Many churches struggle with how to love and minister to LGBTQ people without appearing to condone sin. Having been raised by two gay parents, Pastor Caleb Kaltenbach has intimate knowledge and insight into the LGBTQ community as well as the theological training needed to help churches navigate this tricky topic. Recently, Pastor Kaltenbach sat down with Dr. Darrell Bock of the Dallas Theological Seminary to discuss his experience and provide some advice.
When he was two years old, Caleb’s college professor parents divorced — and both of them came out of the closet. His mom was a gay rights activist and had a lesbian relationship for twenty-two years. In the interview, Pastor Kaltenbach reminisces:
…growing up, in elementary school and preschool, she took me with her to gay parties and clubs and campouts and events. And I even marched in gay pride parades. I remember at the end of one of these pride parades – and again, this is in the 1980s – there were all these Christians holding up signs saying, “God hates you. Go away. Turn or burn.” And if that wasn’t offensive enough, they were spraying water and urine on people.
And I remember looking at my mom, and I said, “Mom, why are they acting like that?”
She said, “Well, Caleb, they’re Christians. And Christians hate gay people. Christians don’t like people that are not like them.”
Kaltenbach was primarily on Dr. Bock’s podcast to promote his new book Messy Grace, subtitled, “How a Pastor With Gay Parents Learned to Love Others Without Sacrificing Convictions.” His story of how he came to faith is fascinating and speaks to the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s merciful grace. I encourage you to watch/listen to the podcast posted above to hear him recount his testimony.
Needless to say, and sadly, his early experiences negatively colored his understanding of Christianity. Those negative experiences hardened his heart so much, he says that by the time he “was 16 years old, I just really wanted to go on a rampage to disprove Christianity.”
By God’s grace, he repented of his sin and placed his faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is now the lead pastor at Discovery Church, located in Simi Valley, California, with an extensive ministry to the LGBTQ community.
Dr. Bock asked Kaltenbach about that ministry. In response, Kaltenbach recognized that “some churches, when they find out somebody who is visiting or somebody – one of their members has just come out this way or is doing something, sometimes we’ll overreact, and we’ll act harshly. And sometimes we’ll even alienate them.”
While confessing without hesitation or equivocation that homosexuality and same-sex relationships are sinful, Kaltenbach asks the question, “What about giving God margin? What about allowing people not to be perfect? What about understanding that God is the best at changing lives, not us? What about the fact that it’s always taken God time and a process to break down pride around our heart?”
He answers, “And I think that part of the principle of ‘belong before you believe’ is not pronouncing salvation on people. But when somebody comes to our church, we give them margin; we don’t expect them to be perfect. And we know that God, as long as they’re there, is in the process of drawing them to himself.”
Encouraging and discipling people to place their identity in Jesus and not in their sexuality takes time. Unfortunately, many churches are unwilling to put in the time and do the hard work of engaging people trapped in such a devastating and encompassing sin as homosexuality. Kaltenbach’s past, as well as his present ministry, combine to make a unique ministry that many other churches can learn from. LGBTQ people need Jesus, and Christians need to be willing to love them and minister to them with patience and mercy.