Saturday Symposium: Calling All Pastors, Priests, and Religious Leaders

Hello, Friends. Happy Saturday!

This week at A Queer Calling, we’ve had a number of thought-provoking discussions on a variety of topics. We have enjoyed reading all your comments on our posts and your responses to us on Twitter. Many thanks to those who have shared our posts on Facebook as well. We truly value all the positive feedback and constructive criticism. We would like to encourage all of you to participate in the discussion as you feel inspired, and to provide another opportunity for this, we have decided that as a wrap-up for each week of our blogging adventure we will feature a “Saturday Symposium” question.

How this works: It’s very simple. We ask a multi-part question related to a topic we’ve blogged about during the past week or are considering blogging about in the near future, and you, our readers, share your responses in the comments section. Feel free to be open, reflective, and vulnerable…and to challenge us. But as always, be mindful of the comment policy that ends each of our posts. Usually, we respond fairly quickly to each comment, but in order to give you time to think, come back, add more later if you want, and discuss with other readers, we will wait until the following Monday to respond to comments on Saturday Symposium questions.

Are you ready? Here goes…

This week’s Saturday Symposium question: On Tuesday, we released a post titled, “10 Things We Wish Our Church Family Knew,” and it generated a lot of discussion about church environments, how they can be welcoming or unwelcoming to LGBT individuals and couples, and what specifically it means for a church to be supportive in meeting the spiritual needs of a celibate, LGBT couple. This week we would like to ask, especially to our readers who are pastors, priests, and religious leaders of any kind: what would it look like for you to welcome a celibate, LGBT couple within the context of your church? How do you think such a couple would be received in your congregation? Do you feel well-equipped to advise celibate people in cultivating their vocations?

We look forward to reading your responses. If you’re concerned about having your comment publicly associated with your name, please consider using the Contact Us page to submit your comment. We can post it under a pseudonym (i.e. John says, “your comment”) or summarize your comment in our own words (i.e. One person observed…). Participating in this kind of public dialogue can be risky, and we want to do what we can to protect you even if that means we preserve your anonymity. Have a fantastic weekend!

Blessings,

Sarah and Lindsey

Comment Policy: Please remember that we, and all others commenting on this blog, are people. Practice kindness. Practice generosity. Practice asking questions. Practice showing love. Practice being human. If your comment is rude, it will be deleted. If you are constantly negative, argumentative, or bullish, you will not be able to comment anymore. We are the sole moderators of the combox.

10 thoughts on “Saturday Symposium: Calling All Pastors, Priests, and Religious Leaders

  1. I guess I will start things off. First I should clarify that I’m a Catholic man studying for the priesthood (currently I’m a transitional deacon), and I’m a brother within the Order of Preachers.

    I think your article on the 10 things you wished your Church Family Knew was very enlightening, and it provided insights into a world that I have had very little experience with. Currently I serve at an urban parish that is known for its openness to people of all walks of life, and there are several LGBT couples that are active in the parish in a very visible way. For the most part, everyone within the parish is fine with this, and some straight couples with families come to the parish because it is open to the LGBT community. However, I also notice a certain lack of engagement with couples that are LGBT. I couldn’t tell you if any of these couples were celibate or not. I don’t know what kind of support they are looking for, or how they see themselves within the Church. Of course, I’m not privy to the pastor’s relationship with them, and he could be working with them privately. But I can say that in the parish as a whole, there is a certain amount of ambiguity about the nature of our LGBT couples. People who might have issues with LGBT couples probably don’t ask questions or say anything, and people who are accepting of LGBT couples are very supportive but still might not really understand the LGBT vocation. The pastor and his pastoral team try to engage the parishioners in a deeper way through various faith sharing groups or Bible study groups which some people join, but it seems like people are happy with keeping their personal lives (and the personal lives of others out of the Church). I for one think the celibate LGBT calling is a powerful witness for the Church and the world, but I’m still trying to learn how to foster/promote this vocation.

