This past Sunday I had the opportunity to be a part of two conversations about the church and LGBT. One was for a confirmation class – the topic was selected by the students and led by the pastor. The other conversation was part of a youth group gathering and I facilitated the conversation.
Let me address a few things regarding these conversations –
“Church” – we didn’t try to speak for all churches here – just the ELCA. There are far too many churches and denominations – we would have never covered them all. And plus this was an ELCA setting, so it just made sense. However, we did try to address what we’ll call the “traditional” thinking was versus a more “contemporary” thinking concerning LGBT.
Specific texts – in the confirmation class, specific texts from the Old and New Testament were brought us that have traditionally been seen as against homosexuality. Again, here we talked about the verses openly and explored understandings in context, culture, and the way we look at the text through interpretive lenses – this last point is extremely important. So is how we define terminology.
My overall impression is that these were healthy conversations. The youth were genuinely interested in what the church had to say – they wanted to know what their church taught.
In the second conversation we had a wide ranging conversation where I asked the students how they might handle preaching some of these passages if they had to. Again, honest discussion identifying concerns in the congregation if they did address these texts versus skipping them. We had conversation about how sexuality is viewed in school and I asked them what ways the church could be beneficial to them in relation to sexuality. The overall answer was that open forums like this were very helpful – a chance to talk in a space where there would be no judgement, where questions could be raised, and people would be respected.
During one of the conversations, a student stated something to the effect that they were glad they could talk about this here. The point being, if we can’t talk about touchy subjects in church, where are we going to talk about them? I think this is true for sex, sexuality, money, identity, and so many other things that get to the heart of who we are. Ultimately, the reason we should talk about such things in church is because these aren’t just issues – they are people, they are a part of people, they impact people. And church is about how God is active and touching the lives of all people. These conversations start off uncomfortable – they always do. But why should we let comfort dictate what we talk about? When it comes down to it – the Gospel is uncomfortable – it forces us to see the mess in our lives and in the world. And then it talks about how God is active and changing our lives and the world. If that isn’t uncomfortable, I don’t know what is.
I hope your church makes space for these uncomfortable conversations. They need to be happening.