Ultra-Conservativism in the Church as being detrimental to the faith of LGBTQ Christians

Today, we are featuring a guest post from Patrick who shares a bit of his personal story and describes how a certain type of conservative approach to discussing faith and sexuality can cause serious harm. Patrick shares his story using language of “struggle with same-sex attraction.” This is very different from how the two of us experience our sexualities, but as we have stated before, we believe it is very important to create space for LGBTQ (or SSA if you prefer) people to use language of their own choosing when describing layers of identity. It is important to state upfront that the writer of this post is not promoting an ex-gay ideology or advocating for any sort of orientation change efforts. We believe that all stories are important, and regardless of preferred terminology, we hope that all our readers will learn something from Patrick’s story. As with all guest posts, the ideas and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of A Queer Calling.

A guest post by Patrick

First off, I want to thank Sarah and Lindsey for the chance at writing a post on their blog. I am very honored to share my thoughts and reflections here! Secondly, I want to always say, for anyone in the church reading this post who struggles with same-sex attraction, you are not alone, and not all priests and ministers are your enemy or are ignorant of your spiritual needs and sexual desires.

I should start with a brief summary of my own life. I first realized that I had same-sex attraction when I hit puberty around 11 years old. I had had ‘friend’ crushes before that- since I was 9, and had also had same-sex lust when I was 10- but I never put together lust for a single person and a ‘friend’ crush together until I was 12 years old. By the time I was 13, I knew I was gay, even though I didn’t quite know what ‘gay’ was. I thought maybe I’ll just like girls later- but I could never find myself lusting for women, even after I had seen pornography featuring only women. It was when I was 15 that it finally dawned on me that to be ‘gay’ was not Christian (as I had known it). I had heard my quite right-leaning uncle condemning my own half-sister’s lesbian relationship, and later that year- I remember reading in the bible for the first time in Leviticus where it condemned gay relations, calling them an ‘abomination’. I thought my life was over. That day I was convinced I was going to commit suicide because God wouldn’t accept me as who I was.

While I did not pursue suicide, thinking it was too awful for my family to bear; I kept my secret to myself, and only came out as ‘bisexual’ when I was 17 because of social pressure. I became Orthodox while I was in college (and still in the closet) and had to detail this part of my life to my priest through my life’s confession as I was being received into the church. While he did indeed not judge or condemn me, he did challenge me to make my life less about my sexual orientation and more about my personhood in Christ. I had gone back into the closet in college only to come back out again when I was leaving school, this time through friends that wanted to help me understand my orientation, and through my priest when he started seeing that keeping this secret was making me dangerously mentally unstable. He encouraged me to come out to my family and friends, to develop good relationships with men, and to be celibate- something I wasn’t sure was possible to do at the time. I thank God for him, as I’m not the only person he has saved from the brink of destruction by going out of his own comfort zone to listen to our emotional and spiritual needs as it relates to sexual orientation. While my struggle has *not* been easy, I know it is what I must do for my life. It is my cross to bear, and I thank God for that, as it is how I am being more conformed to his image.

I have found through my own personal experiences in the Church that there is as much diversity in thought and practice as there is in most denominations, in how we frame political and ideological lines in our faith. Liberals, conservatives, and all in between, are found at the chalice each Sunday morning, desiring to draw close to receive the body of Christ and taste the fountain of immortality. The Church is the Church, on behalf of all and for all, the saints and sinners alike. We are all sinners in need of God’s grace, and if anyone should mark iniquities, who should stand? Only God the Father is good. We live our whole spiritual lives following him in his Son, in hopes we too can share in his rich inheritance He has left for us in His goodness. This is the end goal for all Orthodox Christians- a sanctified life in Christ wherein we are saved- no matter who we are or where we are when we begin the race.

I love all members of the Church as best I can, seeing them as co-strugglers. I love them as brothers and sisters in the faith. However, I find it disconcerting when any group takes it upon themselves to proclaim moral superiority above the whole body of believers- as have certain politically ultra-conservative Orthodox Christians. We are all free to have opinions about any number of things, but we are commanded to firmly proclaim the truth in love and abide by the rules and traditions of our faith. We are all to encourage each other to fight the good fight, but to do so in love. I see very little of this happening when some take it upon themselves to be the absolute moral authority of the Church, disparaging those whom they see as lesser, and proclaiming they are not fully Orthodox. I have seen this first hand- when it comes to the issue of homosexuality and gay members in the Church. When these issues are discussed, some ultra-conservative Christians feel the need to reinforce the law to the T– sans grace, speaking only about what the canons say regarding these topics, and using the Church fathers as a backbone of their arguments.

