When it comes to churches, look for the rainbow or the Open and Affirming sign. It is the church’s proclamation to the world that it is welcoming of GLBTQI people. It is the radical statement of the United Church of Christ. Not every church in the UCC is open and affirming, sadly there are homophobes and bigots in every tradition.
In the United Church of Christ Open and Affirming stance we acknowledge, without exception, that every GLBTQI person is a beloved child of God. Nothing can change that. It is the nature of who God is, to love all the people God created. There is nothing “wrong” or “sinful” about being gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender, queer, inquiring or non-binary. All sexual orientations and expressions are welcome.
The over-arching message of scripture is God’s eternal love for all people and all creation. It is the thread that runs through all of Scripture and weaves the big picture of who God is and what God is all about. We are one human people, knit together in divine love and excluding no one. Sure, it is possible to take scripture out of context and make it say whatever anyone wants. But the consistent message is unwavering love for all God has created.
In a practical way what this means if you are GLBTQI, cis-gender but not narrow, if you believe that all people should have equal human rights and be treated with dignity, you are welcome in body of Christ in the expression that is the United Church of Christ, Open and Affirming:
- You are welcome at our table for the Sacrament of communion, the sacred sharing of memory and hope.
- You are welcome at the waters of baptism. In this Sacrament there is no original sin from which to be absolved. Rather, baptism is the acknowledgement that God lays claim to your life and calls you a life of discipleship and service.
- You are welcome at our altar to pledge you love in the covenant of marriage.
- Your children are welcome to the waters of baptism. Your family is welcome.
The only change you will ever be asked to make is to grow in discipleship and service to the realm of God as embodied in Jesus. Jesus hung out with the poor and dispossessed, the marginalized and ignored. He was committed to living a life that healed and loved and extended an unconditional welcome to all people and invited them to live as God’s people in the world.
What underlies much of the “welcome” in some churches is the notion that it is some kind of sin or disappointment to God if you a LGBTQI, but the church welcomes you in the spirit of “love and tolerance.” Tolerance is a very low bar for God’s people. Nothing short of radical inclusion and unfettered acceptance will do.
In this age of growing right wing religious expression and decreased acceptance, there are pockets of welcome and care for the GLBTQI community and those who support equal rights for all. The United Church of Christ is one such place. As a denomination it has been on the growing edge of every important social issue since its inception in 1957. The first gay pastor, The Rev. William R. Johnson was ordained in 1972. Since then the United Church of Christ has recognized the leadership skills and the call of God regardless of sexual orientation.
As Gay Pride Month unfolds around the country, I encourage people who support and welcome the GLBTQI community in their church to march in or at least attend parades and other events. Roman Catholic bishops are united in their voice against the GLBTQI community, stating that Roman Catholics should not attend Pride events. And it doesn’t stop there. Bishops are openly stating that gay individuals and couples will be denied the sacraments, including the rite of Christian burial. Repentance from the gay “life style” is the gateway to receiving the sacraments again. And all heaven just weeps.
Churches are free (at least until the Occupant obliterates the line between church and state) to express their religious convictions any way they choose. While Pope Francis has taken a more pastoral stance toward the LGBTQI community, the bottom line is that it remains a sin. The Roman Catholics are joined by conservative and fundamental Protestant churches which are increasingly vehement in their rejection of anyone who isn’t heterosexually married, with 2.5 children and a wood sided station wagon. And all heaven just weeps.
Gay Pride month began in response to the Stonewall riots in New York City. In June of 1969 patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn staged an uprising to resist the police harassment and persecution to which the LGBTQI community was subjected and still face to this day. The loudest voices claim God’s judgement against the LGBTQI community. There are other voices, voices of acceptance and welcome. It’s high time we made our voices the loudest. Let’s make some loving noise and drown out message of hate and bigotry.
Whoever you are and where ever you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.