The congregation where I served my seminary internship was featured this past weekend on Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly, a show on PBS. It was part of a story on churches and gay youth, focusing on a gay seminarian, a congregation with a shelter for homeless LGBT youth, and the leader of an ex-gay ministry.
You can watch online or read a transcript of the segment here: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/episodes/february-19-2010/churches-and-gay-youth/5722/
Watching Lucky Severson’s report, I was a bit homesick for my time on internship, which was so formative in shaping my pastoral identity. It was refreshing to be reminded of Trinity’s beautiful witness of what I really think church should be—God’s people proclaiming welcome and love for all people.
I found it helpful to include footage from the afterschool program, reminding me that Trinity isn’t a “one issue” congregation. While very passionate about issues of sexuality, Trinity also has very strong ministry with immigrants and young children. There is a wide understanding of “loving your neighbor.”
I must admit that throughout college and even into seminary, I didn’t pay that much attention to homosexuality. I didn’t think that it was my issue. I knew that organizations like Lutherans Concerned were working for the rights of gay people in the church, (I didn’t even think about lesbian, bisexual or transgender then) and that some congregations had voted to be called Reconciling in Christ, meaning they welcome people of all sexual orientations.
But I didn’t think I needed to worry about it. I’m the straight, white guy from Iowa. I’m not gay, so all this controversy in the Church doesn’t concern me.
How wrong I was.
The first time I visited the shelter for homeless LGBT youth, someone asked me, “Are you trans?” Shocked, I responded, “Um, no.” “Well, you must be gay.” “Um, I’m not gay, either.” “Then why are you here?” The young person couldn’t believe that I, as a straight person, would care about the needs of LGBT youth.
Dr. King has famously said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
I am so thankful that I grew up in a non-shouting church. As an ELCA Lutheran, I have been loved and welcomed, nurtured and fed, by faithful people full of God’s love. I want everyone to be able to feel welcomed like that, regardless of our human labels.
Too many people have been shunned and excluded by church folk for far too long. Churches have been much of the problem. It is time for churches to be part of the solution. Thanks be to God for Trinity!