Recognizing the need to “agree to disagree” on certain Biblical issues is the basic foundation for what defines the idea of a “Third-Way” church. It is an attempt to keep the Christian church from bitterly dividing on issues like same-sex relationships.
Third-Way churches do not encourage people to decide for themselves to stand with either Side A) God not accepting same-sex relationships, or Side B) God accepting same-sex relationships, but to always “err on the side of love and inclusion” as said by Third-Way Pastor Ken Wilson. It is the way that brings two opposing sides together to work in harmony.
Maybe some of you have heard of “Open and Affirming” churches and wonder how they are the same as or different from Third-Way churches. “Open and Affirming” churches are entirely based on a Side A point of view of the same-sex relationship debate.
Though I myself have not yet visited an “Open and Affirming” church, I have heard from Side A Christians that it does not resemble the kind of place of worship that they can grow their faith in. Scripture is hardly used or referenced, no doubt because Side A Christians—both LGBTQA and straight/cis-gender—have grown averse to the Bible after being beaten down with it far too many times. The same verses are brought up again and again, questioning Side A Christians’ authenticity and asking why they turn “blind eyes” to what seems to be Biblically absolute.
If Christians who feel orientations and relationships are not sins can’t attend “Open and Affirming” churches, how much harder it is for those identifying as Side B? These churches teach that those who are of other orientations have been called to celibacy. These people might have blended in easier just as a “single person” in their congregation, but many of these churches teach that non-straight orientations without relationships are also sinful. Where can these people go to grow in their faith and not have to stifle who they are?
What I feel is one important concept that makes a good Third-Way church is when they can receive all with open arms and yet not make LGBTQA issues—or other Biblical controversies—the center of their services. People need to be supportive of one another and yet not make one facet of their life their entire identity.
Continuing the mindset of “Us vs. Them” in any debate only alienates one party from the other and creates further division. We need to come together in true, open love from all sides if the church is going to grow with its LGBTQA Christian brothers and sisters.
While some things are important to address, and values must be reiterated from time to time, I believe that if people want to pull themselves together the mentality of “Us vs. Them” must be reworked to recognize that there is only an “Us.” There should be no calling each other out as different- we need to realize that in being human, we are truly all the same.