I understand many find it tough to begin to frame conversations on spirituality and sexuality in the Orthodox tradition, without it ending up as an absolute ultimatum of a choice between marriage and monasticism. There is not historically much mention of any other choice besides these that was considered holy and venerable, and this does not help us in the modern day where sexuality is seen as a whole identity in addition to, or rather than just part of that of Christianity. The idea of a sexual identity other than heterosexual is foreign to Orthodoxy- this much is true. But the reality is that this is the world which we find ourselves. We have to be able to formulate an ethical answer to these issues that addresses the needs of the faithful who do find themselves struggling with a sexual identity that is not along heteronormative lines. But as we do this, a core group of people in the Church who want nothing more than to erase that conversation and diminish the life experiences of those who struggle, does not help in any way. The idea that an Orthodox believer could choose to be celibate and able to discuss their sexuality with others, is therefore scandalous to some of the more hard-line Orthodox. When these two groups cross it is an ugly fight of polemics.

What I have found is that many of my fellow believers are more apt to have this conversation about a third way- such as my priest- and some are simply not able to move past a mental block that does not positively allow the notion of any sexuality beyond heterosexuality. I do not blame them. This does not fit comfortably into their worldview- a worldview that only admits the possibility that Orthodox could either be straight or celibate. It is cognitive dissonance, and I do not begrudge any misunderstanding. But, I must raise my voice again when anyone brings it upon themselves to proclaim judgment and diminish another’s interpersonal struggles and validated experiences. I would say that these conversations need to be had not for the sake of writing off those struggling with same-sex attraction and sexual identity by quoting a canon or saying of the Church Fathers, but in a thoughtful, loving way. There is a way to approach these things in love and with concern, but flat out judgment, based on personal opinion and experience is not that way.

Rather than being life giving, this proclamation of judgment about supposed behavior does two things- both of which, are painfully detrimental to the spiritual lives of both sides involved:

  1. In diminishing the person’s life experiences and emotional needs, it creates further mental crisis where it likely already exists, and
  2. It assumes that we have the right to say that another’s sins are worse than our own, which is pride in its ugliest fashion.

What this proclamation often communicates to LGBTQ+ people struggling with homosexuality and same-sex attraction is that there is no hope in finding solace in the struggle- there is no help for them among their fellow Orthodox Christians, and no one who will listen and understand. This proclamation communicates that their struggle is not valid. Rather, it is nothing more than a mental condition brought on by x and y condition. It is not a cross to bear for one’s salvation, but instead it is nothing more than a fluke that must be eradicated for the sake of one’s faith and place in happy society. These assumptions do nothing but drive those who cannot will away their sexuality to develop a worse mental state than what existed before, and causes them to cope with their pain by turning to alcohol, drugs, promiscuity, and in the worst cases, suicide.

The amount of suicides committed and the stories of those men and women who couldn’t ‘change’ their orientation are enough to tell that we have utterly failed to love people who are struggling with same-sex attraction, through failure on the parts of many, to separate the struggler’s sexuality from their humanity. But the truth is that what people who identify as gay, trans, and queer of all persuasions want more than the acceptance of their sexuality is rather the acceptance of their humanity. They are no less human for their struggles. However, a clear bastion of our faith wants to paint them as otherwise lesser, not Orthodox, mentally ill, etc. But what we need to do instead is to help LGBTQ+ folk realize that they too are equally human and deserving of equal worth (without getting into political aspects of ‘equality’). Even if ultra-conservative Christians are unable to validate all the struggles of LGBTQ+ people, we can and should enhance the conversation so that at least the experiences of LGBTQ+ Christians can be heard. This is the only way for both sides to meet their emotional and spiritual needs without a political war zone erupting. How this conversation will proceed, I do not have the answer for. But I can say it will begin by listening.

