Stan Mitchell, Lead Teacher and Pastor of the openly LGBTQ+ affirming GracePointe Church, announced through his Facebook page late Tuesday night his intention to step away from his current responsibilities and embrace a new role outside of his church.
Sources inside the congregation tell Out & About Nashville that Pastor Mitchell announced his intentions a few weeks ago, and is planning to help other churches take the steps that GracePointe took over the last few years in embracing LGBTQ+ people and adopting a Progressive Christian theology. He will be transitioning into a new Pastor Emeritus role and concentrating on outside ministry, per the sources.
GracePointe Church began in 2003 as a traditional-minded church in the heart of Williamson County under Pastor Mitchell's direction. A series of real life experiences with struggling LGBTQ+ members and employees of the church led to Mitchell spearheading the successful effort to turn GracePointe into a fully LGBTQ+ inclusive church in early 2015.
The change was not without a steep price though. Roughly half the membership left as a result of the affirming action and the introduction of a Progressive Christian theology soon afterward. A fall in revenue led to staff cuts and a decision soon after to sell the current church property in favor of sharing a worship facility inside LGBTQ-friendlier Davidson County.
“So many…precious and often discouraged people live in areas where finding a church that fully accepts and affirms them is virtually impossible,” Mitchell wrote to his congregants on his Facebook page.
“The snowballing enormity of this reality is one of the driving forces in my recent decision to finally, after 15+ years, step away from the role of local-church Lead/Senior Pastor...There is a scattered, beautiful, hurting, trying-to-be-hopeful group of LGBTQ+ people which I have somehow been chosen to walk alongside, encourage and care for. These remarkable and courageous people fill my day now. I am learning so much from them, some of which I pass on to you.”
According to a congregational source, Mitchell decided to take this new direction on his own accord, and with a good relationship with the church. He will stay with Gracepointe to help the transition to a new pastor and preach on occasion. The process of finding a new pastor has begun with the full support of Rev. Mitchell.
The Reverend Cynthia Andrews-Looper, founding pastor of Holy Trinity Community Church, Nashville's first openly affirming LGBTQ+ church of our era, had nothing but praise for Pastor Mitchell and his ministry.
“Stan Mitchell has a great mind and amazing courage,” Andrews-Looper said by text. “He has led GracePointe into the deep river of God’s infinite love, despite attacks on his faith and character. He has deconstructed his evangelical belief system and rebuilt something that is a strong message of light and hope. He has not left Jesus behind, but rather, has lifted up the teachings of Jesus and helped us interpret scripture through the lens of Christ. His calling is taking on a larger audience to send forth greater light and hope in this world. He is eloquent, intelligent, but incredibly humble as he lives out his calling. I wish him the best in his new journey. God is using him and saving lives. There is no greater calling than that.”
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