A new video of Justin Bieber surfaced Monday night showing the singer comforting a fan who opened up about the struggle to find a church that is inclusive toward people in the LGBTQ community.
While Bieber offers the fan encouraging words, singer Trey Pearson, formerly of the chart-topping Christian band Everyday Sunday, tweeted, “This seems lovely, but it’s a shame Hillsong is really NOT an affirming church. You’re ‘welcome’, but think something is wrong with you and that you need to change. They wouldn’t marry same-sex couples or let you on leadership or staff. But we’d love to see that change!”
In the video, the fan asks Bieber, “Isn’t your church like really inclusive, like, of the gay community?” Bieber, who attends Hillsong Church, replies that it is and that anyone can come.
He also invites the fan to attend one of his church’s services in the future, adding that his heart breaks for them: “I’m so sorry. That’s not OK. We’d love to have you in there, you’re more than welcome to come any time,” Bieber adds before hugging the fan.
While Pearson, who still identifies as Christian (though not Evangelical), believes Bieber’s heart is in the right place, he spoke to Billboard about how the hitmaker could make meaningful change within his church.
What was your initial reaction to Bieber’s interaction with his fan?
I wonder where Justin Bieber stands, because he has a bunch of LGBT fans, but he goes to a church that is not affirming. I wonder if he believes it’s wrong to be gay, because his church does. His church forced staff to step down at the New York Hillsong, people that were on the worship team, because they were gay and wanted to get married and be out publicly.
A lot of churches say, “Everyone is welcome. Gay people are welcome.” But until the leadership says, “We affirm you, and we believe you’re like everyone else. You can marry just like anyone else,” they’re taking in LGBT people and then they’re shaming them — they’re bringing them in only to marginalize them.
I love Justin Bieber as an artist and I think his heart is in a good place where he’s trying to do something good, but I just think that as good as these people are, they are still doing a lot of damage to the LGBT community.
As a prominent member of the church, what could Bieber do to create change at his church?
I think he could force the conversation. If you’re going to be so vocal for a church that does damage to at least thousands of LGBT lives, if you’re going to at least associate yourself with that, if you’re silent, then you’re an accomplice in it. You are part of that problem. I just want him to think that if he really does care about LGBT people and he’s going to stay with that church, then I think he needs to speak out about it and say something. If not, your silence is continuing to do damage just like everyone else’s that continue to allow churches like that to marginalize our community.
What do you think of Imagine Dragons’ lead singer Dan Reynolds and how he’s been so vocal about speaking out for LGBTQ inclusiveness within the Mormon Church?
I think it’s amazing to see somebody that’s actually publicly doing something to make a difference. He’s in a position where he actually has some influence that can make a change, and I think that’s wonderful.
For me, I had to choose for myself to go to a space that is affirming, that would marry me, that would allow me to be an equal part of the church. I had to do that for me and for my family. I think it’s super important for LGBT people to know that if they’re in a toxic or harmful environment, it’s perfectly fine to run from that. You don’t have to be the martyr. You don’t have to be the person that’s marginalized and destroyed emotionally.
I know there are some people that choose to stay within that sect whether it’s Evangelicalism or Mormonism and say, “Hey, I want to make a difference.” I think Dan is a perfect example of doing it in a healthy way.
I would love to see someone like Justin Bieber make a change. I think there are a lot of people at Hillsong that would like to see that change. And I think if the leadership said, “Tomorrow, yes, we now believe it is OK for you to be queer and we affirm same-sex relationships,” then I think a ton of people within that church would be like, “Yeah, we think that too.” As long as the leadership continues to marginalize LGBT rights, people like Justin Bieber who choose to be part of that church need to speak up and force the conversation.
To find out if a church is affirming or not, Pearson recommends churchclarity.org.