    • Thanks for your bravery in leading off the discussion. We’re sorry it’s taken so long for us to get back to these comments, but we’ve had really different schedules this week where we haven’t been in the same place at the same time.

      You present a very common problem: there are LGBT couples participating somewhat in the life of the Church, but no one seems especially clear on how to broach certain topics. Too often when pastors aren’t sure what to do, it’s easy to do nothing. From the sounds of your comment, perhaps you yourself are in this place right now where you’ve noticed you’re not really doing much but would like to do more.

      As some practical first steps, consider getting to know some of the LGBT people in your parish personally. What do they like to do for fun? How do they spend their time? Where do they live? Why do they like attending Mass at your parish? Where else do they feel connected to the church? We believe questions are the substance of relationship.

      Another thing to think about would be how does your parish talk about celibacy? Is it a vocation that is reserved for priests and vowed religious? Are there older people who are single in the parish? Do they receive support and encouragement to participate in the life of the parish? How does the parish support them in living single lives in the world? Do sermons feature illustrations from people living diverse celibate lives? From our experience, many parishes will tend to spend a good amount of time talking about the family, assuming that adults in the parish are actively engaged in raising their own children. While it’s very important for parishes to help people cultivate the marital vocation, it’s worth dedicating some resources to helping people cultivate different celibate vocations.

    • CHRISTIAN PRIESTS???? BY STEVE FINNELL

      Are there Christian priests mentioned in the Bible? The only high priest mentioned is Jesus Christ. The priesthood of all believers is mentioned, however, there is not an office of Christian priest for selected individuals.

      JESUS IS THE HIGH PRIEST!

      Hebrews 3:1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession;

      JESUS IS THE HIGH PRIEST!

      Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

      The so-called Christians priests of today cannot grant forgiveness from sins nor can they make atonement for the sins of the people. Only Jesus is a high priest.

      Hebrews 7:11-12 Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aron? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.

      The Levitical priesthood ended when Jesus died on the cross. There is and never has been a Christian priesthood of individual priests, overseeing, or acting as priests of congregations. THE INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIAN PRIEST IS A MAN-MADE PRIESTHOOD.

      Hebrews 8:3-4 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. 4 Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law;

      Christians nor anyone else are under the Law. If Jesus were here on earth He would not be a priest. Why would any Christian, here on earth, consider himself to be a priest able to offer gifts or sacrifices.

      THERE IS ONLY ONE PRIEST STANDING BETWEEN MAN AND GOD. THAT PRIEST IS JESUS CHRIST.

      1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Jesus Christ,

      A HOLY PRIESTHOOD, A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD INCLUDES ALL CHRISTIANS.

      1 Peter 2:4-9 ….5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…… 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’ own possession….

      Peter was talking to Christians who were throughout the world. (Peter 1:1). Peter was not addressing certain individuals who were selected to the office of priest.

      THE OFFICE OF CHRISTIAN PRIEST IS NOT MENTION IN THE BIBLE. Christian priests are only mentioned in church catechisms and other extra-Biblical books. Man-made writings are not Scripture.

      Ephesians 4:11-12 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for equipping of the saints for the work of service, to building up the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith…

      You will notice priests were not mentioned as equipping the saints. Why? Because Jesus is the priest. There is no office of “CHRISTIAN PRIEST.”

      YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com

      • Steve, you haven’t commented on our blog before, so we would like to point out our comment policy at the bottom of each post. Please be respectful of the diversity of views expressed by other readers. You are entitled to your belief that there should be no priests in Christian churches, but not all Christian traditions hold this belief. Ours does not. We would also like to point out that our blog is not a space intended for theological argumentation. It is a place for thoughtful reflection about celibacy, LGBT Christian issues, and other topics in spirituality. You are welcome here, but if you are looking for a place to debate others on theological matters, this is not it.

