Chelsea Smith is co-pastrix with husband Judah Smith of Churchome, a Seattle-based, hip-to-be-cool, celebrity-endorsed 10,000-member megachurch spread across five locations in Washington State and California. We wrote about them recently, castigating them for their theological obliviousness after they brought on on Trinity-denying Modalist T. D. Jakes as a Board Member of their congregation.
By way of a brief profile, the Smiths are about as seeker-sensitive and biblically compromised as they come. They live in a multi-million dollar home and have a penchant for Gucci luxury clothes, where a single outfit can cost upwards of $ 5000$. They count Justin Bieber as one of their members and let him occasionally lead worship, with theoerotic songs like Reckless Love being a mainstay.
In a long-form article in Marie Claire, writer Jennifer Swann quickly zeroes in on the ethos of the couple and their views of abortion and homosexuality:
Regarding his 2005 comments on abortion, (where he preached against it) Judah says (through his publicist), ‘We have grown significantly in the past 15 years. I wouldn’t agree with my approach when I was a young pastor on many issues and understand that no life decision is easy. We hope to be a loving home for humanity, no matter what someone has experienced.’
When I ask Chelsea what she would say to a member of her congregation considering an abortion, she is quick to clarify that, unlike a priest, a pastor—at least at Churchome—isn’t meant to provide counsel. ‘We know what we’re good at, which is the Bible and Jesus and telling His story. And we know what we’re not good at. There are amazing trained professional psychologists and counselors [for that].’
That’s why, on the Churchome Global app, the Smiths titled a section of videos ‘Question and Response’ rather than ‘Question and Answer.’
Throughout the two days we spend together, Chelsea has few answers for me. So I call her up a few weeks later to ask more questions: What is Churchome’s position on LGBTQ members, for example? ‘Every individual is entitled to their own persuasion, and it’s not our job to persuade. It’s just our job to proclaim. They feel just as loved and welcome and a part of our community,’ Chelsea says.
Have Judah’s views on homosexuality changed since 2005? ‘We are a church who love and welcome people regardless of their beliefs or background,’ he says. Would Churchome be open to having a gay pastor? After a long pause, Chelsea says, ‘We are very much in the category of “We love everybody. God is for everybody. And God’s heart is for people.” So our hearts are for people, and that is where we land, absolutely.’
Smith recently participated in a panel discussion with Emmanuel Acho on his Uncomfortable Conversations podcast, where several women discuss abortions they’ve had. Woke Preacher TV summarizes:
“…Smith engages in some really depressing abortion nUaNcE during this panel organized by Emmanuel Acho. It’s billed as a “Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice” discussion but it’s really a collective lament over the end of Roe v. Wade (Ed Note. Given that there’s no passionate pro-life position represented.)
First, Smith calls her co-panelists “courageous” for sharing (and justifying) the stories of their own abortions before confessing her white privilege. Then, she chastises those who have celebrated the Dobbs decision. Next, she compares a woman with an unwanted pregnancy to the woman caught in adultery that was brought to Jesus and omits his call to “go and sin no more” while retelling the story.
Finally, Acho asserts that the anti-abortion movement is predicated on a single prooftext, Psalm 139:13. Smith AGREES with him and suggests those who hold a hard line on abortion are missing God’s “emphasis on love” throughout the Bible.”
Smith: I feel humbled to sit with such incredible women with such beautiful courageous stories and lives. I’m also very aware that I’m a white woman sitting here, and that whether it’s the mortality rate of pregnant women of color, or the amount of abortions that affect women of color is much more than white woman. And so I’m listening to that with those ears as well.
Acho: If we can all be honest and uncomfortable, the church has been either extremely insensitive or worse. They’ve been awfully quiet. Chelsea, why do you think that is?
Smith: I can tell you why I’ve been quiet. I feel very humbled. I don’t know, sometimes the fine line between humbled and humiliated. I’m a person who follows the teachings of Jesus, and one of those teachings says that we weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. And in this moment, I feel completely humbled and do not know how to follow that teaching. It just seems impossible to be able to do that in this moment. And I am embarrassed by some of the rejoicing at the, at the cost of somebody’s pain.
Acho: Chelsea, in light of all these heartbreaking and, and really gut wrenching stories. What role can and should the church play to support those now that are not empowered to make the decision? (Ed. note. The decision to butcher their babies in the womb)
Smith: As I think about the story of Jesus with a woman who was caught in the midst of adultery, and that’s very much a woman-based story in the Bible, because she was caught in the very act. So where was the man in this story, you know? Very similar to a woman facing an unwanted pregnancy. She’s gonna be left alone the same way this woman was left alone.
And in this moment, Jesus didn’t say anything. It’s one of the beautiful silent moments of Jesus. And he just got down and wrote in the dirt. And then he’s just said this incredible statement. He said, ‘Let him who is without sin, yes, throw the first stone’. And I think as Christians, as faith leaders, as community leaders, we need to be really in touch with our own shortcomings and our own weaknesses, so that we aren’t prone to just chucking those stones because it feels good.
Acho: So Chelsea, so many Christians look to a passage of scripture which says, ‘You were knit in your mother’s womb’ and they stand on that and say abortion is wrong. How can a Christian or somebody who identifies and lives their life by biblical text, simultaneously read that passage, but still empathize with women that are hurting or that have hurt?
Smith: I have so much empathy, and understanding for followers of Jesus who would say ‘I believe that life begins at conception, and I believe that stopping an abortion is saving a life.’ That’s a very- saving a life is a very valid cause…………….. (pauses for 5 seconds)…………………..but that’s not the only life that we’re called to save if you’re pro-life. There’s a lot of life.
It’s also taking one verse and making that one verse, Psalm 139, making that as black and white, as the verses of the forgiveness and love of Jesus Christ. It’s one verse vs. 1000s and 1000s of verses that are in the Bible. And we have a conviction is when we look at the Bible is we put the emphasis where God puts emphasis. And he puts the emphasis on love. He puts emphasis on forgiveness, He puts the emphasis on compassion. And so as a follower of Jesus, wouldn’t I put the emphasis there?
Bonus: Acho is asked what men should be doing in light of the overturning of Roe v. Wade and he responds:
“…You have to be slow to speak and quickly listen. And that’s why I’m honored to share this space with you all, because as a man, this, for me is just a time of listening. This is a time of trying to broadcast you all stories. This is a time of shining and shedding light on ignorance. Because there are so many different reasons that a woman is faced with that decision of having an abortion. And like Sonya said, No woman wants to have an abortion. You are just faced with a decision. So I think my position is always listen first, digest, and then with competence, open up and speak.”