Moving to another country often involves finding a new church. For internationals, an English-speaking church is often a first point of call, especially when your French or Dutch language skills are pretty basic.
The good news is that throughout Belgium there are many English-speaking churches of different denominations. This of course can present its own challenges: finding a church that suits you and maybe also your partner and/or children can be a balancing act as you juggle all kinds of personal and family preferences.
If you are looking for a list of most English-speaking churches in Belgium, a good place to start is the Churches Together website.
Not all Christian churches love LGBT+ Christians
However, if you are an LGBT+ Christian, the choice isn’t so straightforward. You will already probably have realized that not all Christian churches are LGBT+ friendly. The level of antagonism towards LGBT+ Christians can vary. Unfortunately, some churches in Belgium, while saying they welcome gay and lesbian Christians, will prevent them from participating in the sacraments, leading public prayer, teaching in the Sunday School, or singing in the choir. Some of the more extreme could subject the LGBT+ Christian to some form of conversion therapy.
There’s worse. In a recent Guardian article (October 2020): “Campaigners say charismatic and evangelical churches that tell LGBT+ people they are an abomination or possessed by demonic forces are driving some towards self-harm and suicide.”
Six years ago a Manchester teenager, Lizzie Lowe, took her own life after telling friends she feared her church would not accept her if she came out as a lesbian.
“For as long as I can remember, I have had to listen to simply dreadful stories emerging from certain evangelical and charismatic churches … [LGBT+ people] find themselves silenced, removed from every ministry and leadership role and generally treated like pariahs.”Simon Butler, Church of England Vicar
A survey to find LGBT+ affirming churches
In 2015 I carried out a small survey of my own. I wrote to all the English-speaking churches listed on the Churches Together website. In my email, I asked them what their policy is on welcoming LGBT+ Christians to their church and encouraging participation in church groups and activities. I also asked them if they wanted to be listed on Discovering Belgium as an LGBT+ friendly church.
I was delighted to get a few replies from genuinely LGBT+ affirming churches. They stated categorically that they are LGBT+ friendly, and that a person’s sexuality would have no impact on them taking a full part in all church activities. These are listed below.
As to the others, the response was not so positive. One church contacted me by telephone and said that they warmly welcome gay and lesbian Christians but participation would “depend on lifestyle.” This clearly shows that a “welcoming church” is not necessarily an “affirming church.”
Most churches, however, simply did not reply. Nor to my follow-up email. And in some cases, did not wish to engage on the topic face-to-face. Some of these are evangelical churches that I know are not LGBT+ friendly through negative experiences I have heard about. One is where a member of the church choir was told to leave the choir when he came out as gay. Other evangelical churches – particularly in the Church of England – maintain a culture of silence. Probably in the hope that the issue will go away if they keep their heads in the sand.
Finding an LGBT+ Friendly church in Belgium
Here is the list of LGBT+ friendly churches in Belgium:
- International Protestant Church of Brussels
- All Saints, Waterloo and its daughter church in Mons, l’Eglise du Saint-Esprit. All Saints also supports Christ Church Charleroi.
- St. Andrew’s Church of Scotland, Brussels
- St. Boniface Antwerp
- St. Martha and St. Mary’s, Leuven (English/Dutch)
- The Quakers of Brussels
- Saint Servais Episcopal, Namur (French)
- The Swedish Church of Brussels (Also also hosts a gay Christian group called Christ Libérateur that meets for a French-speaking monthly service in their church)
- The Danish Church of Brussels
It’s a small list, unfortunately, especially considering that I wrote to nearly 50 churches.
If your church is not on the list and you believe should be, please drop me a line and I will be happy to include your church. You will need to agree with the statement below.
What is an LGBT+ affirming church?
An LGBT+ affirming church places no restrictions on people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and/or Queer; they are welcomed and encouraged to participate in and lead at all levels of church leadership and liturgy if that is their wish. Such a policy is clearly communicated, for example on the church website. Generic “we are inclusive” or “we welcome all” statements do not count.
But doesn’t God hate gays?
If God exists, he loves everyone. If you want an intelligent approach to understanding what the Bible says about homosexuality, I can recommend this talk. There are many other talks like this that you can find on YouTube or elsewhere. For a very concise argument on this topic, check this out:
If you want to discuss this topic, drop me a line.