One argument that gets made against the Episcopal Church’s efforts to fully include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered Christians in the life of our church is that this initiative entails compromising the vaules of the Gospel with the values of permissive Western culture. Another argument sometimes offered is that our efforts at inclusion matter place the interests of a privileged class of western activists ahead of those of the church in the developing world.
There is, at the heart of both of these arguments, a willingness to ignore the fact that our purportedly permissive culture is in many cases quite hostile to LGBT people, that this hostility in some instances has lethal consequences, and that church leaders both here and in the developing world often fan the flames of this hostility.
In the wake of the bullying-related suicides of recent weeks, it is time for Episcopalians to make it clear that they are not surrendering to the prevailing culture, but attempting to transform it through the love of Jesus Christ. We are small in numbers, and our example may not posses the power we would like, still–if judged by the expensive ferocity of the resistance it has encountered–it counts for something.
We have, on occasion, compromised the authenticity of our voice, by seeking to placate those who have argued either that we were moving too far, too fast, or that we were heading entirely in the wrong direction. But we did not move fast enough to save any of the lives of the young people who killed themselves in recent weeks, and there is no moral equation in which tranquil relations within our own church multiplied by the good opinion of the leaders in other parts of the Anglican Communion counts for more than the lives of bullyed children.
Deborah Hafner, a Unitarian Universalist minister, writing on The Washington Post’s website, challenges her clergy colleagues to take a very specific form of action:
October 11th is National Coming Out Day, a day that encourages gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people to publicly state who they are. In light of the at least five gay youth who killed themselves in September, it’s time for us to come together as religious leaders and say, “Enough.”
I’m hoping that next weekend from your pulpits you will come out with your support for GLBT youth and adults.
Yes, you. Studies show that almost six in ten clergy from mainline denominations support the full inclusion and acceptance of LGBT persons, yet more than eight in ten of us know that our faith communities are capable of becoming more understanding and helpful towards gay teens or those struggling with questions about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Other studies have found that eight in ten of even the most progressive clergy don’t have programs in their congregations to support LGBT youth. It is past time for us to “Act Out Loud.”
And then (hat tip to Heidi Shott), there is this: