- (Photo: Contemporary Christian Church via The Christian Post)
A Brazilian apologist has said that a recent report released by BBC Brazil on April 27 grossly overestimates the number of members attending "all-inclusive" churches in the country. The report focused on churches willing to overlook traditional biblical teachings on homosexuality, and stated that the 10 "all-inclusive" congregations had a combined total of about 10,000 members.
However, apologist and founder of the Institute for Religious Research (INPR), Johnny Bernardo, has reviewed the figures himself and stated on his website that the BBC's report grossly "exaggerated" the number of members in the rogue churches. According to Bernardo's calculations the 10 liberal churches have no more than 4,500 members in total.
Bernardo has told The Christian Post that according to his research there are only two main gay congregations in Brazil; the Metropolitan Community Church (ICM), which has six branches that are concentrated in major cities and towns in Brazil, and has approximately 1,400 members; and the Contemporary Christian Church (ICC), which is concentrated in the State of Rio de Janeiro, and has approximately 1,000 members.
The apologist also explained that other smaller churches such as the Christian Community Refuge (CCR) has around 400 members throughout its congregations in Sao Paulo and Parana states, and the Honey Church which has no more than 300 members. Bernardo added that there are also some small cell groups in states in the southern and south-eastern part of the country, such as Rio G. do Sul, Parana and Sao Paulo, which are not affiliated with any official name.
'All Inclusive' Gay Churches
These churches, which promote themselves as "inclusive churches," have been controversial among mainstream religious groups n Brazil. Starting with the name, religious leaders criticize them as trying to stigmatize other churches in the country as "exclusive," implying that they exclude some and accept others.
For Bernardo the name "inclusive church" seems to give the idea that evangelical churches are not friendly to the LGBT community. However, according to him, leaders of the "all-inclusive" churches such as Troy Perry (founder of ICM), Mark Gladstone (founder of the ICC) and Lanna Holder (founder of CCR) rely on aggresively promoting that there is discrimination in all other churches, and that the LGBT community is rejected by society - they do this to rally supporters whose lifestyles go against traditional models of the Church's confession of faith.
Adherents of these all-inclusive churches claim that they were unable to practice their faith and reveal their lifestyles openly, with some even claiming to have been expelled from previous churches, according to the BBC Brazil report. Bernardo does not deny that there is the possibility of some discrimination being present among members of evangelical churches, but he wants to clarify that "there is no discrimination when a certain church or evangelical leader encourages homosexuals to assume their original roles, as man and woman."
Nevertheless, he highlights that evangelical churches should be careful in dealing with homosexuals, and advises churches to ensure they do nothing that could be construed as restricting homosexuals access to their places of worship: "Love the sinner, but hate sin," he explains.
"It is through the practice of love and monitoring of not only homosexuals but also those addicted to drugs and alcohol, that they will change their lives and attitude towards the church and society. Without love we will not get anywhere!"