Heartland Clergy for Inclusion, a group of clergy in the midwest now numbering over 200, have signed a Proclamation declaring an apology for former silence, an affirmation that sexual orientation is “not a sickness, not a choice, and not a sin”, and an insistence on full equality for LGBT people in religious life and institutions. I’m very glad to see leaders of traditional, organized religion stepping forward to make this public affirmation. Too often, it seems that people try to speak as if all Christians are opposed to same-sex marriage or adoption. Those who insist that being gay is a choice or something that could be cured seem to think they are speaking on behalf of Christians in general.
However, those voices do not speak for all of us who are members of Christian churches and who welcome gay members and leaders in our congregations. I would feel that something was deeply amiss in the church if it did not welcome people and accept everyone equally! This also means that LGBT people cannot be accepted as people who have faults, as happens in some churches–the “love the sinner, hate the sin” mentality. Rather, it must be absolutely clear that there is nothing wrong with being LGBT, nothing about it that is incompatible with any Christian value or doctrine.
I remember a while back, talking to a young gay man who had been raised in a very religious family. When he found out that I was a church member, and also believed gays should be able to marry, adopt, or do anything that anyone else can do in our society, he was surprised. He wanted to know if I really thought that God was okay with all of these things, and that it was possible to affirm both one’s identity as gay and one’s firm Christian faith. I said of course, yes, and I didn’t quite understand at the time why he seemed very moved by this declaration. In my own narrow-mindedness, I had assumed that it was an easy thing to reconcile those positions, and that anyone trying to do so would find the necessary support and encouragement. Yet people do not find such support very easily, and are more likely to encounter hostility from all sides: from Christians who reject being gay as a sinful choice, or from gay advocates who assume that all organized religion is hostile to homosexuality, and therefore no place for LGBT people to develop their faith.
It’s high time that this changed, and terrific to see the Heartland Clergy for Inclusion leading the way!