An evangelical church in Franklin that broke with biblical teachings and embraced LGBT ideology has had to find a new home because of declining membership.
GracePointe Church has left its building on Franklin Road in the heart of Williamson County and headed straight north to share space with Unity of Nashville in its building in Nashville, also on Franklin Road.
On its Facebook page, Unity of Nashville describes its mission as “a positive, practical, progressive approach to Christianity based on the teachings of Jesus and the power of prayer. Unity honors the universal truths in all religions and respects each individual’s right to choose a spiritual path.”
GracePointe has changed so utterly over the years that its identity today sounds not that different than Unity’s. Traditional Christians would consider the teachings at both churches to be heretical.
In his sermon July 30 during the congregation’s last service at its Franklin building, Pastor Stan Mitchell discussed how GracePointe has found a “clearer vision” and a “new and refined construction of our faith.” Mitchell’s comments reflected that while he has retained some conservative-sounding phraseology, he has completely cast aside orthodox doctrine.
“We have achieved a degree, a measure of new construction, ongoing for sure, but more solid and stable in terms of theological identity than ever before,” Mitchell said. “GracePointe is a progressive Christian church. We are unashamedly Christian and we are unapologetically interfaith, and the latter is caused by the former.”
Mitchell founded GracePointe in 2003 with his then-wife Nancy Mitchell and the small nondenominational congregation first met at their home for a brief time. GracePointe then started holding services at Lipscomb Elementary in Brentwood. Average attendance grew to 450, with a membership of more than 1,200. In 2009, the congregation moved to its Franklin Road location, building a 12,000-square-foot building on more than 20 acres.
“If the thought is that it was a bunch of rich people back then with deep pockets, that’s not true,” Mitchell said in his July 30 sermon. “There were hundreds of people who gave sacrificially and graciously.”
At its new location, the church nearly doubled in size, growing to have an average attendance of 700-800, with a membership of more than 2,200.
In 2012, church leaders “began the momentous discussion of full inclusion for our LGBTQ+ siblings,” Mitchell recalled in his sermon. In January 2015, “we made the decision that to offer these our siblings anything less than the fullest rights and privileges of both membership and leadership would be the actual sin, not their lives and not their identity.”
The decision made national news and Mitchell became a sought-after speaker and advocate for the LGBT movement. Likewise, Melissa Greene, then the pastor of worship and arts, threw herself into LGBT activism.
Mitchell became involved in a group called Faith in America, which says that “LGBT people should be removed from the sin list.” In June, he traveled with others in the group to Phoenix, where the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention was being held. Though they were not invited to the convention, they interacted with convention-goers outside the convention hall to try to persuade them to become LGBT affirming.
While he made a national name for himself, Mitchell was unable to hold together his congregation in Franklin. Half of GracePointe’s members left following his announcement that the church would fully include LGBT people. Some of those leaving were big donors. The church gained new members who identify as LGBT, but not enough to make up for the losses. The church was forced to cut staff and expenses.
Greene, who used to sing with the award-winning Christian group Avalon, recently left her position at GracePointe and co-founded Imaginarium, a “spiritual community focused on creating a space to imagine a better world and together make it so,” according to its Facebook page. On the group’s website, Greene promotes herself as “a leader and visionary who pushes the thought envelope on issues of injustice and equality.”
Before starting GracePointe, Mitchell was a pastor at Christ Church on Old Hickory Boulevard in Nashville, which has held onto traditional teachings about gender and marriage. In February 2015, Christ Church Pastor Dan Scott published an open letter to his congregation about Mitchell’s change in philosophy.
“When we neglect the teaching, practice, and experience of our common deposit of faith, we necessarily resort to those theories we import from other sources, which always results in the unraveling of some portion of the faith we have received,” Scott wrote, recognizing that the “evangelical community has now entered a time of great conflict.”
“We sometimes will find ourselves struggling both with the world around us and with those who profess the same faith we believe,” Scott said.