I write one or twice a month for a group called The Ecumenicals, a loosely affiliated bunch of young adults from various Christian (and non-Christian) faith walks who explore a particular topic around Christian faith and life each week.
This week's was:
What is the role of LGBTQ+ individuals within the church?
And this was my reply.
I cannot claim a special role in the church for myself or for my LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters. We’ve had one for long enough.
We have been isolated. We have been rejected. After we finally came to terms with the searing truth of ourselves, hard-wrought and heart-breaking, the truth we couldn’t stop facing after years of begging prayers and desperate hopes that it wasn’t true -- after we finally spoke the words, “I am gay,” “I am queer,” “I wasn’t born in the right body,” we have been told that our soul-shattering and world-opening truth was offensive to God. That we, laid bare before the Lord and before our brothers and sisters in Christ, were an abomination, and our best hope to escape eternal damnation was only if we locked up the truth about ourselves and lived a solitary half-life of self-hatred and pain.
We have been tortured, spiritually and psychologically and emotionally and physically. We have been subjected to psychologically traumatizing and medically disproven practices. We have been hung out on a fence in the middle of Wyoming and beaten to death with the butt of a gun. We wear bulletproof vests to our ordinations. We retire from our bishopric early after death threats dog us and our partners for years. “Good Christians” and their churches come forward at every turn to kill us. And so we leave the church, a mass exodus into a wilderness where the name of Jesus is a neon beacon of condemnation and terror.
So when you ask me, “What is the role of LGBTQ+ individuals within the church?”, I want to reply, “What more do you want from us?”
How many more times do you need us to tell our stories? How many more books and blogs and documentaries and It Gets Better videos do you require before you will listen? How much more ministry done, how many more food shelves and homeless shelters and compassionate care, how much more beautiful music and hand-crafted art, how many more volunteer hours and weekly tithes, all poured into an institution that gladly takes our time and money but still treats us as second-class?
How many more broken teens and young adults, and mid-life crises, and couples together for fifty years who only now can legally marry in a handful of states, do you require of us?
There are days when I would gladly offer that we might be like the Gentiles of the early church. That the role of LGBTQ+ individuals is to take up the wide-eyed exclamations of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, “How can I understand, unless someone guides me?” “Does the prophet say this about himself or about someone else?” “Look! Here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” There are days when I have likened me and my queer brothers and sisters to Cornelius in Acts 10, dedicating years to almsgiving and constant prayer, anxiously awaiting the arrival of Simon Peter and his declaration that “God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.” There are days when I have found our role in those early outcasts, the foreigners who were not welcome in the temple, the God-fearers who prayed fervently to the Lord.
But I am tired. I am tired of justifying my place in God’s tent. I am tired of dressing up the lives of LGBTQ+ people in biblical allegories in the desperate hope that the church will stop killing us.
I want to know what role the church is going to play in our lives. I want to know if the church is willing to put aside its selective biblical literalism. I want to know if the church is ready to see the visions and hear the voice of God, who sent Philip to the chariot and Peter to Cornelius’ house. I want to know if you are going to make a safe space for me and my people to speak our truth. Because I am tired of watching my queer brothers and sisters die while the church waits to decide what our “role” is.
The only role I’m willing to accept for LGBTQ+ people is “beloved children of God.”