Welcoming Gays: A Response to Fr. Dwight Longenecker

Yesterday, Fr. Dwight Longenecker published a post called “Welcoming Gays: How Do I Do That?” We appreciate how he used a question mark in his title, and we hope he won’t mind us giving some honest feedback about welcoming LGBT people in Christian communities. Our goal in writing this post is to make some concrete suggestions about things pastors can actually do. Yesterday’s post had a reasonable litany of things best avoided.

When we welcome people, we usually want to know their names. We want to know them personally. It’s hard to feel welcome when people aren’t willing to come up to you, shake your hand, tell you their names, and ask you yours. On a similar note, welcoming a group of people means respecting how they see themselves as a group. We’ve known many a confirmation class from the United Methodist Church that has visited parishes within our Christian tradition as a part of their faith formation. We are always incredibly excited and supportive when our clergy decide to host a forum for these visitors after services to help them make sense of what they’ve seen in the Liturgy. In doing this, we’re treating them as candidates for confirmation in the United Methodist Church. There would be some differences in the ways our parishes would welcome an inquirer who is considering converting, a parishioner’s parents who are visiting from out of town, or visitors who are part of our tradition but come from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

If you want to welcome gays, it’s important to know and respect what the word gay means within the LGBT community. Specifically, the word gay is “a word describing a man or a woman who is emotionally, romantically, sexually and relationally attracted to members of the same sex.” We deliberately took this definition from the Human Rights Campaign’s Glossary of Terms because we wanted to use a definition from clearly within the LGBT community. If we look at the American Psychological Association’s website, we’d see sexual orientation defined as, “an often enduring pattern of emotional, romantic and/or sexual attractions of men to women or women to men (heterosexual), of women to women or men to men (homosexual), or by men or women to both sexes (bisexual).” It’s important to note that within the LGBT community, LGBT modifies people and homosexual modifies sexual orientation. Swapping the modifiers to get homosexual person is indicative that the person doing the labeling is using a clinical definition of homosexuality.

Fr. Longenecker, people who are gay cannot be described accurately as: “those who are sexually active and committed not only to sexual relations with a person of the same sex, but also to what might be called ‘gay activism’. In other words, their ‘gayness’  is more than sexual activity. It also involves political activism and an ideological stance.” Equating being gay with engaging in specific forms of political activism makes it easy for conservative Christians to assume that every LGBT person is a menace to congregations and must be opposed at all costs. When parishes perceive LGBT people as a carriers of a social plague, they’re just as likely to welcome an LGBT person at church as they are to let an Ebola patient hang out with them at home. And we know that Catholics are taking in the families of Ebola patients: Catholics help people because Catholics are Catholic, not because these families are necessarily Catholic.

If you want to welcome gays, it’s best to use language that is not deliberately inflammatory. Talk to LGBT people about the Gospel; about Christ; about His incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. Talk to us about love and sacrifice, grace and truth, mercy and justice. Teach us how to pray, to fast, to feast, to serve, to worship. Guide us as we seek to follow Christ and to grow in our understanding of him. Hear our confessions. Sin is not a dirty word, but please do not assume that you know our sins before we tell you. Resist the urge to say, “The gay lifestyle is repugnant to any right thinking Catholic. The gay ideology is anti-Catholic and the gay manifesto is manifestly un Christian.” As LGBT people, we’re really confused about what you mean by “the gay ideology” and “the gay manifesto.” And honestly, publicly describing the lifestyle of any and all gay people as repugnant isn’t exactly going to offer us any assurance that we will be greeted with a handshake if we have the guts to walk through the door of your parish. Please know that we’re not crying “Persecution!” We’re concerned that people in your parish will take it upon themselves to speculate and query about how we’re abominations before God.

If you want to welcome gays, affirm where you see goodness within us. So many LGBT people have been called “repugnant” by Christians that it can be hard for us to see ourselves as “first and foremost brothers and sisters, fellow human beings created in the image of God and therefore good and precious eternal souls.” Many Christians treat us like we’re part of “certain pressure groups” out to get the Church to “change her basic stance on homosexuality.” We’d love the opportunity to be people who are assumed to enter the door in good faith. It’s really fantastic when pastors take time to say something positive they see in our spiritual lives.

