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A gay-friendly church is a religious institutions that condones homosexual behavior or treats it as akin to heterosexual behavior. Gay-friendly churches may have special support groups for gay and lesbian members, may bless gay marriages or commitment ceremonies, and generally espouse a doctrine of acceptance toward homosexual behavior. Though rare in many religions, some specific denominations have adopted a largely gay-friendly stance, which frequently diverts from traditional teachings about homosexuality.
Most world religions express a fairly doctrinally negative view of homosexuality. The Bible, the Torah, and the Qur'an all have specific warnings against homosexual behavior, decrying it as sinful, evil, or unnatural. Supported by these texts, modern religious leaders frequently confirm a rejection of homosexuality, even within the confines of a monogamous relationships. A gay-friendly church may be associated with religions that have an anti-homosexual doctrine, but choose to reject these beliefs as archaic or misinterpreted.
A gay-friendly church is still, at heart, a church, thus much of its activity will be similar that of any other parish. Gay-friendly churches hold weekly religious services, celebrate religious holidays, perform ceremonies such as baptisms and weddings, and provide spiritual counseling for parishioners. If a church refers to itself as “gay-friendly,” it may simply be asserting that a doctrine of anti-homosexuality will not be taught at the church, and that gay members should not fear ostracization for their sexual orientation. Other churches may gear themselves more fully toward providing support and religious assistance to gay and lesbian members, such as by holding religious commitment ceremonies, helping gay couples adopt, and providing support groups geared toward gay interests.
One feature of many gay-friendly churches is the presence of an openly gay minister or religious official. If the church belongs to a denomination in which celibacy is required of clergy, this requirement may still apply, even to openly gay clergy members. In churches where marriage is allowed to clergy, however, many gay-friendly parishes welcome ministers with same-sex partners or spouses.
Some denominations are more likely to include a gay-friendly church than others. For instance, in Christianity, the Anglican church, United Church of Christ, and some Lutheran parishes have gay-friendly churches and renounce anti-homosexual teachings. In Judaism, reform churches may be more likely to welcome gay parishioners and rabbis. Gay-friendly churches in Islam are extremely rare. Finding a gay-friendly church in a specific region or town can easily accomplished through an Internet search, as many of these organizations prominently list their status.