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.