If you want to welcome gays, be willing to listen to our stories of how we have been hurt by pastors and other Christians. We honestly wish it were true that in most churches “the homosexual person is welcomed without prejudice if he or she truly wants to be part of the family of faith.” Surveys indicate that while over 70 percent of gay adults identify some connection to Christianity, 42 percent don’t attend church. We find this incredibly sad. Many LGBT people have grown up hearing that it’s impossible to be a gay Christian. Lindsey was 29 years old before a pastor had ever said to Lindsey, “You are welcome in this parish.” It remains a singular experience but Lindsey makes a habit of replaying that memory when feeling discouraged. It’s important for priests to know how to respond if one of their brother priests denies a celibate gay person absolution because of the gay person’s sexual orientation. Yes, this does happen even if it’s not supposed to happen. Too often, straight Christians behave like ostriches when LGBT people tell stories about experiencing discrimination in church. One can dismiss these stories easily by saying, “Well, that priest was wrong to deny you communion if you weren’t sinning. That’s not what the Church teaches. Surely the priest had other reasons to deny you communion.” This kind of response accuses LGBT Christians of lying and gives straight Christians an excuse to keep their heads in the sand.

To answer your question, Fr. Longenecker, “Do [gay people] want to be assured that simply because they experience same sex attraction they will not be vilified, ostracized and excluded?” The answer is Yes. We would also like it if straight Christians could stop ignoring how LGBT Christians have been mistreated by clergy and laity alike. It would be awesome if an LGBT person could tell a story of hurt and be greeted with empathy, reassurance, and perhaps an apology if one is warranted. Speaking for ourselves as a celibate LGBT couple, we’d love it if clergy in our Christian tradition could help us sort legal matters to ensure that we’re able to care for one another. There’s been a lot of ink spilled over the question of gay marriage where many Christian traditions have concluded that it’s inappropriate for a couple like us to enact a civil marriage. However, we’re still wondering about how best to sort issues of health care, financial interdependence, and other practical matters. Not always, but often in the past when we’ve raised these issues with priests and others we trust at church, we’ve been accused of being over-dramatic and looking for an excuse to call our relationship a “marriage.” We’re grateful to have a priest now who sees us as people rather than as problems. Nonetheless, it would be nice to have some assurance that we would be treated as people if we went to a different parish within our Christian tradition. It would also be fantastic if we had a sense that our fellow parishioners felt like they could give us an authentic welcome.

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51 thoughts on “Welcoming Gays: A Response to Fr. Dwight Longenecker

  1. As a fan of both this site and Fr. L’s, I can surely say your perspectives are quite close to each other. The 500 pound stumbling block in the living room is language: there is not a common shared language that you both can progress forward with. E.g., “gay” means two contradictory things to you and Fr. L.

    I am sure that once these ambiguities are resolved to both of your acceptance, you will find much common ground. I like to say that equivocation is the WD-40 of the Devil’s toolchest.

    • It’s exceptionally challenging when the language ambiguities are present at the outset of the conversation. Because “gay” can mean different things to various people, we’ve always recommended that pastors ask how a person uses the word. Hearing “Father, I’m gay” can activate any number of auto-tapes. We addressed the matter at length in our Providing Spiritual Direction post, available at http://aqueercalling.com/2014/02/04/providing-spiritual-direction/

    • Sorry to query you further, but we’re curious if you could link us to content on Fr. Longenecker’s site that leaves you to believe that our perspectives are quite close to each other. We’ve only seen the occasional post.

  2. Thank you very much for this. I am very much bothered that Fr. Longnecker confirms what I’ve experienced in the Roman Catholic Church, and in most Churches I’ve been in of any denomination – that identifying as “gay” means I’m saying “I sleep with men and am proud of it.”

    Your response was absolutely perfect. Thank you very much.

    • Trevor, thank you for sharing your perspective. We’re so sorry to hear that you’ve been on the receiving end of immediate speculation about your sexual activities.

  3. Thank you so much for writing this. I cannot tell you how unsettled I have been by some of Fr. L’s recent posts in light of the Synod and the general conversation in the greater Christian community about LGBT people. That the care his writing has shown in the past on other topics should be so lacking on this one is frustrating.

    I hope responses like yours and Gabriel’s provide food for thought for Fr. L and anyone else wondering “How should I welcome?”

    • Hi Nicole. Thanks for commenting. These topics can be extremely contentious. We do hope that we can foster a different kind of discussion here in our comments, and we’re glad to see that Fr. Longenecker has joined the conversation.

