Outspoken, pro-LGBTQ Christian pastor John Pavlovitz visits Resurrection MCC.
By Lourdes Zavaleta
When Pastor John Pavlovitz’s brother came out as gay, he was reaffirmed in his already-looming feelings of discomfort with the Christian church.
“Things started to add up little by little,” Pavlovitz recalls. “Our theology was damaging to the LGBTQ community as well as to women, and I knew that I had to start speaking out about it.”
In his new book, A Bigger Table, Pavlovitz writes on LGBTQ exclusion in the church, as well as gender equality, racial tensions, politically charged issues, and global concerns. The goal of the book is to inspire readers to join or create all-inclusive spiritual communities.
Since its release in October, the pastor has been on a nationwide book tour that will stop at Houston’s Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church at 10 .m. on Saturday, January 13. Pavlovitz will also deliver sermons at Resurrection MCC on Sunday morning at 9 and 11.
“My visit will be encouraging, challenging, and approachable,” Pavlovitz says. “I want people to engage with the idea of inclusivity so that they can all find places within the church.”
Born and raised in Syracuse, New York, Pavlovitz says his spiritual journey shifted about 20 years ago when he was in college at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. He was studying graphic design and working as an art director, when he was asked to volunteer in the youth ministry at his church.
He began working at the church part time, and when he was offered a full-time job, he quit his secular career and devoted himself to ministry.
Pavlovitz and his wife moved to Charlotte, where he got a job as a youth pastor at a megachurch. During his 10 years there, he began to grieve over the “in groups” and “out groups” that the church heavily stressed.
Inspired to combat the church’s prejudices, Pavlovitz began vaguely addressing some of the issues that concerned him in sermons. The more he spoke about diversity and inclusion, the more tension it created within the church. He was fired in 2013, which led him to be more open about his convictions.
The pastor’s blog, “Stuff That Needs To Be Said,” was mostly reserved for his church community, but he began to write more freely on it once he knew that it would no longer be a liability. In 2014, his writing project went viral with an open letter to his kids. In “If I Have Gay Children,” Pavlovitz shared how he would continue to love and support his son or daughter if they came out.
“When that happened, I realized that there was an opportunity for me to engage people with the ideas that I wanted to talk about,” Pavlovitz says. “Little by little, the audience I gained continued to grow wider.”
“Stuff That Needs To Be Said” has continued to reach millions over the last few years. Some posts are religious in nature, but most of his writings focus on current events such as gun control, the Black Lives Matter movement, and President Donald Trump’s administration.
The pastor says that the outspokenness of his blog and book has motivated other Christians to question problematic traditions.
“People thank me. They say, ‘You gave me permission to talk finally talk about the things that bother me,’” Pavlovitz says.
Pavlovitz resides in North Carolina, where he attends North Raleigh Community Church, a Christian church dedicated to the inclusion of LGBTQ people. The pastor hopes that his visit to Resurrection MCC inspires those who are currently frustrated by Christianity.
“I want to be an encouragement to progressive Christians who feel like they are alone in their beliefs,” Pavlovitz says. “This is why we will come together, to remind each other that good people still inhabit the church, and that we are trying to make it better.”
Copies of A Bigger Table will be for sale at Resurrection MCC. They can also be purchased online.