By Mikah Meyer
It’s been a very gay year. The recent victories in the gay rights movement have been so sweeping that even Fox News had to report the momentous successes. But while the legal triumphs for the LGBT community mount, there is another gay revolution that — despite gaining far less media attention — has been faithfully growing for decades.
More often recognized for their ability to mix anything into a casserole, mainline Protestant churches are now at the forefront of the gay rights movement. With pro-gay policy changes from a myriad of Christian denominations, these churches are stripping away the assumption that the terms “homophobic” and “Christian” are married.
This radical shift in doctrine will be on display Friday, Oct. 4, when America’s National Cathedral hosts the premiere of a documentary about one of the world’s most recognized gay figures: Matthew Shepard. But the screening of “Matt Shepard Is A Friend Of Mine” is only part of an entire weekend that the Cathedral is hosting to show its support for the gay community. On the following Sunday morning, under the same soaring archways where our presidents pray after their inauguration, its main worship service will honor the victims of anti-LGBT hate.
With the Cathedral acting as the self-described “spiritual home for the nation,” this support is only an echo of the pro-gay change happening across American Christianity.
Today, 11 mainline Protestant denominations in America have organizations solely devoted to LGBT inclusion. These groups, like More Light Presbyterians, are helping inspire new church policies that have concrete effects on gays and lesbians. These changes include implementing programs to welcome LGBT families, ordaining gay pastors and officially sanctioning same-sex marriage.
As these transitions in church leadership reach congregations, individual church members are moving from pew to pavement; taking their inclusive gospel directly to the LGBT community. In the 2013 D.C. Capital Pride parade, more than 25 individual parishes marched, spreading a message that when it comes to gay rights, the church is ready to be the solution, not the problem.
LGBT individuals are starting to reflect this outreach and are becoming increasingly involved with the church; bucking the stereotype that the only type of worship gays embrace is at the Church of the Saloon, presided over by a drag queen priest and a Eucharist of vodka.
This past May I began a ministry called “Queer for Christ,” a group for young-adult LGBT Christians in Washington, to bring this community together. Within two months, Queer for Christ’s membership reached more than 100 young-adult Christians spanning 15 denominations. This group of Christ-loving queers — whose members range from casual churchgoers to ordained priests — exemplifies the type of change happening in American Christianity.
As the institutional and individual support of gay Christians grows, it is revealing one surprising trend among the majority of gays who have traditionally felt marginalized by religion. As I and my Queer for Christ peers can attest, we increasingly find that the church community is more accepting of our sexuality than the gay community is of our faith. Now, instead of having to explain to conservative Christians how we are able to live both gayly and faithfully, we are having to justify to our gay peers why we are skipping Sunday brunch in favor of a spot at the communion table.
Acknowledging the pain that the church has caused many in the past (and in some denominations still causes), it is time for the larger gay community to stop seeing Christianity solely as an enemy. While certain groups of Christians will continue to spew hate and fear about homosexuals, they are increasingly out of sync with the American Christian mainstream. Westboro Baptist’s outlandish anti-gay protests may gain more attention on the street, but they are no match for the pro-gay work being done in the pulpit. The supportive efforts by the United Church of Christ, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and even Methodists, Baptists and beyond, are creating a far more lasting impact. Even the Pope is coming out with more favorable language toward gays. These actions are flinging open the doors of the church to the LGBT community.
These churches are now asking the gay community to provide them with one of Christianity’s greatest tenants: forgiveness. Forgiveness for the anti-gay policies of the past, but most of all, for making any LGBT individual feel unwanted.
It is our opportunity as the gay community to grant that forgiveness and embrace a church that is reaching its arms out to us. If we can do that, then the future Body of Christ will look a lot more like the rainbow sent as a sign of eternal love.
Mikah Meyer is the founder of Queer for Christ and author of the manuscript ‘Life’s More Fun When You Talk To Strangers.’ Reach him via mikahmeyer.com.