A conversation with your pastor

Thank you for considering how to speak with your pastor about expanding the congregation’s welcome and inclusion.

You may be upset about something that’s happened—or not happened.

You may feel newly inspired by the possibilities of a breakthrough to new wholeness in your congregation.

You may have suffered in silence for a long, long time.

Wherever you are, know that you’re in the perfect place. Lifting your voice could be key to greater inclusion.

Before beginning a conversation…

Think about what you know about this person.

  • Perhaps your pastor hasn’t ever spoken from the pulpit about including everyone along the full spectrum of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • Perhaps you’ve heard proud declarations of welcome for everyone, but you’ve also heard condemnations or you still have questions about where the pastor stands.
  • Within your worship community, you may have endured expressions of inequality and discrimination against persons who are gay or transgender.

Consider as well that a pastor’s reluctance to raise the issue is not necessarily a sign of opposition. Pastors often wonder how their congregations will react if they take a supportive stand: Will this conversation be too divisive? Will members disagree? Will they leave the church? Will they remove the pastor?

Your pastor may be waiting for the congregation to ask about welcome of gay or transgender people, and what the church is supposed to be.

Engaging in conversation with your pastor benefits everyone.

Very often, your own experience and perspective provide the best starting point.

  • If you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender yourself, or have close friends or family members who are, talk with the pastor about what it means—how hurtful it can be—that you or they are made invisible or condemned.
  • Talk about your desire to see everyone involved, embraced, and fully included in the life of your congregation.
  • Invite your pastor to think creatively with you about how to accomplish the kind of worship that reflects God’s diversity and expresses the welcome spoken about.
  • Offer to help make this happen, offer your ideas as a starting point, and ask the pastor for ideas.
  • Make clear that you and others will stand with the pastor to create a more open and welcome worshipping community.

If your pastor has been openly condemning…

You might consider sharing the effect of that condemnation on the young people in your faith community. Recent research suggests that not only are a significant number of youth in our churches questioning their orientation or gender identity, these youth are more likely to attempt or commit suicide when faced with pastoral condemnation. Many pastors are upset to learn that they may be causing such distress among the youth in their flock.

Remember, too, that many people in our churches, pastors included, were brought up to believe that the Bible is condemning, and they haven’t been introduced to alternative views of Scripture. Here is some material you could look through to see what might be useful to share with your own pastor.

For additional perspectives, please follow these links:

Dr. Obery Hendricks Jr.,  Don’t Blame it on the Bible

Rev. Cedric A. Harmon, But I Know what the Bible Says