Thank you for such a refreshing and encouraging point of view with your religion feature, Don’t Let Them Steal Your Soul. I’ve been struggling with a concern/problem, which perhaps you can help me with. I come from the other end of the spectrum; I’m pastor of a catholic parish located in a very rural community with a population of less than 500. A very close traditional community with a very traditional point of view and we have a couple of families with gay kids. How do I, as pastor, let my gay members know that this IS their Church/parish without creating discord or a disproving atmosphere among members of my congregation? What can I do to aid God’s gay children in their spiritual growth without “outing” them? Any advice / help you can render would enlighten this old man’s heart. Thankyou.
Don’t let anything / anyone disrupt your relationship with the Lord God and His Church.

God bless,
Father Stanley

Father Stanley,

Thank you for your email. The question you are asking is a very common one, for which I wish we had a concrete or simple answer. To answer your first question (what can I do without creating discord, etc) one very important thing you can do is use the philosophy of “omission rather than addition” in your language. In other words, rather than add specifically gay-friendly words or comments in your speech that might anger homophobic people, you can be more subversive and instead OMIT HETERO-CENTRIC words and phrases. This means using the generic “partner” instead of “husband or wife” or “relationships” instead of more specific terminology. Find all the places in your language – subtle or obvious – where you might be alienating gay congregation members and change those to be more open or vague. If that goes well, you can begin to add more specific language, like we witnessed at a recent Anglican marriage ceremony where the Father described marriage as “an important life-affirming bond between two human beings” and then went on to say that “God brings us together in beautiful relationships between women and men, men and men, women and women…” I noticed a few eyebrows raised in the audience when he said the latter comment, but he had spoken with such conviction and positivity and reverence for the Lord they almost didn’t even tip off at all that he was saying anything Gay.

Language can go a VERY LONG way toward making people feel accepted. You can push it as far as you want and as far as you feel comfortable. On top of that, you can start a “diversity support group” or something vague that is open to anyone who feels different – racially, sexually, etc. If you get any more specific about being gay-friendly you are going to have to deal with confused people who feel threatened. Every gay-friendly church environment we’ve seen has experienced its share of discord. But it is accepted as a necessary fallback of making the church environment truly fulfill its God-given mission. As long as you believe 100% that you are acting in the will of the Lord, you’ll be surprised to see how many initially antigay people will change their views. Remember you are setting the example for many of them. On the other hand, being more vocal does have its struggles and we are not saying it will/would go smoothly no matter what… just that you might be surprised.

In our most recent YGA trip, we visited with a fabulous minister in rural Pennsylvania who has been working on behalf of gay and lesbian youth in his conservative area for the last six years. He has experienced a lot of crap from the community – including editorials in the newspaper, picketers outside church events, etc – but as he says “it is my God-given role to provide a safe space for everyone.” Truly admirable. He says although there are a handful of loud angry people in the community, there are FAR MORE quiet members of the community who he knows are better off because of the work he has done in the efforts of acceptance and love. If he was to give in to the loud few, he would be failing the quiet many.

All the best to you and keep in touch with us as you progress. we are hoping to incorporate a larger religion section on our site in the near future and we would love your feedback/input when that time comes.

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