Rest of the Best: Houston's 10 Best LGBT-Friendly Churches
It is a common media misconception that an attitude of acceptance and love for LGBT people and a sincere belief in the message of Jesus Christ are mutually exclusive terms. However, if you look at the number of people in the country that identify as Christian (78 percent) and the number of states that have embraced same-sex marriage and other equal rights for LGBT people you will quickly see that that idea is a statistical impossibility. Plenty of Christians tolerate, love, and respect LGBTs as equals, just as many LGBTs are people of faith.
As luck would have it we live in the most diverse city in the United States, and the only one of significant size that sports an openly gay mayor (who is also cool enough to honor a transgender metal musician with her own official day, so there). Those who want to bask in the church-y goodness of God's Love have plenty of options. Or at least ten.
10. St Andrew's Episcopal 1819 Heights Boulevard
Though St. Andrews was home to some minor controversy in 2004 when popular gay rector the Rev. Paul Fromberg left the church for a more-accepting diocese in San Francisco, the church has grown into a much more open institution on the subject of LGBT people. "We have many lesbian and gay couples in our church," parish administrator Trish Mehrkam told us. "Everyone is welcome."
9. St. Philip Presbyterian 4807 San Felipe
In 2010 St. Philip became the first Texas Presbyterian church to host the Covenant Conference, an annual symposium by the Covenant Network? Well, you sort of have to dig through the text a bit, but in essence they're an advocacy group within the denomination that seeks to advance equality for LGBT clergy and the sanctifying of same-sex marriages. The Presbyterian church has accepted LGBT parishioners since 2011, and clergy are allowed to bless unions if not out and out call them marriages, but the fight for reform goes on and St. Philip is a staunch ally in that battle. "While I have been pastor at St. Philip for just a year and a half, the church has long had a commitment to welcoming all people, regardless of category or label," said John Wurster. "The GLBTQ members of our community bear witness to God's boundless love, and our congregation is enriched by having a fuller representation of God's diverse creation."
8. Trinity Episcopal Church 1015 Holman Street
Though Annise Parker is the most prominent gay politician in Houston, we also got our first openly gay male city councilman in 2011. That was Mike Laster, who is an active member at Trinity Episcopal where he has served as a senior warden and parish delegate to the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. The trust and support that Trinity shows in its members of all orientations is an inspiration to us all.
7. Plymouth United Church 5927 Louetta Rd
According to the Rev. Teddy Kissell, Sabbatical Minister at Plymouth, The United Church of Christ was the first main-line Protestant Christian denomination to publicly come out in favor of Equal Marriage Rights for all. The welcoming nature of all people is a hallmark of their worship, and the Rev. Dr. Ginny Brown Daniel makes it a point to refer to all union ceremonies done there as weddings. As their website states, "We advocate for equal rights for all of God's children in regard to the rights, responsibilities, and privileges of all people to marry whomever they love."
6. Palmer Episcopal Church 6221 Main Street
Watch that video... I know it's an hour plus in length, but I swear it can change your life. That was a talk Dr. L. Michael White, a biblical scholar at the University of Texas gave right here in Houston at Palmer Episcopal in 2005. It delves deep into the meanings and contexts of the Bible as it relates to same-sex relations, taking into account much of the nuance in translation and the ideas of the world at different times scripture was written and interpreted. Palmer hosted that talk to huge audiences, and for that they deserve any number of kudos for their dedication to sober discussion of the issues at their very base.
5. St. Stephen's Episcopal Church 1805 W Alabama St
When the Episcopal Church adopted a new same-sex union ceremony earlier this year (Called the Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant), Jeff Meadows and Gary Patterson celebrated the very first of these ceremonies in Houston at St. Stephen's. It was officiated by the Rev. Lisa Hunt, herself the first female Episcopal priest in Texas and the sister to a gay man that has fueled her advocacy within the church for greater acceptance for LGBT people. Hunt is an active voice in changing the way people perceive gay couples, purposely mixing homosexual and heterosexual couples in mandatory counseling sessions in order to open up the eyes of folks that may have misconceptions about the realities of loving relationships.
Update: Reader Laura Thewalt pointed out that the first female Episcopal rector in Texas was actually Rev. Helen Havens, who handed off decades worth of trailblazing equality at St. Stephen's to Rev. Lisa Hunt. Thanks for setting the record straight!
4. First Unitarian Universalist 5200 Fannin
In 1954 First Unitarian Universalist became the first church in Houston to vote to desegregate its congregation, and that attitude of acceptance and unity has continued all the way up into the present day. They've had worship groups for gays since the '70s, and founded the Houston Area Teen Coalition for Homosexuals (HATCH), an organization dedicated to empowering LGBT adolescents, in 1987. "We're perfectly happy with LGBT parishioners," said the Rev. Kathleen Ellis via email. "They're on the Board, they're in the Choir, they're on the staff, they are greeters and ushers who count the offering, they do Social Justice as a ministry of the church, and they're involved in any other aspect of church life that you care to name."
3. Bering Memorial United Methodist Church 1440 Harold
If your heart is wounded by non-acceptance from family, friends, and community over being LGBT, then there is no better place to go than Bering. Since 1986 the Bering Support Network has been offering counseling and help to people with HIV/AIDS, and this has transcended into work into the greater gay community as a whole. Consistently they offer open arms to people of all walks of life, and advocate for equal recognition in worship.
2. Grace Lutheran Church 2515 Waugh Drive
As pastor Lura Groen puts it...
Grace Lutheran celebrates the way God has created us in all as people of God. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people are not only welcome at Grace Lutheran, but we are able to use our many gifts to serve God in leadership and for the healing of the world. We love our diverse community where people who are straight and queer sing in choir together, where homeless and wealthy people usher together, where black, white, brown worship God together, and we all learn how to better love God and each other.
1. Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church 2025 W 11th Street
I'm going to let the Rev. Troy Treash do this one for me...
RMCC specifically reaches out to LGBTQ persons. Our denomination was founded 45 years ago specifically for LGBTQ people. So every Sunday hundreds of LGBTQ folk their children, families, and allies join at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. in worship to celebrate their faith and their love.
LGBTQ people have always been and continue to be an integral part of the family of faith, now more openly than historically was possible. Resurrection lives out the great commandment to Love God and Love Neighbor and in so doing lives at the heart of Christianity.
Can't beat that.
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