It's Not You. It's the Institution.

When church institutions make exclusionary policies, the harm ripples out far beyond that denomination and its congregations. Re-opening wounds and reinforcing a deep sense of alienation and rejection, LGBTQ+ people get blindsided by such pronouncements again and again. Below, Chad Lucas, one of our beloved GS community members writes about his experience with his denomination and offers a message of comfort and hope to all those hurting from church-inflicted harm.


 

My queerly beloved friends,


If you're hurt by Vineyard Canada's recent decision to enshrine its policies banning same-sex marriage and ordination for LGBTQ+ believers, I see you and I share your pain.

For those of us with Vineyard backgrounds, this didn't come from nowhere. Vineyard USA already went this route. Vineyard Canada has been unofficially non-affirming for years, though communication and practice have varied across churches. Now it's official. Churches and pastors have essentially been asked to adapt or leave. It's all couched in friendly terms, but the line is drawn.


It's not a surprise, but it hurts. We hoped for better.


Decisions like this often hurt even when it’s not your denomination. Maybe you’ve survived your own version of this story: you find a “welcoming” church where people wear jeans and serve coffee and play drums and use terms like relational and family, then eventually you learn the rules on which family members get to sit at the main table.


Maybe your story is like mine. I grew up in a Vineyard and I'm grateful for much of what it gave me: intimate worship; Holy Spirit encounters; the language (if not always the practice) of “everyone gets to play.” And I gave back. Joined the worship team at 15, led youth group for years, served in leadership locally and regionally.


But I knew by my early teen years that I was not a proper heterosexual Christian boy. I didn't have the language then to call myself bisexual, and I buried everything for years out of fear and shame. When I finally told church leaders, they assured me they loved me and tried to fix me. It wasn't full-blown conversion therapy, but the intent was the same.


The short version: it hurt more than it helped. Many of you know this story.


In my case, I eventually fell in love with my wonderful wife, Shawna. We're happily married with four amazing kids, and that let me “pass” enough to stay in the inner circle. But I also eventually discovered that contrary to what the church taught me, being queer is a good and beautiful gift.

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

Many of you have lived the next chapter: saying that out loud often comes with a cost.


Maybe you've had people call you biased, or imply that you've upset the relational nature of the family, or grow angry when you ask them to face the human implications of their theology.



Maybe you've heard lines like I'm tired of being made to feel like the bad guy.


Maybe you were asked to leave a ministry or leadership role. Maybe you felt compelled, as I did, to lay down your roles because you can't keep operating in the gap between the story being told and the story you're actually living.


Many of you have lost more than I have. I'm so sorry.


Maybe Vineyard Canada's decision brings a scrap of relief that at least they're saying the quiet part out loud now. Maybe you're frustrated that it still comes wrapped in florid, institution-centered language that minimizes your experience. Either way, I know it hurts.

Here's the main reassurance I can offer you, beloved: it's not about you. This doesn't reflect one iota on your worth and beauty before God.


It's not even about the people who made the decision. Not on a personal level, anyway. It's about how they uphold the institution.


I wrote this after the decision went public:


The force of inertia is a powerful thing in any religious institution where the leadership is almost exclusively straight, white and over 40. Tha