to about 20 people at Newhall North.
He provides spiritual counseling to LGBTQ people who feel isolated, alienated and potentially suicidal.
Mitchell said he believes people have misinterpreted the Bible in the past. He believes Christians should reinterpret it to find messages of inclusivity.
“Our history is replete with a long litany of moments when the church has been driven back to the text, only to realize that we had not read it properly, fully or faithfully,” Mitchell said. “God didn’t change God’s mind on slavery between the 13thand 19thcentury. The text didn’t change.”
Mitchell said Christianity should evolve, meaning that new generations and new experiences shape interpretation of the text.
“Whether it’s Copernicus and Galileo and Kepler, whether it’s slavery, whether it’s the abuse of women, ultimately these incarnational experiences are supposed to drive us back to the text, asking ourselves ‘did we read this right’,” Mitchell said. “The church has a long history of those infamous moments where we have said to ourselves ‘Oh my God, we were devastatingly wrong’. And we end up making bronze statues and doing this big mea culpa for people that we literally burned at the stake 300 years before.”
In 2012, Mitchell said he faced criticism from the church leadership and his then-wife for promoting the inclusion of LGBTQ people in the church.
He performed a wedding for his first same-sex couple in 2014.
“There really comes a point in that conscience of a minister where it’s not about paying the bills anymore, and it’s not about maintaining your ordination, it comes down to simply ‘Can I say no to these human beings?’” Mitchell said.
The decision caused a rift among GracePointe’s congregation who dropped from 2,500 members to 300, he said.
The decline forced Mitchell and the remaining leaders to merge GracePointe’s congregation with West Nashville United Methodist Church.
The change helped increase membership, he said.
“What’s lost is nothing compared to what’s found,” Mitchell said.