Only when LGBTQ+ people are able to encounter Christ personally, peacefully, and are surrounded by a community that is positive, encouraging, and supportive, will they be able to actually ford the waters of celibacy. Our faith makes it clear that genital expression outside marriage is a sin- and that all those not in a Church-sanctioned marriage must work against the carnal lusts of the flesh. This is the end goal for all persons regardless of orientation, and it cannot be argued against. Only through the support of a positive community can LGBTQ+ persons struggle against the flesh, find peace, and a positive vocation for their lives and faith paths. They may even choose to be monastics, or be married in a heterosexual relationship for the sake of having a family, but they cannot make this choice with others disturbing their peace by proclaiming that their orientation is invalidated and their emotions a sign of mental illness.

In closing, I want to leave this post with a quote from a dear friend and sister in Christ:

I think doctrinally orthodox Christians- to the extent they are guilty of this, need to stop thinking (that) believing the right things will get them into heaven. You can be perfectly orthodox in theology and go to hell. Right belief is necessary, but not sufficient- you have to live the life. People of all political stripes have to remember any political party you choose will have planks that no Christian can get behind. Who cares if someone calls you a liberal or a conservative? The issue is fidelity to Christ. I have gone on extensively over the years about right doctrine. But if you have right doctrine, and that doesn’t translate into the way you treat the poor, your enemies, strangers, people of other races, etc…then I would suggest something is amiss.

I cannot agree more. If you have true faith, you will know it by the Fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance- against which there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23). Let us all cultivate these Fruits of the Spirit and proclaim love, joy, and peace to all truly, in Christ Jesus, the author of our lives. Amen.

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.

The Challenges of Allyship

A reflection by Lindsey

Doing life with people is hard. It’s tremendously difficult, especially when trying to live at the intersections of power and privilege. An ally is a person who sits at these intersections trying to listen, trying to learn, and trying to be present. Sometimes it’s essential to be an advocate for the people closest to you.

I’ll admit, sometimes it’s just plain weird to think of myself as Sarah’s “ally.” The word doesn’t come to mind when I think about our relationship. But then I think about everything I’ve learned from Sarah about life with chronic illnesses, surviving sexual violence, and negotiating rapidly changing ability levels. The more I learn, the harder it is for me to not care. I even find myself incredibly invested in causes I never knew existed before I met Sarah. I want so badly to cast aside my own prejudices and advocate zealously for the dignity of every human being.

Except it’s not that easy.

I can’t turn off my own story. I can do my best to foster compassion, to create space, and to listen, but I’m always living in my own story. So often my story gets in the way. It’s hard for me to look at how power and privilege block what I’m able to see. Most of the time I really don’t want to see from another’s perspective.

In the past several months, I’ve watched Sarah grow towards becoming a late-deafened adult. Along the way, I’ve learned a bit about deafness, the Deaf community, and Deaf culture. It’s amazing how I’m seeing a part of the world that I’ve never seen before. And it’s also hard to realize how I’ve lived my whole life simply assenting to a view that hearing is a superior way of being. In reality, there’s something mysteriously amazing at how deafness enables a different way of experiencing the world, even as my experiences of silence remain remarkably different from Sarah’s.

I’ve been thinking a lot more about allyship lately. As I reflected recently, learning to be who I am as a white person taught me a lot about being who I am as an LGBT person. Sarah also recently introduced me to The Help. And I continue to think about how allies can let our own stories get in the way even when we have the best of intentions.

At a meta-level, The Help already raises big questions about whose story the author is actually telling. Abilene Cooper, a black maid, brought a lawsuit against author Kathryn Stockett on the grounds that Stockett had represented Cooper’s life story without permission. Watching the film adaptation of the book, I found myself asking a lot of questions about being an ally.

To quickly set up my observations, Skeeter Phelan (played by Emma Stone) is trying to make it in publishing. She takes on a job writing a cleaning advice column to gain some more experience. Skeeter doesn’t know much of anything about cleaning, so she gets permission to ask her friend’s housekeeper Aibileen a bunch of questions. She realizes that she would love to write about what it’s like for black women to work as maids in 1960s Mississippi because their perspective hasn’t been heard before. It’s new, it’s fresh, and it deeply connects to Skeeter’s own relationship with the maid who raised her. However, Skeeter jumps into her project with both feet before she realizes what she’s doing. She’s a bit taken aback that the maids she knows aren’t keen on speaking with her. She goes to the courthouse, figures out what she’s doing is illegal, and proceeds more cautiously. Aibileen cautiously agrees to start sharing stories.

