Saturday Symposium: Making the Church Safe

Hello, Friends. Happy Saturday! It’s hard to believe it’s already February. The time has been flying!

We’re so glad you’re a part of the discussions at A Queer Calling. We have enjoyed reading all your comments on our posts and your responses to us on Twitter. Many thanks once again to those who continue to share our posts on Facebook and share our link through other means. We feel so blessed to have heard from many of you in the comments section and via email this week. We would like to encourage all of you to participate as you feel led, and the time has come for a new “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 after Monday to respond to comments on Saturday Symposium questions.

Now, for the question…

This week’s Saturday Symposium question: This week, we have featured three posts that touch in various ways on how LGBT people can be treated by and in the Church. We’ve shared that we have had really negative personal experiences when people divide “the good gays” from “the bad gays,” when we as LGBT people might not fit within the community norms at an existing Open and Affirming church, and when religious leaders try to mandate celibacy for all LGBT Christians. This week, we would like to ask: How do you feel your Christian tradition falls short of extending appropriate pastoral care to LGBT people and their families? In what areas does your Christian tradition excel at providing pastoral care to LGBT people and their families? How have you tried to join LGBT Christians on their spiritual journeys? When you have been getting to know LGBT people, what are some observations you have made that you wish were more widely known in the Church? Would you regard your home church as a “safe” place for LGBT Christians and their families to encounter Christ? Why?

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 wonderful weekend!


Sarah and Lindsey

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11 thoughts on “Saturday Symposium: Making the Church Safe

  1. When I first talked to my pastor (since then we’ve moved as a family so only in contact via email) I knew where he stood walking in but also knew he would be gracious and honest and demand something from me. However, I don’t know if any real pastoral care was extended to my family in any way, mostly since I was not actively in a relationship with another dude. Or, that’s my theory. The best pastoral/church care I received was when I told my high school theology teacher who is a DCE in the LCMS church and she was totally okay with me figuring this out and kind towards my various positions.
    When I had a Twitter getting to know older gay men who are further along in their faith and experience helped me realize that there’s a very real community out there who want to help and support each other. And, more importantly, people who care enough to invest time in younger LGBTQ Christians. It was beautiful and I wish that were a thing encouraged from Churches everywhere – that there are LGBTQ Christians who will interact and invest time in you.

    Just some random thoughts.

    • Hi Jonas, you bring up some really great points about how communities give LGBT Christians needed space for processing their questions about faith and sexuality. It’s so important to remember that we’re not on this journey alone. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently is how to communicate the need to make the Church a safe place. I’m able to see so clearly how much harm is done to LGBTQ people by homophobia, but it’s often a lot harder to try to extend empathy and compassion the other way — to ask “What is motivating this?” and “How do we communicate charitably with people who are afraid of welcoming LGBTQ people?” How do we speak to that couple who left their parish because Wesley Hill was openly gay, even though he was also openly celibate? How do we speak to someone who thinks that gays are trying to destroy the church and society? How do we relate to that headspace enough to speak productively to those fears? Because my natural inclination is just to vilify, but then that drives recalcitrance and it doesn’t call people to repentance…

    • Melinda, thanks for putting our questions on the other foot so to speak. We’ve found it incredibly important to remain mindful of where people are at spiritually. Within our tradition, we’ve met so many people who are just not in a place where they can handle the idea of a faithful LGBT Christian. In some ways, we try to remember that, in many places, LGBT Christians have tried to create a very particular reformation of Church teaching. There are LGBT Christians willing to “storm the gate” and demand change to Christology, sacraments, grace, ecclesiology, and other important theological understandings. Remembering that people might be reacting to this sort of reforming spirit helps us be a little more gracious…. while also trying to have conversations with those people to show them that we (very likely) share their understanding of Christology, sacraments, grace, ecclesiology, etc.

  3. I have been taking a great deal of time preaching about radical hospitality. In particular, we do a great job saying we are friendly and welcoming, but, at least in my congregation, that has been qualified with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” proviso. I want to challage my community to understand that if you truely want to share an open table you have to begin by sharing your own story and being open to all parts of each person’s being. My ultimate challenge to those who speak judgement of any person, for any reason, is to remind them that they cheapen the power of cross when they condemn a single person to hell.
    I also discourage “sin” language when we talk about LGBT issues. I have a queer daughter. She is only 15 and our congregation does not feel safe for her, but I see bright spaces as we will be welcoming a 70 somthing women into our membership who has found acceptance as she has started coming out to our church family.

    • Thanks for your thoughts about what you do with your congregation. Emphasizing radical hospitality can be a great way to get everyone on a common ground.

      Please correct us if we’re wrong, but we think you might discourage “sin” language because it has been such the clamoring gong. Phrases like “Love the sinner, hate the sin” catch on because people WANT to talk about LGBT Christians in terms of a simple “sin issue.” Reminding people that they rarely frame other issues as being primarily about “sin” can go a long way.

      We’d also posit that in a polarized world, actually talking about sin more generally could go a long way in some congregations. Too many people have “homosexual acts” and “abortion” as the only things they know to label as “sin.” Sin, properly understood, is a much larger theological concept. It’s good to help people learn to see their OWN sins, rather than encouraging them to judge their brother.

  4. From what I’ve seen, there has been a lack of discussion and action concerning ministry to LGBT individuals in the Lutheran Church body of which I am a part of. The ministry that does exist tends to belittle the gay narrative or rather questions an individuals decision to stay within the church body rather than leave it for an affirminf church. However their theology of representative suffering and consolation with LGBT individuals and their families is quite pronounced. But there is a tendency to keep separate one’s sexual identity from their church life. I sadly do that widely but am open to my close friends. What really saddens me is the denial of the spirituality of LGBT individuals and a disregard of whatever form of orthodoxy they actually have. I’ve met plently of LGBT individuals who are keen on scriptural and doctrinal matters outside of the clobber verses. I have allowed and have joined the spiritual journey of many LGBT individuals from GCN and rather than discuss this point, I speak to them about other matters of the faith.

    • Hi Sergio, you bring forward an excellent point that it makes sense to consider gay narratives as opposed to “the gay lifestyle.” All too often, it can be easy to forget that people have stories. We’re hopeful that in sharing our story a bit more transparently, people will have yet another resource to turn to when trying to raise thoughtful discussions within their church contexts.

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