  4. Thanks for your post. In my original post I said I was using the words “gay” and “homosexual” with particular definitions for the sake of discussion. It those definitions don’t please you that’s okay. Choose different words.

    As for “seeing good in you” my main point is that people with same sex attraction should be treated like everybody else. As a priest I see good in everyone and I see sin in everyone. Especially when I look in the mirror.

    Are people with same sex attraction hurt and wounded by others? That happens to anyone who is different. It shouldn’t but it does. People who are nasty to others should repent and then not do it again.

    • Hello Fr. Longenecker. Thank you for joining our conversation here. We’re wondering if you could clarify what you mean by “the gay ideology” and “the gay manifesto.” Your initial post seems to assume that your readers know exactly what you mean. We’re not sure.

      We have our own outstanding questions following the Synod, especially as it relates to the question Cardinal Burke after the Australian family shared that they welcomed their gay son and his partner to Christmas dinner. Cardinal Burke asked, “what would it mean to grandchildren to have present at a family gathering a family member who is living [in] a disordered relationship with another person?” Sarah has sent him a letter asking him if he could clarify “disordered relationship,” and we posted the letter http://aqueercalling.com/2014/10/15/an-open-letter-to-cardinal-raymond-burke/

      We’re also curious if you have any experience offering pastoral care to a person with same sex attraction who has been hurt by Christians who cite their faith to justify the mistreatment. How would you respond if one of your parishioners sought you out to discuss the sexual orientations and perceived sins of specific members in the congregation while less than 6 feet away from those members? What would you do if one of your parishioners demanded to know exactly how you knew a particular person was celibate? How would you attend to an individual constantly accused of sexual impropriety on a weekly basis?

      Thanks for engaging with us here in the comment box. We hope that we can continue the discussion.

      • Thanks for your reply. I’m sorry I don’t have time for a long discussion on this matter.

        My reply is very simple. I would treat a person with same sex attraction the same way I would treat anyone–with kindness and assistance toward helping them follow Jesus more closely. If they had special psychological or spiritual needs that I could not fulfill I would recommend them to a professional counsellor or spiritual director.

        If they have been wounded by another person I would treat them just the same as I would treat any victim of injustice or unkindness–with compassion and assistance to them to work through their ordeal.

        If a parishioner came to me squawking about another person’s bedroom behaviors I would tell them to mind their own business.

        As I have said before, I don’t really see how any of these matters are any different because a person has same sex attraction. I’d treat everyone the same.

        • Fr. Longenecker, at this point, your comments ring of reasonably nice platitudes without any real substance behind them.

          We are two people who were cheered by the preliminary discourse about welcoming gay people in Catholic parishes. We held our breath as we observed the pushback from conservative Catholic voices. We prayed with and for our Catholic brothers and sisters who have been mistreated in their parishes because of suspicion they might be LGBT. We endured arguably one of the worst Sundays in our own congregation as some people vented about “the gay agenda” while inciting our priests to do something about us.

          You might be able to make a distinction between “gay activists” and “homosexual people trying to seek Christ.” But we seriously doubt that many people make any effort to draw this distinction. Not only that, but you yourself said in your post that you can’t imagine what welcoming gay people could mean besides welcoming a political agenda. It’s been our experience that “good Christians” would rather view us as a liability to their congregation than as committed followers of Christ. If you’re not willing to concede in even the slightest measure that defining gayness in terms of directly attacking the Catholic Church hurts the chances of productive evangelism with LGBT people, then we believe you’re contributing (however indirectly) to the hostilities we experience in our own church community.

          Please hear us: we know that hospitality goes both ways. We’re bound to muck things up on our end occasionally, even frequently. We love it when we’re able to participate in a church community where everyone realizes that the challenge of hospitality and will apologize if and when we’ve wronged each other. In your post, you closed with, “If I am wrong in this assessment, then I’m happy to be corrected. If ‘welcoming gays’ means something else what could it possibly be? We are called to discuss the issue and to listen. I am doing so.”

