As Christians across California grapple with the legalization of same-sex "marriage," the shock factor at one emerging church remains small.
And it's not because the young and growing church embraces a liberal theology or supports gay "marriage," but because they don't avoid talking about sexuality, including homosexuality.
"In our church, at least from the people I have been hanging out with, I have not yet heard too much 'Oh my gosh, look what happened,'" said Dan Kimball, pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, Calif., and a well-known emerging church leader who subscribes to a more conservative theology. There wasn't much of a reaction at Vintage Faith to the May 15 court ruling that allowed same-sex couples to wed, he said. Many believed it was inevitable.
And Kimball had more conversations with pastors outside the state who were more curious about the impact of the ruling than those around his church. He believes people at his church were not shocked partly because of their openness in discussing marriage and homosexuality.
At Vintage Faith, they've created a culture of addressing and responding to such issues. Kimball encourages other churches to do the same – to create a culture of teaching the theology of these controversial issues in a way that people can understand and not approaching the issues just at the surface level.
"I hope then people will be able to respond in a healthy way and not [be] reactionary," he said in a recent interview with Skye Jethani, managing editor of Leadership journal.
Kimball is currently teaching out of the New Testament book 1 Corinthians in a series titled "Sin City: Being the light of Jesus in a darkened culture." Early in the series, which launched on June 15, he addressed marriage and human sexuality, teaching the theologically conservative position that marriage is designed for a man and a woman. An open forum followed the sermon last weekend.
While Vintage Faith does not endorse homosexual "marriage" theologically, the church – like any emerging church – is ingrained in the culture, a culture that has becoming increasingly tolerant of the homosexual lifestyle.
"To me, I really believe that if church leaders aren't involved in people ... [who] are gay outside of their church, that needs to happen so that they can just understand [their] lives more," Kimball said in the interview.
"So when they think about [homosexuals], it's not just this population of people that is faceless; they really can think of hearts and minds and eye expressions," he added.
Church leaders need to see every human being, regardless of their sexuality or lifestyle, in the image of God, he stressed.
"That to me is critical because then you respond differently," the emerging pastor said.
Kimball's seven-week "Sin City" series continues on Sunday with a message on "Single Like Jesus." The series aims to help Christians share the way of Jesus in their culture and avoid being consumed by a sin-saturated culture.