  2. To continue the discussion. I’m a Lutheran Deacon studying for the office of the Holy Ministry in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

    Being a gay celibate individual, your article struck me to my core and has left a lasting impression on me. For one, I haven’t had the misfortune of being utterly rejected and so your article reminded me that such opportunity could arise at any moment within the walls of a conservatice protestant church. Yet on the other hand, I admit that much of that may be due to my status as a closeted gay man at the Seminary which I attend. More so, I’m tired of some individuals at the Seminary who constantly belittle the gay community and blame their supposed resurgence on the culture of our society. I can’t say that I’m celibate around here because people question my motives or even worse deny me that vocation. A major shortcoming of Lutheranism is the Lutheran himself who is so wrapped up in their conservative world that they don’t see the world around them and its need for the Gospel of Christ and him Crucified. Plus they devalue this vocation despite its inclusion in the Church’s confessional documents. Marriage reigns supreme here at the expense of celibacy.

    But I digress. Lutherans of the LCMS who happen to be gay are either forced into the proverbial closet or leave after the church begins the process of ostracising them. Therefore, a celibate gay couple for me would be accepted in the church and not denied the word or sacraments. Would there be resistence? Yes but the Gospel of Christ is not for me to withhold to those who need to hear it. They would be in the church learning, teaching, providing for the needy and evangelizing the community at large. I desire to aid others in cultivating their blessed gift and promote this vocation as a valid expression in unity with the scriptures and the confessions thereof. But of course there are limitations to this model. To a degree, I must trust their confession of celibacy and fidelity to their calling which is problematic. I suppose if they are a part of my flock then I ought to not treat them as outsiders but foster a relationship with them in order to get a better feel for their spiritual development.

    This, as the brother Deacon has elluded to, is a community effort which needs to arise from the redeemed body of Christ. It ought to begin with a reexamination of ourselves in light of our communal redemption in Christ.

    • Thanks Sergio! You bring up a lot of very good points, especially as it relates to the Protestant experiences.

      In many Protestant traditions, the celibate vocation has been all but lost. We think you are absolutely right with your observation that “Marriage reigns supreme.” That’s part of the reason why we’ve devoted a significant effort here towards defining celibacy.

      In our opinion, it’s hard to go wrong when you want to focus on the Gospel. The Gospel is central to our faith, and there’s a lot to be gleaned even from the Gospel texts about what celibate vocations might look like. Lindsey has been particularly impacted by Luke’s account of sending out the 70 where Christ sent out workers into the harvest 2 by 2.

  3. We’ve been contacted by a number of people privately responding to our Saturday Symposium questions. These readers have been concerned that commenting in such a public space could result in significant consequences for them, their local church, and even their Christian tradition. We apologize for not foreseeing this particular concern, and hope that our readers will forgive us. Even though we look like we’re exceptionally public ourselves, we both exercise great caution in sharing our blog with certain friends. Additionally, you may have noticed that we haven’t even taken the step of publicly identifying our Christian tradition. Part of that is because we want our observations to be broadly applicable to the celibate vocation, but another part of that is that we’re honestly nervous about having our relationship (and our local parish) scrutinized and critiqued by outsiders. If you want to participate in these discussions anonymously, please use our Contact Us page. We promise to protect your identity.

    Several people who have responded to us privately have remarked that they have never really thought about the possibility of celibate, LGBT, Christian couples of their local church community. Our blog is their first experience learning about this particular way of life. They are grateful for our willingness to share our experience, and they have their own process to navigate before being willing to “endorse” this way of life as a “good thing.”

    Some people have commented that they’ve shared some of our posts with people leading their Church. These interactions have been rather telling that perhaps their local community is not ready to welcome a celibate, LGBT, Christian couple in their midst. Many people have gotten responses that a “faithful” LGBT Christian should be devoting their energies to trying to become straight or towards working through the root causes of their psychological imbalances. Some churches lack language of any kind to describe the LGBT Christian experience because a person cannot be a Christian if that individual is also LGBT.

    We know a number of people who work for their churches who fear retaliation if they were publicly identified with supporting a celibate, LGBT, Christian couple. Specifically, these people fear for their jobs. Their overseeing entities of their church (synods, conferences, and archdioceses) are known to have an especially stern response if a person is perceived to be “progressive” on LGBT issues.

