The suicides

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:

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8 Comments
  1. Christopher Evans

    It seems to me that the Churches’ cultures are themselves in this matter very intertwined with the larger cultures in which they exist, and on the whole, these cultures are hostile in active and more passive ways. While movie stars and musicians are speaking out, our Church leadership does not go public and say bullying lgbt persons is not Christlike. It seems our Church cultures indulge in a permissiveness that is death-dealing.

  2. Eric Scharf

    The video is a wonderful message; please be sure that it gets shared far and wide.

  3. Lori Johnson

    I think one step is being aware of resources available to us.

    I joined PFLAG and Integrity earlier this year. Do our parishioner’s know that Integrity exists and it’s mission is “to be a witness of God’s inclusive love to the Episcopal Church and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community” ?

    PFLAG has an education and outreach project to invite allies to speak up called “Straight for Equality”. The Institute for Welcoming Resources offers workshops called “Building an Inclusive Church”, and there are steps a congregation might take if they want to become a “Believe Out Loud” parish.

    PFLAG/Straight for Equality:

    http://community.pflag.org/Page.aspx?pid=566

    http://www.welcomingresources.org/communityorg.htm

    http://www.integrityusa.org/

    Believe Out Loud:

    http://bolec.integrityusa.org/

    http://believeoutloud.com/

    Peace, The Rev. Lori Johnson

  4. Michael Russell

    There is a continuum of bullying from the schools to sanctuaries. That bullying uses harsh and pejorative language in such a manner as to tacitly give permission to do violence to those mocked or scorned while leaving the cowardly inciters free to claim “they would NEVER” condone such violence.

    The language of certain Anglican Primates is no different from the mocking this young man was subjected to and we should hold them and their handlers/agents responsible for the violence that results from their words.

    Needless to say neither Lambeth I:10 nor the Dromantine statement both of which eschew such language and treatment are observed by this crew.

  5. E Sinkula

    A very cool video. Thanks for sharing!

    Eric Sinkula

  6. hannah

    Well-written, Jim. Thank you. Great video, Heidi.

    It’s high time to start standing up for what we believe, and for what we say we’re about – respecting the dignity if every human being and striving for justice and peace for all people.

    hannah – please add your last name next time. ed.

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