Affirming churches welcome all

Covenant of the Cross

Greg Bullard, pastor of Covenant of the Cross in Madison, is living proof of I Corinthians, 9:22.

“I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means, save some (NKJV).”  

The church began five years ago in his home on Boscobel in East Nashville. Since then, they purchased and paid off the current location in Madison on Old Hickory Boulevard and are currently considering purchasing land for a brand new three-phase facility.

Bullard wants to attract as many different kinds of people as he can. There isn’t one particular demographic that describes his church.

“We are intentionally multi-cultural in purpose and scope,” he said. “We have seen significant growth in the African American and Hispanic community. We are anticipating the next growth curve to be with the Asian population.”

However, Bullard claims that only 60 percent of his congregation is gay or lesbian. 

“The other 40 percent are children, straight, bisexual, asexual and those who have no clue about their sexuality. We are an affirming congregation. But not just to the GLBT community. We are ‘people affirming,’” added Bullard.

Additionally, Bullard has solid relationships with other congregations in the community. He has established ministerial relationships with Pentecostals, Methodists, Baptists and other mainline evangelical denominations. The church as a whole strives to show Christ first in relationships. Their sexuality is not the first card played. According to Bullard, their sexuality doesn’t matter. What matters is the Savior they commonly serve. When their actions are Christ-like, and people see that first, how can anyone deny Jesus being in their lives?

Throughout the week, Covenant of the Cross has smaller Bible-study groups, “circles” as they are called, that meet throughout the metroplex. 

“We have groups that meet in Green Hills, White House, Smyrna and East Nashville. Too often, we live as victims, not as victors. Many times we go into situations expecting condemnation, and we set ourselves up for failure.” These circle groups give them the extra boost needed to make it through the week," Bullard said.

There is no membership role at Covenant of the Cross. In order to be a member, Bullard asks that you attend worship regularly, join a circle group, tithe and participate in some kind of service. “Your life-style reveals you are a member,” he noted.

I asked Bullard to describe what a visitor could expect on Sunday.

“We never want anybody to be friendly. We want everyone to be 'warm.' There is a difference. You are only friendly to those you are friends with. Being warm embraces everyone.”

Worship services are diverse, including hymns and praise and worship and Bullard's sermons are always practical. He doesn't preach doctrinal-based sermons. He believes that doctrine and theology will be revealed in the application of the sermon text.

July’s topic will be “An Invitation to Life.” The series will focus not only on an invitation to Christ, but how to invite people to get to know you in a more personal way.

“We are created to be around people that are diverse. You will never grow if you are around people just like you,” Bullard said.

Services are at 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, you can call the church office at 615-612-5040. You may also visit the church’s Web site at  

Church of the Living Water

Tony Sirten has been pastor of Church of the Living Water for 10 years. An incredible accomplishment considering pastors in many main-line denominational churches rarely last more than seven or eight years. 

When the church began, they experienced what Sirten described as “reverse discrimination.”  According to Sirten, when straight people visited, often they weren’t welcomed due to the circumstances surrounding their past.

Sirten notes, "We quickly stopped that. We welcome anyone and everyone to our church family.”

However, Sirten doesn’t want his congregation to be known as a “gay church.”

And that is clearly evident by the statistics he proudly gives: “Our congregation is pretty much 50 percent gay and 50 percent straight. Many family members of GLBT members have visited to try and understand their loved ones situation. That curiosity has led to membership. The church provides such a loving and warm environment that they choose to come and worship with their family."

Church of the Living Water also has a thriving ministry with the elderly population. Sirten said, “We have six members who are picked up twice a month by Access Ride. Only one of them is gay.” These faithful church members desire to be with their church family, regardless of sexual orientation.

Sirten has some very definitive long-term goals for his church.

“I want to purchase new property in Goodlettsville on which to build a modern facility,” he added. His current building was built in 1790. On that future property, in addition to a house of worship, he wants to place an assisted living and long-care facility.

When asked about the biggest obstacle facing his ministry today, Sirten easily gives his response.

“The hardest thing to get past is people’s preconceived ideas about church. Many are frustrated and bitter about church due a variety of reasons.” 

It is his goal to reach beyond that hurt and show them the loving embrace of a Heavenly Father.

Weekly worship services are held on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. and on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m.  Sirten describes the services as a cross between Baptist and Pentecostal.

“The are lively! You’ll find anything from contemporary praise and worship music to black gospel music," he notes.

Church of the Living Water is located at 731 South Dickerson Pike in Nashville. You may contact the church by calling 615-851-2345 or by e-mail at

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