by Nick Parsons, Director of Development
San Francisco is associated with a lot of things. For some it is the Gold Rush, the Beat Generation and the Hippie Movement. For others it is the Golden Gate Bridge, trolley cars and rows upon rows of narrow Victorian houses. More recently San Francisco has become associated with tech startups, expensive housing and $4 artisanal toast—which is delightful, I might add.
One association looms large in the minds of many Americans—San Francisco as the “Gay Mecca.” It is easy to understand why. No city has a richer history of LGBT communities, political action and social movements. The city’s Castro neighborhood is home to one of the United States’ first and most influential gay communities. This is where Harvey Milk lived and was assassinated. It was the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS Crisis in the 80’s. San Francisco is where the Rainbow flag first became associated with gay pride and LGBT rights.
At no time is San Francisco’s LGBT history and population more celebrated than during the city’s Pride Celebration and Parade, held during the last weekend of June each year. This event is truly the city’s most significant holiday and is widely attended by San Francisco’s most influential political, civic, and business leaders. Over 1.5 million people attended this year’s parade.
Church is also associated with a lot of things. For some it is a place of close-knit community, spiritual significance and hope. For many in the LGBT community, it is a place of bigotry, judgment and painful memories. Increasingly, it is seen as backwards, irrelevant and on the wrong side of history.
Redemption Church, a new church just over a year old in San Francisco, often finds itself between these two worlds—a church seeking to make disciples of Jesus in a city often seen as the “Gay Mecca.” I am often asked how we are navigating this complexity. I can only say that God has brought people in many stages of their journey to Redemption and we are seeking to help them find and follow Jesus in all aspects of their life.
We have people participating in our community who are not yet Christians and are active in the LGBT lifestyle. We also have believers who are struggling to align their sexual lives to the standards of Christian discipleship. This past month I met with two different Christians who have experienced same -sex attraction for their whole lives, yet are seeking to join what Redemption is doing in San Francisco by specifically ministering in the LGBT community.
Without question, Redemption Church is calling people to discipleship that extends beyond sexuality. The Gospel is not just news for one group of San Franciscans. We are calling all people to follow Jesus in all aspects of their lives. This is a gospel that challenges everyone’s lifestyle. It calls the tech entrepreneur to generosity and purpose. It calls the busy student to diligence and rest. It calls the homemaker to peace and joy. It calls the broken to wholeness and the immoral to holiness. It calls the religious to repentance and the irreligious to faith. Ultimately this gospel calls each of us to Jesus and a life submitted to him.
San Francisco is known for many things. It is Redemption Church’s hope that someday it will be known for its vibrant churches and for being a place where many have found and experienced the riches of God’s grace.