          In this post, we’ve tried to suggest that “welcoming gays” DOES mean something different than welcoming a political agenda, but all you seem to be willing to say is that we’re defining our terms differently. We’ve also tried to discuss with you concrete ways your approach is harmful to LGBT people committed to following Christ, but you appear unwilling to say even as much as, “I hadn’t really thought of things that way before. Let me think.” And lastly, were you serious about being willing to discuss the issue and to listen? We ask because we know that thoughtful discussion and engagement takes time, and you’ve said that you really don’t have the time. We understand that you’re certainly very busy; however, seeing as you were the one who invited discussion only to say that you don’t have time strikes us as a potential effort to shield yourself from the conversation.

          • Could you let us know how we’ve insulted you? We’d appreciate a chance to apologize.

          • “Aggressive and insulting” is writing an article saying gays are welcome in the Church “as a Communist would be welcome in the Republican party” (i.e., not at all).

            Its also, in addition, difficult to read your original piece as anything other than straight-up Pelagian heresy (if its impossible for gays to be welcomed in the Church unless they first repudiate their ideology and lifestyle, where, outside of the Church, are they getting the grace for this conversion?)

            When gay friends of mine carped about the fact that Synod midterm ‘Relatio’ was retranslated to delete the word welcome, I told them to stop being melodramatic. “Yes,” I said to them, “there are disagreements over some parts of the ‘Relatio’, and there are certainly big disagreements within the Church over how best to deal with the issue of homosexuality, but no-one on any side of that debate would seriously dispute the claim that homosexuals should be welcomed.” How wrong I was!

          • Aaron, thank you for contributing to the discussion on Fr. Longenecker’s initial post. We were also curious about what would render a gay person eligible for hospitality in Fr. Longenecker’s parish.

            It’s so unfortunate that it’s necessary to debate the word “welcome” especially as one considers the way one would like to be welcomed in a church. Gabriel’s definition of “making it plain to people that they are loved and valued in church, and, in fact, welcome to show up and be a part of the community” seems like a reasonable starting place.

          • ***We were also curious about what would render a gay person eligible for hospitality in Fr. Longenecker’s parish.***

            What part of Fr. L.’s reply below seems particularly difficult to understand?

            “My reply is very simple. I would treat a person with same sex attraction the same way I would treat anyone–with kindness and assistance toward helping them follow Jesus more closely. If they had special psychological or spiritual needs that I could not fulfill I would recommend them to a professional counsellor or spiritual director.”

          • Hi Jim, we’ve changed the nesting on the comment threads so that it remains easier people to read. Too many nested comments, and the columns get really skinny. In our reply to Aaron, we were discussing Fr. Longenecker’s original post where he defined gay people as “those who are sexually active and committed not only to sexual relations with a person of the same sex, but also to what might be called ‘gay activism’. In other words, their ‘gayness’ is more than sexual activity. It also involves political activism and an ideological stance.” It is unclear exactly what these people would need to do in order to receive hospitality from Fr. Longenecker’s parish.

    • Hello Fr. Longenecker,
      Thanks for your courage to be clear and charitable in this convoluted, politically correct world. I found this article by accident when I was searching for your very well written piece on clarifying language. There is a real blame game that is status quo, very tiresome! Who really suffers? Children, disabled, elderly…Those unable to stand up and blast others for their “offensive” terminology. Priests also, you don’t see any priests protesting for how badly they are treated.

  5. Hi Father, I read your blog post, and I thought it equivocated on the word “gay.” First you stipulate that you will define gay to mean a sexually active activist, but later the article seems to presume that those who want the Church to put out a document stressing welcome to gays share the definition of “gay” that you stipulate at the beginning of your article. peace.

    • Thanks for chiming in. We read the post similarly. We have no doubt that there are groups advocating for the Catholic Church to change its teachings on marriage; however, we find it highly unlikely that these groups are comprised solely of sexually active gay people. We share Gabriel’s concern that even gay activists should feel like they are welcome to show up and be a part of the church community, echoing his comments that sacramental participation is a theological matter.

  6. Fr. L, for purposes of clarity, I need to state that I do not speak from within the LGBT community, and thus do not have a personal axe to grind. To be honest, though, when I read your response to Sarah and Lindsay’s article, its tenor (to my straight, and admittedly insensitive ears), was a bit cavalier. By that I mean it, unfortunately, fails to convey a pastoral compassion for those who have been deeply wounded like the prophets in Zechariah, “in the house of my friends.” When one’s suffering is relativized and generalized with: “that happens to anyone who is different” those words tend to dilute and diminish the sympathy one is attempting to offer the sufferer. While pain is pain, nonetheless, for those who’ve been aggrieved by cruelty and rejection at the hands of those who profess to be followers of our Lord, acknowledging and entering sincerely into their suffering is the singular bridge over which healing can travel and grace can flow. I would have wished I had sensed more empathy for these our sisters who wrote and critiqued your essay with what seemed to me to be exemplary gentleness.

