I have had a long engagement with LGBTQ issues in the church, most recently as an Elder at Douglass Boulevard Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. But being an LGBTQ Christian in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a more directly personal matter for me than a discussion of “issues” or stances or congregational or denominational movements or directions.
For I am a Christian. I am a Disciple of Christ. And I am queer. A few of you know this, but most of you don’t. When you discuss LGBTQ people in church, you are discussing, among many others, me. I am listening, carefully. And now, I am speaking.
What I want to say is this. I am not a theological question. I am not an issue. I am not a debate topic. I am not a problem to be solved. I am not a cause to be championed. I am a person of flesh and blood, and I and other queer folk are created no more nor less in the image of God than you are. We make mistakes and have triumphs and love and lose and bleed and hurt and die the same as you. Many of us are outside of church, whether cast out or keeping our distance for our own safety, but many of us are in the pews each and every Sunday beside you. We are your sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters, your (yes) fathers and mothers. We are your organists, your ministers of music, your elders, your pastors. We rejoice when you are born, we care for you when you are sick, and we mourn when you die.
A lot of conversation around LGBTQ folks in church sounds like a fight over abstract principles about love and morality and doctrine and sin and judgment and cultural relevance. Abstract principles are just fine, I guess. But I can’t say that any abstract principle, however open-minded, has ever made me feel any more welcomed or accepted or understood. Only God and other people can do that, and people with all of the most welcoming, accepting principles can still do a poor job of extending actual welcome.
The one who extends that welcome is God. The God I encounter in Scripture, in preaching and worship, at the table is a God of unspeakable love. The God I encounter searches me all the way down, in the depths of my body, in the most secret and profound recesses of my desire, in the wellsprings of all my thought and action. God sees deeper and clearer into me than anyone else, certainly clearer than I do. That God sees who and what I am, with all of my brokenness and mistakes and sin, and just as when God first separated the waters from the sky, God sees that I am very good.
God saves me, loves me, redeems me. But God did not save me from my queerness. God does not love me despite my queerness. God loves me and redeems me in and through my queerness. It is a gift, precious and lovely, not something to be hidden in shame. It took me a long time to accept this gift, but now that I have, I feel a peace that I haven’t known before.
This is the gift LGBTQ people have to give to the church. The church has taken sexuality, which God created no less than anything else, and turned it into a curse, a due we reluctantly pay to the flesh but don’t discuss in church except in the most euphemistic of terms. We are more than our sexuality, but we aren’t less than it. In learning how to accept and embrace and understand LGBTQ folk, the church has an opportunity to help all of its members, straight and LGBTQ, come to embrace their own sexuality and see it as a “thin place” where God comes to meet us. LGBTQ Christians can help the church reconcile with sexuality.