Coming Out as Congregation

Today is a day that is sometimes known as National Coming Out Day. (The nation originally was the USA, I think, but this one has spread a bit around the world and still keeps the same name).

Rather than write anything personal, this time I think it is worth noting that institutions need to come out too. In particular, congregations and even whole denominations need to come out and articulate the fact that they have LGBT people, are accepting of LGBT people, have LGBT leaders, and are never going to hide that fact again. It is important. After all, we would not have come as far on the equal marriage question as we have done without straight people coming out as supportive.

I dare say that some folk get a little weary of me saying that St Mary’s is a place that in a particular way welcomes LGBT people. Indeed, I was reminded by someone with an overview of the diocese recently that there are plenty of other churches which offer the same kind of welcome and acceptance.

My response to that is simple – show me.

Show me where on your congregational website you say anything to counter the notion that frequently appears in every which way in every media outlet going, that churches are opposed to gay relationships. Tell me about the gay group that meets at your church. Introduce me to the youth club kids organising a straight/gay alliance. Point me to out LGBT lay and ordained people in authority roles. Let me hear about gay voices that are heard in your congregation. Tell me when your pastor last said something positive about all this from the pulpit. Speak the word only and my soul shall be saved.

You don’t need to do it all and you don’t need to do it all the time, but if you want to claim to be an inclusive congregation or a welcoming church or whatever other euphemism you have for the welcome that dare not speak its name, you need to do some of it sometime.

Now, just so you are not simply listening to my voice, take a listen to a conversation that I heard last Sunday. It is a conversation involving Gene Robinson (who incidently told me how warmly he remembers his visit to St Mary’s). There’s an interesting bit where he talks about the US church coming out and about how him coming out to the Anglican Communion was like a young child going home to daddy and saying, “Dad, there’s something I need to tell you,” and then wondering whether or not he would still be loved.

Take a listen here.


There has been a hat controversy brewing down south over the border during the last week or so.

The short version is that the Presiding Bishop of the US based Episcopal Church was inhibited from wearing a mitre or carrying a pastoral staff whilst visiting Southwark Cathedral last Sunday. I suspect this is because the Church of Englandshire does not recognise that women can become bishops yet and so inhibit women who have been made bishops from acting as bishop or appearing as bishops when in England. It is a kind of small-mindedness that we don’t indulge in up here. Either Bishop Katharine is a bishop or she isn’t. If she is, she gets treated with respect as a bishop or she isn’t and we don’t have to bother about her at all. (It was the same years ago for Bishop Penny from New Zealand who was able to act as a bishop in Scotland even before we had made any decision about women and the Episcopatate but she could not do so in England).

I remember that +Gene Robinson was banned from wearing Episcopal regalia when in England two years ago for similar reasons. However, I could not remember whether he had worn a titfer liturgically when he came here. It made me look back at the video of that service and I found that he did indeed wear a mitre. Seems to me that making headgear the cause of controversy is displacement activity.

Presumably the no-mitre on +Katharine rule was instigated in order to appease a certain kind of Evangelical lobby group. (Which again, I don’t think we really have up here either, thank God). Oh how sweet the irony that they become the first bible-believing fundamentalists to insist that a woman not wear a hat in public worship.

Anyway, you can see the +Gene mitre-moment on the video that I posted at the time. I was rather smug at getting better at making videos at that time, I see. I’ve got rather better at it since.

More on mitregate from Maggie Dawn, Thinking Anglicans (69 comments and counting) and Fr Madpriest.