Churches across Christendom celebrate the core tenets of Christianity during the Easter season. But the Easter message is especially poignant for the LGBT community. Inclusive faith-based communities serve their congregations well by connecting the story of Jesus’ passion and resurrection to the shared life-journey of their gay church members. The heart of the Easter message is one of hope and “new life” in the face of betrayal, rejection and death. Inclusive congregations embrace their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as both gift and task and this is the first step in realizing the “new life” reflected from that first Easter.
The events leading up to Jesus’ death resonate personally for the gay community on many levels. Gay and lesbian church members identify closely with the betrayal experienced by Jesus. Religious authorities rejected his teaching of inclusivity: dining with sinners, engaging Samaritan outcasts and challenging the self-importance of the Pharisee insiders of the religious establishment of his day. The religious peers of Jesus did not want to accept the spiritual thread he taught, establishing a common bond of brother/sisterhood that requires the response to treat others as one wished to be treated. Finally, expanding the universal invitation of God’s salvation beyond the religious elites was just too much to bear.
And so, among many unwelcoming faith communities, it is an absurdity, if not an abomination, to welcome lesbian and gay people fully as equal recipients of God’s grace and salvation. Failing to recognize that they are made in the image of God is a rejection at the very spiritual core. Identifying with the rejection inflicted on Jesus, the gay community experiences rejection of their loving relationships through the establishment of the Defense of Marriage Act; they are confronted with injustice in the workplace that could be safeguarded through the enactment of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; as Jesus was brutalized during his scourging and crucifixion, gays and lesbians are taunted, bullied, bashed and murdered for who they are. For some gay teens, this rejection is beyond reconciliation and leads to suicide.
But the final vindication is in the Easter message. Jesus’ resurrection is more than just rising from the dead. It is a radical “new life” that is offered to all: straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. The Easter mystery is the vindication of the life and teaching of Jesus; that God’s invitation is freely bestowed on all. The gift for inclusive churches is their ability to embrace this “new life” through the acceptance of their gay children. The task remains incomplete until all Christian churches are truly welcoming and inclusive.