    • Hello Timothy, thanks for your comment here. It’s routinely difficult to communicate tone effectively on the internet, but we would like it if more folks would take some time to contemplate what it feels like to attend church services only to encounter open hostility. It is hurtful for us to hear “That’s life.” after we’ve shared a story of hurt. We hope to see you in the comments again!

  7. I read his article and yours. I found your response to be thoughtful, well-written, and considerate. Well done, ladies. I’m only sorry that he seems to miss the point of it. I felt that his post was characterized by dismissiveness and defiance, while yours was characterized by a sincere desire to be fully loved and included within your church community. I’m so sorry for how y’all have been hurt.

    • Annie, thank you for letting us know that you read Fr. Longenecker’s tone similarly. Tone rarely transfers well through the internet. We’re glad you stopped by today, and hope to see you again!

  8. Sarah and Lindsey, thank you for this post. I’m on Fr. Dwight’s side of the fence, by which I mean that I’m a straight Catholic with very little experience of the LGBT community. I’ve been asking myself Fr. Dwight’s question recently; as a Catholic the last thing I want to do is be a stumbling block for someone who is being drawn to Christ; and as a Lay Dominican I need to meet people where they are, and listen to them. I’m not especially good at it, but your post is a help along the way.

    The language issue is a huge one. Where I sit, the word “Gay” usually implies political activism—because that’s what’s visible to me. I see activists trying to shut down florist shops and bakeries, and I see pictures from parades that I find distasteful, and yes, lacking other information I tend to assume that those things are representative. This can lead to a kind of fortress mentality, as though it were my job to prevent the barbarians from storming the gates and breaking “my” Church. And all of that is tied up emotionally in that word “Gay”.

    Consequently, if I were to use the phrase “homosexual person” or “same-sex attracted person” I wouldn’t be trying to be clinical; I would be trying to say exactly what you say “gay person” means to you without pulling in all of those negative images.

    It’s a hard hurdle to get over in a brief conversational exchange after Mass.

    (If anything I said above offended, I apologize; I’m simply trying to explain how things look from my side, not claiming that that view is an accurate one.)

    • Hi Will, thanks so much for your comment. We sincerely appreciate how you’ve approached this discussion.

      Your comments on “gay visibility” were remarkably close to how Lindsey, as a high school student, saw the issue. Lindsey remembers searching on the internet trying to make sense of the question, “I think I might be gay.” The information was a bit overwhelming, much of it was focused on sex. Rosie and Ellen had just come out, and it wasn’t uncommon to see scandalous pictures of San Francisco Pride.

      Even today, many resources designed to help people who are questioning their sexual orientation and gender identity recommend a very limited set of normative actions. We recently problematized the various normative actions recommended in this literature in this post: http://aqueercalling.com/2014/09/24/overcoming-oppression-and-the-challenge-of-being-yourself/

      Lindsey can relate to the idea of needing to break down the emotional walls around the word “gay.” It’s a bit different when your experience of things doesn’t match the experience of the vast majority of your peers. There’s something about trying to tease out the niggling sense of difference. If you’re trying to discern whether you should get married, it’s important to figure out that sense of difference. Many LGBT Christians we know decided to use LGBT language only after deciding that the language helped them describe the niggling sense of difference.

      Conversely, when Lindsey hears the word “homosexual,” the brain jumps immediately to “Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” In Lindsey’s Evangelical tradition, “homosexual” was always attached to “homosexual offender.” Furthermore, these verse were constantly cited as justification for mandating that gay people try to become straight. Like many LGBT people, we’ve heard an untold number of people ask, “Don’t you realize that being gay is a sin?” If the first association with the word “homosexual” is “homosexual offender” it would be really hard to convince a person of the neutrality of the word.

      • People of good will have to be willing to “come to terms”, as Mortimer Adler put it, absolutely. But it makes it so hard to even begin; I feel like I have to wrap so many disclaimers and cautions and such like around what I say so as to be clear and avoid unintentional offense that I succumb to nuance fatigue and shut up.