I see a lot of myself when I look at Skeeter. She jumps in with gusto before taking any time to listen and learn. Shortly after Sarah had found out that one ear is medically deaf, I saw a story flying around the internet about a “fake interpreter” working at an Ebola conference. I was furious, so naturally I shared the story on Facebook with a guarded statement of “From what I can tell, this interpreter doesn’t seem to be doing a good job. ASL-fluent friends, what say you?” I was definitely not prepared to put my foot in my mouth after I learned the interpreter is a Certified Deaf Interpreter working on a team with another signer. But my friends corrected me, asked me to change something in my initial comment, and took some time to explain to me how Certified Deaf Interpreters work with a hearing interpreter. The hearing interpreter signs an initial English-to-ASL translation to the Deaf interpreter who then polishes the ASL such that it’s more intelligible for native ASL users. As it turns out, using Certified Deaf Interpreters is a best practice. Being an ally means learning, sometimes putting yourself out there, quickly putting your foot in your mouth when you screw up, and listening some more.

Being an ally is not fun, and it frequently means sitting with the discomfort that you are wrong a lot more than you are right. It means working to perfect your “I’m sorry. Please let me know what sort of corrective action I need to take,” muscles. I’ve had to own my story of privilege time and time again as I reflect why I didn’t understand something that should have been so plainly obvious. I’m so grateful for everyone who has had space to correct me when I’ve screwed up, and I’m profoundly humbled by the way folks have responded to me during times when I’ve missed the point entirely.

I’d love to be a part of the solution in making the world more welcoming and more hospitable to people who are different from me. But in order for that to happen, I need to learn how to position my story such that it makes space for other people to share theirs.

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.

Author’s note: This post has been edited to remove some unintentionally vidist references that negatively portrayed blindness. If other folks see places where my language has fallen short of my goal, please consider taking to the comment box to let me know what I’ve done unintentionally and suggest some alternate ways of communicating the same meaning.

Saturday Symposium: Loving LGBT People Well

Hello readers! It’s been great to see so many new faces in the comments this week. We’re glad you’re here. For those just finding your way to A Queer Calling, it’s Saturday where we host a Saturday Symposium question to encourage discussion between our readers. We invite everyone to participate!

Now it’s time for this week’s 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.

This week’s Saturday Symposium question: We’ve been talking a lot about love this week. On Thursday, we started a conversation about how traditional churches can love LGBT people well. Today, we’d like to broaden that discussion by asking how have you seen churches show love to LGBT people. Where have you seen a church show extravagant love? Which stories stand out to you because they show that local churches can indeed love well? What stories give you strength to continue loving well? Where have you found unexpected fruit from trying to love LGBT people well?

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

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.

Has it really been a year already?

This week has been an absolute whirlwind of activity in our house. We got back from the GCN conference in Portland and jumped straightaway back into our normal everyday lives. That does presuppose, of course, that our lives could ever be described as normal.

We published our first post on this blog exactly a year ago. We never thought that Vulnerability Opens the Door to Intimacy would create a space for hundreds of people to join us in conversations about being LGBT, being celibate, and being Christians. It was a little weird to go to GCN conference to meet our readers…. Since when did we become a big deal? And really, how could this space at A Queer Calling be worthy of a shoutout in a keynote address? We started the blog because a handful of people approached us after the “Celibacy Involves Family” workshop we presented in Chicago. They wanted to hear our story. Because Lindsey had recently lost a job, we had a lot of time and wanted something to do. So we wrote. And we wrote some more. And we wrote so much that some of you said, “Gah! You’re publishing too much too fast! Please slow down!” Writing this blog has been about saying things we think ought to be said, sharing our lives with our readers such that we’re real people, and finding balance points so as to have a different sort of conversation about LGBT people in the Church.

Along the way, we’ve come to realize it’s important to tell you more about who we are and what life looks like for us away from the cliff face of sexuality and faith. As much as we are celibate LGBT Christians, our vocation calls us to be more. We’re teachers, friends, confidants, and earnest advocates. We strive to be transparent, at least as much as we can. Transparency is hard. It’s not much fun to be vulnerable in an extremely public forum. But we’re so grateful for how all of our readers and commenters have been here for us along the way. It was a sacred gift to meet some of you in Portland.

