When it Feels Like Heaven is Closing
Searching for Light When LGBTQ Exclusion Darkens the Church Doors
Contents: queerphobia, religion/spirituality
Queerly beloved, it may sure as hell feel like Heaven is closing. Yesterday, the United Methodist Church ruled that the election of Bishop Karen Oliveto of Washington violated church law because she lacked the condition of heterosexuality. The UMC is the latest in a series of denominations closing its doors to LGBTQ Christians that wish to seek full inclusion.
As a queer Christian, I learned not to conflate my faith with allegiance to denominations, but to seek family in faith communities that demonstrate what it means to live like Jesus did. Two years ago, while I belonged to a Mennonite church in New Mexico, the national Mennonite Church elected to turn its back on LGBTQ Christians. Now, I belong to a Methodist church. This denomination, too, has turned its back. Every time, that decision has felt like a darkening cloud. I worry about LGBTQ Christians, especially young people, who may interpret these decisions as judgment from their Creator.
Today, I want LGBTQ Christians to remember this: even while clouds gather, there are breaks of sunlight — focused, emboldened, unthreatened. When national Mennonite leadership forbade LGBTQ Christians from becoming members, my pastor wept at the pulpit. She promised that the Mountain States Mennonite Conference would not waver in its affirmation — that it prioritized Christ-like love over denomination. The Methodist Church in Maine to which my wife and I now belong mourns with its queer congregants. I know that its doors will remain open.
“Yes and” is where the Spirit lives.
Because I’ve seen the breaks, I know that clouds have not overtaken the vastness of Christian expression. Reactionary exclusion by denomination leaders represents fear in the face of progress and of threats to existing power structures. That’s the sort of fear that put Jesus on the cross.
That’s the sort of fear that extinguishes the possibility of “yes and” Christianity. It drove Christians to ask my wife and me to choose one identity or another. With time, I learned to reject that false dichotomy and to embrace, instead, the pieces of me that say “yes and.” Yes, I’m queer and a Christian. Yes, I’m queer and made in the image of God.
In learning to celebrate those pieces, I’m learning to celebrate the divine “yes and” in others, too, and I’m learning to find advocates and friends in unexpected places. Small-town advocates. White advocates. Straight, cisgender Christian advocates.
In us, and in them, “yes and” is where discomfort lives. “Yes and” is where the Spirit lives — where the Creator became human, where Triune God exists in unity, where light refracts into infinite color. “Yes and” is paradox. “Yes and” is delight. “Yes and” is where the memory of crucifixion lives. And “yes and” is where the hope of Resurrection lives.
Queerly beloved: we will continue to practice our religion and our love. Heaven is and shall remain open, though clouds may threaten our view of it. Soon will come the thunder, and then the rain. In the meantime, remember that the Spirit lives and shines through you regardless of passing storms. We who are privileged to stand in the breaks will work and work to dissolve the clouds so that you, too, can feel the sun on your face.
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