    • Maybe this will help a bit on the language issue.

      As a boy, I realized about age 12 or 13 that I was attracted to other boys instead of girls. I knew, of course, that the word for that was “homosexual.” So I began to listen closely, and silently, to what the men at Church, my pastor and my parents said about “gays” and “homosexuals.” Of course it was largely negative and there was very little said about God’s mercy or forgiveness when the subject of homosexuality came up.

      “Maybe,” I thought, “they are not talking about people like me who don’t want to be gay and who strive to obey a biblical sexual standard.” But how could I find out? I didn’t want to tell anyone about me. So i asked the pastor, “But what about a person who doesn’t have sex? Is it wrong merely to be attracted to other guys?” My pastor responded, as i have heard many respond, with Matthew 5, that it is wrong to lust. But my question wasn’t really about an objective, theological point. My real question, down inside, was “when you condemn ‘gays’ with no mention of forgiveness, are you condemning me even though I have never acted on my temptations?” And his answer signaled to me an unequivocal “yes, you are included in the condemnation too and absence of mercy.” From then on every thing anyone said about gays and homosexuals ripped me apart.

      That is why it is important we always use “gay” and “homosexual” in the broad sense. That small percentage of the “gay community” that do obnoxious things like try to shut down businesses – they aren’t listening to you and they would not care what you have to say if they did. Those LGBT people who believe it is OK to have sex within a committed relationship – they aren’t listening to you either and they don’t care about your opinion very much anyway.

      The only people who ARE listening to Christian laypeople, pastors and priests are those who, because they hold a biblical sexual ethic, have remained in the Church, especially the teens who are miserable already. They are listening to what you say. They care very much. And they can’t read your mind. They have no way of knowing that you meant only that tiny part of the LGBT community who are politically pushy. So every single thing you say about “gays” or “homosexuals,” they hear as being addressed directly to themselves.

      so the best thing to do is always to use “gay” or LGBT in the broadest possible sense. And if you want to talk about “gay activists”, then take the time and make the effort to actually say “gay activists.” Don’t make those kids struggle to figure out that you were not talking about them, or worse, to assume that you were

      • Oh, and I should add, if you feel the need to address gay activism, do be polite and reasonable. From your post I suspect you are. But too many Christians see the topic of homosexuality as a chance to really let loose with all kinds of vitriol and anger. It is possible to argue against a certain action, behavior or political stance with belittling or mocking people.

      • Hi Matt, Lindsey can definitely relate to the experience of hanging out and listening for how people talk about gay people, homosexuals, people with same-sex attraction, LGBT people, etc. In ex-gay circles, there was a lot of “Don’t say you’re gay, say you struggle with same-sex attraction” with the expectation that God would change your sexual orientation. These circles are almost exclusively religious circles. It seems entirely reasonable to us that kids asking questions about sexual orientation and gender identity would be looking for clues from how the adults around them use the language.

  9. You raised some very good points. However, I have a couple of questions: If the Church says that homosexual BEHAVIOR is a sin and that a homosexual must leave his/her lifestyle behind (the same way a heterosexual has to leave an adulterous relationship or a co-habiting partner or a life spent on pornography), would most homosexuals actually agree to that? Would most homosexuals engaged in that lifestyle agree beforehand that the Church will never agree or bless a homosexual union? Because that is what is happening. Many homosexuals who want to live in the life of the church want to change church teaching and bless their union or at the very least turn a blind eye. These are the people that Fr. L is actually referring to.

    • Hi Godfrey, thanks for your comment here. In our writings, we tend to not focus on behavior as much as we focus on vocation. The way we see it, Christians have a much easier task to proclaim how marriage and celibacy make manifest the kingdom of God. Robust teaching on married and celibate vocations helps people see where they are going TO rather than where they’re coming FROM. We’re of the opinion that focusing on where we are going helps us as Christians focus on Christ.

      Vocations are not simply about avoiding a set of behaviors. Vocations are about living into the fullness of what Christ has for you. With God’s grace, people experience conviction that certain behaviors are not aligned with their vocation. We celebrate with friends who have realized that a pornography habit does not align with any Christ-centered vocation. At the same time, we’ve had to seek a lot of spiritual direction in trying to align our whole lives within God’s purposes for us in our celibate vocations. We’ve shared on the blog how Lindsey has had to discern a way to be radically hospitable as an introvert (http://aqueercalling.com/2014/03/14/when-vocation-doesnt-come-naturally/) and how Sarah has experienced longing to be a mother (http://aqueercalling.com/2014/03/17/children-connectedness-and-the-vocation-to-celibacy/ and http://aqueercalling.com/2014/09/15/grieving-what-my-vocation-is-not/).