In Portland, we took another series of first steps: Sarah exhibited and sold art. We were amazed by how people at the GCN conference received Art Coming Out the Ears. And a few of them told us that we should put Sarah’s work up on the internet. We’ve spent the last few nights hard at work to follow up. It’s a distinct pleasure to unveil Art Coming Out the Ears: Artistic Explorations of Faith, Identity, and Life with Ménière’s Disease. We’d encourage you to go have a look, and if you’re so inspired, we’d love to send you print or some greeting cards that features images of Sarah’s original art. If money’s an issue for you, please avail yourself of code AQCFAMILY at the Etsy store to save 10% on all purchases.

Thank you for our first year. We look forward to continuing this journey with you. May God shower you with abundant blessings.

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.

Loving LGBT People Well, 12 Suggestions for Traditional Churches

Amid significant discussions about how churches relate to LGBT people, many people whether churches that teach traditional sexual ethics can love LGBT people well. Part of the question relates to how people understand the term traditional sexual ethics, but a bigger part of the question concerns the lived witness of churches towards their LGBT congregants.

For the sake of having a working definition, let’s say a traditional church is a community that teaches marriage as a fantastic, awesome, and inspiring union of a man and a woman focused on establishing a family.

Unfortunately, many traditional churches are best known for their political activities rather than their love and care for their community. Lindsey’s a notorious optimist and decided to make some suggestions for traditionally-minded Christians. After all, we were asked:

We’d like to take this question seriously, and we’d welcome continued dialogue with any traditionally-minded Christian who wants to take us up on our suggestions. So, without further ado, here are 12 suggestions for loving LGBT people well.

1. Commit to walking with people, not presuming that you have all of the answers. Listen far more than you speak, feeling the full weight of the power of words to destroy souls. So many pastoral challenges begin when pastors fail to appreciate that LGBT people are first and foremost people. Walking with a person involves sitting down together, establishing relationship, sharing vulnerably, and coming to places of trust. Realize that many LGBT people have been harassed and maligned by so many others, especially Christians. Watch what you say from the front of your congregation, especially during times and seasons where it seems absolutely fitting to teach about marriage and sexuality.

2. For the love of God, please don’t make saying the sentence “I’m gay” (or any other LGBTQ variant) the unforgivable sin in your congregation. Words are words, and they have the meaning we ascribe to them. Conservative Christian, please take time to ask what particular people mean when we describe ourselves as LGBTQ. Constantly demanding that queer folk censor our language at all times causes us to wonder if it’s possible to share our lives with you. Humble yourself and say, “I’m really not quite sure what you mean when you say that. Could you help me understand better?” Sure, some people navigating questions of sexual orientation and gender identity might not feel comfortable with using LGBTQ language, but don’t force others to make the same choice.

3. Investigate what your Christian tradition teaches about celibacy. Find positive, negative, and neutral views on celibate vocations. There’s a reason why this point comes third in our list of suggestions. We know so many traditional churches that have never had an honest discussion about celibate ways of life. Celibate vocation is not a shorthand for sexual abstinence; it’s a way of living. If you can’t comprehend what celibate vocations might look like, then you will likely try asking LGBTQ people to live into identically the same counsel as cisgender, heterosexual people when it comes to sexual morality. [Cisgender is a word that means not transgender. Cisgender people have a gender identity that aligns with their sex assigned at birth.] Without rigorously investigating your Christian tradition’s teachings on celibacy, you’re likely to assume that LGBTQ people just need to meet the right opposite-sex person to marry or do not need any support living into celibate vocations.

4. Seriously examine how your Christian tradition understands marriage. We’re admittedly coming at this question from an LGBTQ perspective, but sometimes it’s hard to see what makes marriage such a big deal in particular churches. So many heterosexuals seem to get married using designer services that say little about being called into a married way of life. It’s worth asking questions: Are there must-have and non-negotiable parts of a wedding service at your church? What do those essentials proclaim about the nature of marriage? Are those the right messages to send? For example, many Christian traditions regard “giving away the bride” as an essential part of a wedding service. However, this practice has questionable Christian pedigree because of how it’s been used to reinforce the idea that women are property.

5. Call on all parents to love their children unconditionally, making a point to specifically and explicitly discuss LGBT kids. This point is an absolute must. Too many Christians have advocated for “tough love” approaches where a child becomes expendable the instant he or she comes out as LGBT. Parents should be the ultimate safety net for their children. If parents cite something taught in your church as a basis for cutting off their relationship with their LGBT kids, then we hope you would get on with the work of public repentance stat. No parent should be forced to choose between their kid and their faith.