    Many people have been honest in describing that our experience in their church would be awkward at best. In some churches, there might be an uneasy truce reminiscent of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” where congregants and church leadership might tolerate a couple like us in the pews on Sunday but would keep their distance from getting to know us as people.

    • There are a lot of issues raised in these comments worthy of consideration.

      First, welcoming LGBT individuals into particular churches can carry significant risk. There’s no one way forward on any of these issues, except for the slow path of building relationships and trying to share life with people who find themselves on a learning curve.

      We think the Gay Christian Network has some great preliminary resources to foster dialogue in conservative churches and would especially like to recommend a documentary called Through My Eyes and the Church Toolkit available at https://www.gaychristian.net/store/church-toolkit

      It’s worth noting that often change can be slower and more laborious than expected. However, we all try to do our part in learning to love our neighbors as ourselves.

  4. I will attempt to respond. Our parish’s motto is: All are welcome here. And we strive to welcome people from all cultures, backgrounds, sexual-orientations, etc. There are some LGBT members in our church community, a number of whom are very involved in different ministries. I do not know of any celibate LGBT couples in our church. You are the only LGBT celibate couple I have ever known.

    The majority of the LGBT church members I know are only open about their LGBT orientation with people they get to know or feel close to within the community. They are not necessarily open with everyone. Some of the LGBT church members that I know have shared they feel called to a celibate lifestyle, and inspire me in the way they live out that calling. One of our pastors was dedicated to ministering to and providing spiritual direction for LGBT individuals. This was not open knowledge though, meaning the pastoral team was aware of his ministry and would refer people to him; however we never had any outreach to that effect or posted it in the bulletin. It was more confidential. In hind sight, outreach could possibly help LGBT members feel more accepted and welcomed within the community as well as provide them with further support.

    Overall, while I believe our church strives to welcome everyone, I also think we have a far way to go in order to come to a deeper understanding of how to better pastorally support LGBT individuals. And as I’ve expressed with you elsewhere on the blog, I myself have struggled with the best way to present Catholic teaching while also being pastoral and exemplifying God’s love when youth are asking questions about the Church’s stance on homosexuality.

    In Catholic circles, it seems quite common to hear the term “same-sex attraction” being used instead of homosexuality.
    One thing I wanted your feedback on sometime is about the Catholic organization called “Courage”. I myself don’t know much about it but know it’s active in our diocese. Any thoughts?

    • Thanks Angela for bringing up so many great points.

      Many pastors are very open and very willing to offer compassionate, respectful, and appropriate spiritual direction to LGBT people. However, it can be difficult for others to know that a pastor is willing. One possible way of sharing a pastor’s willingness more openly can be to have a discussion group for members of the LGBT community. We have some friends who are active in coordinating the Always God’s Children group at St Matthew’s Cathedral: http://www.stmatthewscathedral.org/always-gods-children This group has been organized by members of the LGBT community in the parish and has backing of the priest who attends the meetings himself. Announcements connecting a priest’s name to an LGBT group at the church can help signal the priest’s willingness a bit more directly.

      We will probably spend more time talking about youth ministers and the need to teach sexual morality in an age-appropriate way. Aaron Taylor recently wrote a good first reflection about spiritual direction for youth that provides much food for thought: http://spiritualfriendship.org/2014/01/24/youth-and-same-sex-attraction-responding-to-austin-ruse-part-1/ We’re going to be digesting this article ourselves.

      Regarding Courage: although the organization has an official blessing to present teachings on homosexuality, local expressions of the organization tend to be varied in how they interpret Church teaching. Some leaders of Courage groups emphasize using words like “experience same-sex attraction” to discourage people from identifying with features of gay subcultures. Other leaders of Courage have adopted broader understandings of what a person might mean when they say, “I’m gay.” It’s difficult for us to be charitable to the organization because so many of them encourage LGBT people to excise their sexualities rather than integrating their sexualities. We also wouldn’t expect a Courage group to think positively of our life as a celibate couple. The work at Spiritual Friendship seems to be much more balanced than the work coming from Courage.

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