Jerusalem Christian Church champions acceptance of LGBT community
The Jerusalem Christian Church is a Disciples of Christ denominational church that is nestled among a strip mall along the hustle and bustle of Kaliste Saloom and Ambassador Caffrey. This church, though small, carries a very courageous title as one of the only churches in the Lafayette area to be open and affirming, as well as one of the only Christian denominations in the state to stake that claim.
Approximately six years ago, a group of churches under the Disciples of Christ denomination collectively motioned to be open and affirming; a movement that was almost unanimously accepted. The Disciples of Christ denomination itself now teaches that LGBT people are neither sinners nor mentally ill, but rather that they are made just as God intended them to be in His image.
Considered to be “neo-Catholics,” the Disciples of Christ denomination follows more traditional Christian practices, such as service with communion on Sundays. Services follow the same traditional values, aligning closely with Catholic services. The main differences are in the way God, Jesus, and His teachings are taught and interpreted. In the Disciples of Christ Church, the Bible is not taken as law, but rather as Ashley Sherard, a minister at Jerusalem Christian Church, put it, “lives on her heart.” It is more freely interpreted to the individual and modern life, rather than sticking to meanings intended for people who lived more than 3,000 years ago.
Minister Sherard has said that being “open” means the church welcomes any and all LGBT people to its services and practices. “Affirming” serves to announce that not only are members of the LGBT community welcome, they are accepted and considered to be children of God just as any other member of the church.
Sherard is not unused to having to defend LGBT people from other denominations and those who hold different views of them. In her words, “My God does not hate anyone. To say that God hates someone or a certain type of person is the real sin against Him.” Many LGBT people seek refuge in this open and accepting environment when other churches will attempt to shame them or “turn” them straight or “normal.” The church is not only for the LGBT community, though, as anyone from any background, class, or community is welcome to attend services and events.
Sherard is also an active supporter of the LGBT community outside of her ministry as well. She is a known ally and supporter of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Giving Love, Acceptance, Safety and Support, an LGBT and straight ally organization. Sherard has offered her services at events such as the Transgender Week of Remembrance Vigil and also comes as a guest speaker every year to let members of the organization know there is a religious community where they will be accepted and safe to worship without judgement or being ostracized.
Services at the Jerusalem Christian Church are at 10 a.m. every Sunday, and its members are always happy to answer any questions someone may have about their denomination, their services or their open and affirming teachings and beliefs.