6. Get to know, and support the work of, community organizations working to serve LGBT kids when their parents fail to walk alongside of them. Any child who does not experience unconditional love from his or her parents is going to have a really hard time. Most kids whose parents cite Christian beliefs as the reason why they can no longer love their children are not going to come banging down the doors of a church asking for help. We’ve been impressed by organizations trying to do the heroic work of loving LGBT kids when parents refuse to do so. We’re grateful for organizations like the Trevor Project and the new Trans Lifeline. We’ve lost count of the number of people who found refuge at the Gay Christian Network. There are organizations like LoveBoldly trying to make a difference on a smaller scale. Many local LGBT centers serve as a great touchpoint for finding real-life organizations doing work in your community. Learn about what these organizations are doing, listen to people share their stories, and do what you can to extend tangible expressions of Christ’s love for all people.

7. Pray for yourself, other people in church leadership, and your congregation as a whole. Ask others to pray for you. If you’re still reading up to this point, congratulations. We know far too many traditionally-minded Christians who would give up after reading points 1 and 2, much less get all the way to point 7. Doing this work is hard, and trying to love others without counting the cost will change you. Entreat God to open up the storehouse of wisdom.

8. Ask God to reveal to you any way you have crushed the spirits of LGBT people… and expect to be surprised. No one expects to be the destroyer of souls. No one expects to have blood on their hands. But it happens. It happens all of the time. We’re Christians, but we all too often fail to love with the love of Christ. Repentance is part and parcel of any Christian’s journey. We don’t pretend to know what God will show you when you shine the light of Christ on this area of your witness. We simply want to invite you to pray with the Psalmist “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way within me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

9. Watch “Through My Eyes” and arrange periodic screenings at your church. This video resource is one of the most helpful resources we know of for promoting discussion of LGBT people in your church. It’s produced by the Gay Christian Network and features the stories of over 20 queer young adults. It differs from other resources in that it does not offer any kind of theological apologetic. We know many Christians who’ve found it to be a good way to approach the tough conversations from a place of empathy.

10. Read accounts of celibate LGBT Christians with traditional sexual ethics with an eye towards discerning their different pastoral needs along their journeys. Two of the best known are Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill and Gay and Catholic by Eve Tushnet. Now, there’s a great temptation to weaponize the stories of celibate LGBT Christians and assert that somehow we’re the “good” gays who should be welcome in churches while “bad” (sexually active) gays should be shunned absolutely. Resist that temptation with everything in your being. We’ve walked this journey with many, many, many LGBT people. Shoving one of these books (for that matter, our blog) in the direction of an LGBT person and asserting that individual can live a celibate vocation is incredibly unfeeling and excuses pastors of their pastoral responsibilities. We recommend these specific books because they are part memoir where a discerning eye can pick out places where both Hill and Tushnet needed real pastoral support. Could they, and others like them, get that kind of support from your congregation?

11. Talk openly with your church about how you’ve found gaps in how you love LGBT people. Expect a lot of controversy and commit for the long haul. Many of these activities are necessarily public activities. They are activities that invite action. Leading with love requires being visible. We know that it’s not easy.

12. Risk coming out in vocal support for the dignity of LGBT people. One theological tenet guides every suggestion we’ve made: all people are created in the image of God and have a fundamental dignity as children of God. What are you willing to give to proclaim that LGBT people have dignity? How bold are you willing to be?

We consider these suggestions as only the tip of the iceberg. As we wrote this post, we could identify maybe three church communities that attempt to to any of this work. But we have to wonder if there are local churches willing to embrace the challenges and love LGBT people well. Heck, we know many progressive churches that fall short of doing the things we’ve suggested here. We’ve put this stake in the ground because we think the time has come to stop shying away from boldly declaring that LGBT people have dignity and must be treated with respect. We’d welcome any church from any Christian tradition who wants to take up this challenge to contact us directly. Any information submitted through our Contact Us page comes directly to us, and we promise to hold your information in absolute confidence. If you want to identify yourself publicly in the comments, please do so.

As always, we invite commentators from every perspective under the sun to join the conversation on this post. Before you comment, please be sure to remind yourself of our comment policy.

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.

Author’s note: this post has been edited to add a definition for cisgender. It’s important to have these difficult conversations in a way that is inclusive of both sexual orientation and gender identity.