Isaiah 43: 18, 19
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
“Lent is intended to lead us into an always hidden future and an always greater opportunity, and it is in truth – a future created by God – but still unknown to us. We now enter Lent with a new and open horizon, ready to both expect and work for God’s ever new springtime.” ~ Richard Rohr
The “Tell Your Pastor #imaffirming” initiative is intentionally springing up in this Lenten season. In churches across the globe, this is a season of repentance, fasting, acts of charity, and reflection. This is fertile soil for God to birth new things.
The vast majority of church-going folks are heterosexual and cisgender (meaning their sense of gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth). Tradition, for most of these church folks, has told them that the way they experience life, the lens of their majority experience of sexuality and gender, are not only normal but right. Anything that deviates from that experience is wrong and sinful. In fact, many have been socialized to experience a sense of disgust at anything that deviates from their own experience. This has resulted in profoundly unjust actions towards LGBTQ+ people. Consider this story: My friend Ray is an out gay man who is personally committed to celibacy. Ray was hired by a church to be their youth pastor. Leadership knew about his sexual orientation from the beginning and also knew about Ray’s convictions that were in line with the theological position of that congregation. However, when the gossip mill started going with the whispers that, “The new youth pastor is gay” Ray’s job was on the line. As much as his superiors may have wanted to keep him on – trust and credibility in the community has been derailed and Ray was let go. It didn’t matter that the way he was living was in line with the church’s teaching. There was an underlying suspicion of LGBTQ+ people that unfairly cost Ray a job he loved and was excelling at.
The word homosexual has only shown up in bible translations since 1946. In that short amount of church history, it is clear that in many parts of the body of Christ LGBTQ+ people have been scapegoated.
We believe God is doing a new thing. We believe that God is vindicating LGBTQ+ siblings in Christ who have kept the faith. And we need church folks, far and wide, to speak up. First, acknowledge the harm. Tell your church leadership that you believe the church has failed to honour LGBTQ+ people as the Beloved children of God that they are. And tell your pastor that you affirm the full participation of LGBTQ+ Christians in the life of your congregation. Be part of the new thing God is doing!
What changes have you experienced in your journey with the church? Did you work for change, resist change, or stay neutral?