Home Christian News 17 LGBTQ-Affirming Ministers Face Church Investigations for Signing Belief Statement

17 LGBTQ-Affirming Ministers Face Church Investigations for Signing Belief Statement

ChogAffirm stickers for sale on the site. (Screen grab)

(RNS) — The Rev. Carma Wood didn’t become LGBTQ-affirming overnight. Rather, she said, it was due to the Holy Spirit’s prompting over several decades, not to mention personal experience, study and Scripture.

“I have found the primary emphases woven throughout biblical texts to reflect a radical inclusivity found perhaps most profoundly in the person and ministry of Jesus,” she told Religion News Service.

Now, Indiana Ministries — a jurisdiction of the Christian movement known as Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) — is investigating Wood, a retired Church of God pastor living in Anderson, and 16 other ministers for signing a statement affirming LGTBQ inclusion. Depending on the findings, the ministers’ credentials could be withdrawn.

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“There is a strong biblical, theological, and ethical case for affirming same-sex partnerships, transgender identity and existence, and gender non-conformity as being fully compatible with Christian discipleship and the theological and doctrinal distinctives of the Church of God Reformation Movement,” said the statement, which was authored in part by Wood and has since gained more than 850 signatures.

The Rev. Carma Wood, top left, leads Communion server preparation at Park Place Church of God in Anderson, Ind., prior to her retirement. (Photo by Kim Butler)

Founded in the 1880s, Church of God (Anderson, Indiana), which resists hierarchies and therefore considers itself a movement, not a denomination, is often mentioned in relation to the city where it’s headquartered, to distinguish it from other groups. It is perhaps best known as the home church of Christian musician Sandi Patty, but the movement has a proud history of opposing racial segregation, championing women leaders and embracing the Bible alone as its belief statement.

Organized into nearly 50 jurisdictions throughout the U.S. and Canada, the Church of God — CHOG to insiders — claims a million believers around the globe.

The affirmation statement has roiled CHOG since it was released in May. As recently as 2014, CHOG’s General Assembly defined marriage as between a man and a woman and characterized homosexuality as a sin.

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“I think what’s happened in Indiana is a good-faith effort by Indiana Ministries to play by the rules of the credentials manual,” the Rev. Jim Lyon, general director of Church of God Ministries, told RNS by phone, referring to the rulebook for ministerial conduct. “They’re now in a process of trying to live up to what their understanding of those protocols are.”

Wood, 67, who retired in 2022 after decades as a minister, calls herself a “great-granddaughter of the movement.” In February 2023, after years of what she said was CHOG’s failure to take seriously members’ views on LGBTQ inclusion, she and five other longtime members founded ChogAffirm, a separate nonprofit aimed at fostering a culture of hospitality affirming of LGBTQ people.

Three months later, in May 2023, the ChogAffirm statement went live on its website, declaring that ministers and laypeople should be free to affirm LGBTQ Christians “in their lives, partnerships, and ministerial callings.” CHOG, it said, should repent for harming members of the LGBTQ community, and it referred readers to the website where that harm was detailed by many of the statement’s signatories.

The ChogAffirm site. (Screen grab)

The ChogAffirm statement is available on its website. (Screen grab)

In the following days, Wood said, most feedback was very positive. Responses from national and state leaders, though, “were a different story,” she said.

On June 1, Jeff Matas, state pastor of Indiana Ministries, published a statement saying Scripture consistently condemns “same-sex relations.”