Park Slope church proud to welcome LGBTQ members

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From the stained-glass windows to the cross to the music, the Park Slope United Methodist Church is just like many others -- but the difference, parishioners say, is how welcoming the community there is to LGBTQ members. From the stained-glass windows to the cross to the music, the Park Slope United Methodist Church is just like many others -- but the difference, parishioners say, is how welcoming the community there is to LGBTQ members.
PARK SLOPE -

From the stained-glass windows to the cross to the music, the Park Slope United Methodist Church is just like many others -- but the difference, parishioners say, is how welcoming the community there is to LGBTQ members.

"It isn't just a matter of acceptance, acceptance could be neutral," says Michael Cairl. "It's a matter of embrace also."

The Rev. Herbert Miller says no members feel out of place.

"God's love is universal for all people," he says.

Miller is part of a growing group of bishops trying to change the way Christian churches relate to gay members, especially when it comes to homophobic verses in the Bible.

"They are all in sections that basically -- we don't pay attention to those sections as a whole anyway," Miller says. "All of a sudden, we want to pick on those verses.

"It's history that has really marred a lot of lives and destroyed a lot of people," Miller continues. "Hopefully, we are growing and learning and starting a new day. I'm just very sorry for the past history of the church, and how it lingers still in a lot of places."

Even Pope Francis, the leader of the Roman Catholic church, recently told reporters, "People must be accompanied like Jesus would accompany them. When a person who has this situation arrives before Jesus, Jesus certainly will not say 'Go away.'"

Nick Heller says words like that have brought him into Christianity.

"For the longest time I had this mentality of I can't be Christian, and I can't be gay," he says. "That's so wrong."

He's one of the nearly 400 parishioners at Park Slope United Methodist. About a quarter of them are members of the LGBTQ community.

"Queer people have felt so disenfranchised by religion across the board," Heller says, "So this kind of place, of how can I reconcile the faith that I grew up with that told me that how I am is fundamentally wrong, with the reality of God's love transcending so many things."

According to the Affirming Church Directory, there are about 30 gay-friendly churches in Brooklyn alone. That number includes churches of other religions, and it continues to rise.

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