Perhaps you love your congregation, but you’re troubled or hurt by its failure to acknowledge and affirm the presence of gay and transgender (LGBT) people. You know the church is failing in its mission to welcome all, but it’s hard to know what to do. No-one is talking about it.
Consider these possibilities:
- That you’re not alone; others are troubled or hurt as well and are wishing the congregation could move forward.
- That even the pastor is troubled, but fears that bringing up LGBT concerns in the pulpit would evoke a negative reaction.
- That the pastor may be waiting for church members like you to “force the issue,” thus providing cover and ground to stand on.
- Or that (this is very likely true) the pastor may wish to welcome but doesn’t feel sufficiently knowledgeable or prepared with language or ways to address the oft-quoted Biblical passages.
- That your breaking the silence could make the difference in opening up needed dialogue.
So the question returns, where to begin? Here’s a possible approach:
1. Share your concern with at least three others whom you trust.
There are many possible reasons to be troubled about the congregation’s silence. For example,
- You may be a parent whose daughter has recently come out as lesbian and doesn’t feel accepted.
- You may be making arrangements to adopt a 5 year-old child, and you’re afraid that as a gay dad, your family won’t be fully included in activities.
- You may wish to invite a transgender friend but would want assurance that he’d be welcome.
- You may be concerned about thoughtless comments being made in the youth group and the negative impact on any teens who are discerning their own sexuality.
Once you’re clear about what your concern is, share it with a few people that you feel comfortable with.
2. Ask them their thoughts about your concern.
Your concern inevitably raises important questions. For example, what is happening to make the lesbian daughter or transgender guest feel unaccepted? What issues would keep other families from fully embracing and supporting the newly-formed family? What is the church’s responsibility toward young people’s tendency to tease, scapegoat, and even bully those who are different?
3. Find out what concerns others may be quietly holding.
Once you open up about your own experience, you may be surprised what stories people will share with you. You may hear deep sadness, pain, isolation, or resignation. You may hear ways that others feel unwelcome for other reasons. Opening these conversations can be a healing gift that empowers yourself and others to invite more discussion and authentic sharing in your congregation.
4. Make an appointment to talk with your pastor.
By now, you will have had conversations with others in the congregation and you have new stories to add to your own. Some of the people you’ve talked with may wish to join you in a conversation with the pastor; others will consider their communications with you more private and not wish to join you. Share what you can with the pastor and ask for the pastor’s ideas about creating a more open climate.
5. Be prepared with resources such as those found at Many Voices.
Fortunately, you’re not breaking new ground here. Many other congregations have undertaken discussion, inquiry, and dialogue about how to expand their welcome to gay and transgender people and their families. You can avail yourself of worship and educational resources and online discussions with others who are beginning as well as those who have long experience in this area.