      Our opinion is that if more churches presented robust, challenging, engaging, and hopeful views of marriage AND celibate vocations, LGBT persons would have support in discerning the way of Christ. We’ve learned so much about marriage from participating in the lives of married families at our churches. It’s fantastic to be in a faith community where all of the adults present have a sort of honorary aunt or uncle status. Right now, it’s hard for many people to see how churches offer any sense of vocation to LGBT people. Simply saying, “Don’t have gay sex” doesn’t exactly help people see what abundant life Christ may be offering to them.

      • You seem to conclude that the Catholic Church offers LGBT people a pathway to a vocation to “couplehood”–to being an “LGBT couple”.

        Upon what teachings of the Catholic Church would you base this claim upon?

        • That’s actually not a claim we make. We don’t make any claims in our posts about what the Catholic Church does or does not teach. We are not Catholic ourselves, though Sarah is a former Catholic, so we don’t have any interest in making an argument of any kind by using Catholic teaching as a starting point. That said, we *do* believe that celibate vocations can come in many different forms. Being a couple, a pair, a community of two, or whatever term one might use for us is an arrangement that works for *us* for a variety of reasons, but is not a pathway that would work for everyone. We don’t see our vocation as one to “couplehoood.” But we do believe that we are called to living celibacy together as we are now. We use the word “couple” along with many other terms for describing our relationship. Some people get hung up on certain terms, and we think this is counterproductive. It’s important to understand why people have chosen the terms they have to describe their ways of life, and we would be glad to answer questions regarding why we use the language we do.

          • Thanks for the response. Why do you use the term “couple”? Are there specific attributes of your relationship that comprise the concept of “couplehood”?

          • Hi Jim. We respond to that question in part here: http://aqueercalling.com/2014/10/17/why-do-you-call-yourselves-a-celibate-lgbt-couple/. Also, we think it’s important to point out that there’s no all-encompassing, universal definition of “couple hood.” Even dictionary.com has at least three definitions of the word “couple” that could apply to the word’s use for describing a relationship: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/couple. Definition 3 on the dictionary.com page resonates with us. Very simply, we are two people who are considered “together.” We are also fine with terms like pair, partnership, and community of two. If a particular person isn’t comfortable referring to us as a couple, that person is often more comfortable with “pair” or “community of two.”

  10. I was, well, not really surprised, unfortunately, by this statement of Father L’s: “I would have thought in most Catholic parishes, and amongst most Catholic clergy the exact opposite happens–that the homosexual person is welcomed without prejudice if he or she truly wants to be part of the family of faith.”

    I have talked to over a 1000 individuals who are LGBT but hold to a tradition biblical sexual ethic and who are active members of churches, both catholic and protestant. Maybe half a dozen said they felt welcomed or at home in their church. Some were closeted and afraid to come out, even to the pastor, because of comments that have been made. Others admitted to the pastor or other church friends that they were attracted to their own gender – and, as a consequence, they wound up feeling very lonely at church. I know of very few who were entrusted with even the least church office in their parish after confessing their orientation to their pastor.

    Yet, i have never met a pastor who believe such a person would be “unwelcome” in their church.

    Obviously there is a huge disconnect.

    Maybe, Father L, a more important task would be to ask why it is that what you, and other religious leaders, think you are saying isn’t what “same sex attracted” kids in your congregation are hearing. Maybe it would be a good idea to ask people like those here what they would like in order to correct the message the Church has sent instead of being insulted when people try to help you understand.

    • A heart amen, hands to Jesus, cheers to this, Matt. I have been and still am one of those LGBT people who feels afraid to come out even to my church leadership, and mostly, it’s the messages that have come either from the leadership or unwittingly from the membership. Your last paragraph is exactly where the conversation should be directed.

    • Hi Matt, thanks for your comment here. We know a lot of LGBT Christians who hold to a traditional sexual ethic, but we wouldn’t quite put it at the 1000 number. How have you met so many?

