Who are we to judge?

By Andy Balaskovitz

Happy Easter from City Pulse — may you find a place of worship that doesn’t view your sexual orientation as a sin

If you thought “open” places of worship and “affirming” places of worship for the LGBT community is simply a matter of word choice, guess again. It is the difference between one religious organization defining your sexual orientation as a sin versus wholly acceptable.

But what appears to be a nuance reflects the complicated dynamic between religion and sexual orientation in an age when same-sex marriage is evolving into the mainstream. Views on the subject change even within denominations, sometimes within the same congregation.

For the directory below, City Pulse reached out to 53 different places of worship, which included various Christian denominations, mosques and spiritual centers. Of those, 14 responded to our questions: Do you consider yourself gay friendly, and if so, how? Do you view same-sex sexual activity as a sin? Would you perform a same-sex wedding ceremony? (The Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lansing also compiles a list of gay-affirming churches in greater Lansing.)

We found at least two Christian organizations that consider themselves gay-friendly, but that still view same-sex sexual activity as a sin and that wouldn’t perform same-sex marriages if they were legal in Michigan. Those congregations were not included in the list.

The Rev. Bonnie Tarwater, of the Edgewood United Church of Christ in East Lansing, says the UCC has been at the forefront of the issue: “I hang my head in shame at the lack of leadership in the Christian community,” she said recently on an episode of the TV show “City Pulse Newsmakers.”

“We have a tremendous amount of healing and a lot of community building to do to help heal peoples’ religious wounds. People have been taught terrible lessons that there was something wrong with them. That is not biblical. It is biblical to love one another.”

Gay-affirming places of worship

These are places of worship identified as “gay affirming,” which recognize that same-sex attraction and same-sex sexual activity are not a sin. If we have missed your organization and you would like to be included in our online directory of gay-affirming places of worship, please contact Andy Balaskovitz at (517) 999- 5064 or andy@lansingcitypulse.com. (Compiled by City Pulse and Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lansing.)

All Saint’s Episcopal Church (Episcopal) 800 Abbot Road, East Lansing (517) 351-7160 / allsaints-el.org

Congregation Shaarey Zedek (Reform Movement synagogue) 1924 Coolidge Road, East Lansing (517) 351-3570 /shaareyzedek.com

Edgewood United Church of Christ (United Church of Christ) 469 N. Hagadorn Road, East Lansing (517) 332-7154 /edgewooducc.org

First Congregational (United Church of Christ) 210 W. Saginaw Highway, Grand Ledge (517) 627-2336 /fcgl.org

First Presbyterian (Presbyterian) 510 W. Ottawa St., Lansing (517) 482-0668 / lansingfirstpres.org

Kehillat Israel (Reconstructionist synagogue) 2014 Forest Road, Lansing Township (517) 882-0049 /kehillatisrael.net

Lansing Area Mindfulness Community (In tradition of Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh) 3015 S. Washington Ave., Lansing (517) 351-5866 / lamc.info

Lansing Church of the Brethren (Brethren) 3020 S. Washington Ave., Lansing (517) 482-1549 / cob-net.org/church/lansing

Lansing Spiritual Center (Swedenborgian) 510 W. Ottawa St., Lansing (517) 489-2387 / lansingspiritualcenter.org

The Peoples Church (Interdenominational) 200 W. Grand River Ave., East Lansing (517) 332-5073 /thepeopleschurch.com

Pilgrim Congregational (United Church of Christ) 125 S. Pennsylvania Ave., Lansing (517) 484-7434 /pilgrimucc.com

Plymouth Congregational Church (Congregationalist) 2001 E. Grand River Ave., Lansing (517) 484-9495 /plymouthlansing.org

Presbyterian Church of Okemos (Presbyterian) 2258 Bennett Road, Okemos (517) 349-9536 / okemospres.org

Red Cedar Friends Meeting House (Quaker) 1400 Turner St., Lansing (517) 371-104 / redcedarfriends.org

St. Katherine’s Episcopal Church (Episcopal) 4650 N. Meridian Road, Williamston (517) 349-4120 /stkatherines.org

St. Michael’s Episcopal Church (Episcopal) 6200 Amwood Drive, Lansing (517) 882-9733 / saintmichaellansing.org

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (Episcopal) 218 W. Ottawa St., Lansing (517) 482-9454 / stpaulslansing.org

Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lansing (Unitarian Universalist) 855 Grove St., East Lansing (517) 351-4081 / uulansing.org

Unity of Greater Lansing (Unity Church) 15851 S. U.S. Highway 27, Building 20, Lansing (517) 371-3010 /unityofgreaterlansing.org

University Lutheran Church (Evangelical Lutheran) 1020 S. Harrison Road, East Lansing (517) 332-2559 /ulcel.org

University United Methodist Church (Methodist) 1120 S. Harrison Road, East Lansing (517) 351-7030 universitychurchhome.org