      Your statement about kids in the congregation made us think of the documentary “Through My Eyes.” We think it provides some wonderful insights into the questions you’ve asked, and it’s a rare resource that does not try to sell a particular understanding of sexual ethics. If you’re interested in checking out Through My Eyes, you can purchase it at http://www.amazon.com/Through-My-Eyes-documentary/dp/B001UL7L8W The trailer is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyIFcMHHTRg

      • I met many of them through Exodus International when it was still going. Their yearly conferences gave people a chance to meet other “SSA” people from around the country. I was also part of an internet support group for a while that had around 200 members as well as a number of different support groups around the country as I moved different places. The 1000 people I have met have been over a span of around 30 years.

        Although I agree with the decision Exodus made to close, it is much harder to meet LGBT people with traditional sexual ethics now that their website (which used to give directions to these various groups) is gone. Today I would not even know where to look to meet other people like myself.

        • Hi Matt, thanks for the additional information. We probably have met and talked with over 300 LGBT people with traditional sexual ethics, but we haven’t been at it for 30 years either!

          Please feel free to contact us on the page if you’re interested in knowing more about how we’ve met a considerable number of LGBT people with traditional sexual ethics.

  11. Hi Sarah, Hi Lindsey,

    I feel as though I know you. It is a generous thing you are doing here, helping persons like me (I have never liked the word “straight,” but then I grew up thinking that everybody is lie me) understand the range of experiences that seem to be part of our gifts from God–generous, because you tell your stories in enough detail that others can get to meet the persons you are rather than, say, the the labels or, worse, the stereotypes; generous because you listen and respond respectfully and, if I may say so, reverently; generous because you take so much time working at this weblog, so much energy. I for one am grateful.

    Oddly enough, I am grateful also for having been introduced to fr. Longenecker. I think I shall visit his site off and on. As a former RC who was regularly angered by then Archbishop Burke in my hometown, I still feel the need to understand what motivated me for so many years in the Roman church, what was and is still good abut that part of my life. I have so many friends, so many family members who grew up in that tradition, but who now feel unanchored and confused and missing out. After reading carefully Fr L’s comments about welcoming gays, but especially after reading his bio page, I think he will provide a connection for me, maybe even a kind of inspiration (because he seems sincere and he works so hard and he is just plain interesting). I wouldn’t have known about him if I didn’t know you (”cyberknow”).

    Don’t worry, however; I read here almost daily. He is more of a new interest right now, a surprisly blunt spokesperson–but sincere and well grounded, I think–a person who may help me dig deeper into the tradition of the church I attend. I find myself both agreeing and disagreeing with him about gays and homosexuals. I am still confused, but open. (Did I tell you that my best friend is gay, and almost ruined emotionally by his early experience growing up Catholic? It’s true, but evidently, and sadly, not uncommon.)

    • Hi Albert!

      Thanks for your comment here. We’re grateful when our blog can bring about solid relationships. You might be blessed by seeing how Fr. Longenecker’s parish has embarked on a building campaign in order to create a distinctly Catholic presence in their community. Having been in other parishes during building seasons, we know the importance of praying for the process. It is our earnest prayer that Fr. Longenecker can play a role in developing a truly Catholic community inside and out.

      When we talk about hospitality, we talk first and foremost about hospitality. We entitled our very first post on the blog “Vulnerability opens the door to intimacy” and started sharing a bit of how we understand intimacy in our relationship. Take a look at http://aqueercalling.com/2014/01/16/vulnerability/

      We hope that reading Fr. Longenecker’s blog will be spiritually productive for you, and we pray for an ever-expanding circle of close relationships. You’ll always be welcome here as a reader 🙂

      • I just finished reading “vulnerability.” Thanks for pointing me there. Often, especially with my longtime partner, I fear that I am too vulnerable–too sensitive, too readily wounded when disagreements occur. My partner is easily angered, but even more easily forgiving and forgetting–blunt, like fr. L., she sees the world as a tough place, and love as a give-and-take commitment; whereas I used to think it was all give (though she has taught me that such a view often means all take). Also I have found how hard it is to let another person see one’s weaknesses, one’s vulnerable spots. Your reflection(s) make me reflect. I admire your relationship. Having survived many years in mine, I am still learning. Thank you again.

        • Hi Albert, we’re glad that you were blessed by our thoughts on vulnerability. May God be with you as you reflect on your own experiences. Thanks for reading.

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