The Church's Atonement (No...really.)

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No, my Church, you don't get to crow about how inclusive you are for LGBTQ folks. Because while you think you are, you're really not. You're merely tolerant.

In 1997 the General Convention Church passed the following resolution...

That this 72nd General Convention apologizes on behalf of the Episcopal Church to its members who are gay or lesbian and to lesbians and gay men outside the Church for years of rejection and maltreatment by the Church; . . . That this Church repents of its sins committed against lesbian and gay people—physical, psychological and spiritual—through covert and overt action and inaction. We seek amendment of our life together and we ask for God’s help in sharing the Good News with all people.

Thanks for that. A mere twenty years have passed since this resolution. It still took you another dozen years to decide that our relationships were worthy of blessing. Even longer to allow marriage...grudgingly. That doesn't seem very amendment of life-y to me. Certainly not repentance. For me, your behavior today still smacks of "sins committed...physical, psychological, and spiritual...through covert and overt action and inaction."

I mean, let's get real for a moment, shall we my beloved Church? 40 years after the ordination of women, you still treat women like crap. The stained glass ceiling of the Episcopate is only now starting to be fractured by women determined to assert their rightful place in the halls of the Church. Women still get little acknowledgment for their ministries while men too often take credit for them.

LGBTQ folks in the Church? Let's face it...the only difference between gay clergy now versus 100 years ago is that we at least name ourselves as such. As long as we assimilate, appear respectable, and tame ourselves according to your expectations...then all is well. Oh...but don't dare have relationships that challenge the heteronormative model. That just leads to trouble.

LGBTQ folks outside the church? OK...here's some real talk. You don't even know we exist. You know nothing about us. Because you've made no effort to do so. No one out here in the LGBTQ Diaspora knows a thing about your apology 20 years ago. They barely know you except filtered through a lens of centuries of active persecution, exclusion, and spiritual warfare against us. Do you think a 20 year old apology with little follow up is going to do much to mitigate that reality? If LGBTQ people are truly welcome into the Body of Christ, then that means we are kin in Christ. And, if we are kin to you we are indeed long estranged. You make no effort to come out into our streets and our world and our lives and demonstrate that repentance you speak about.

Having engaged in ministry in the queer community for over 20 years, and having been an LGBTQ activist for longer, I can tell you this. I have long since abandoned the notion of inviting my queer siblings into the doors of our churches. I have long distrusted the idea that we will actually feel welcome there, especially those queer folk who don't fit your image of the tame, white, cis-gender suit with a respectable job and a model nuclear family. I don't trust you not to make a liar out of us who work and minister here among our queer siblings. The queens and trans-women and gender activists and sex workers and puppies and nelly-bears and all flavors of QPOC who struggle against both homophobia and racism. And our un-housed queer youth.

Why should LGBTQ folk feel remotely interested in walking through your doors to find Christ. We can find Christ out here in the streets in much greater measure than in the shrinking walls of your house. While you struggle to keep the lights on, in large measure because of your generations of gate keeping that kept faithful people out who didn't fit your mold of worthiness, the living Christ is found in his tabernacle by the blinking of neon; in the feet of a tired queen who's just performed her fourth number tonight to raise money for a non-profit that serves homeless youth; in the gathering logical family of a trans-woman being held by her sisters while she sobs at having just lost her father that she never got to reconcile with. Because the Church told that man that his daughter was despised by God.

Where's your apology for that? What kind of repentance is necessary, and for how long, before you can undo the damage to millions of people like her? Especially, when you don't even know her story...or countless others.

What's your excuse? While you struggle to keep your doors open; while you are otherwise self-occupied with capital campaigns and the politics of which worship language is best suited to your agonizingly self-absorbed self-image; in San Francisco alone thousands of individuals are out there every night of the week volunteering, performing, soliciting money for dozens and dozens of non-profits that serve the most marginalized, needful, and alone. Drag queens and kings and trans folk and leather folk and countless others. And they do so under renewed assault from government, increased violence that threatens their very lives, and sustained pushes from other churches to eliminate their rights! They serve Christ under threat of persecution like the early martyrs.

Tell me...which of these is Church? With which of these might our Christ be more pleased?

I was deeply troubled some couple of years back when I discovered that a parish in the Church had asked a bunch of drag queens to raise money for one of their programs. The queens, of course, gladly obliged. What does this say about forgiveness and grace that a community who has been persecuted by you decided to help you meet your obligations to feed the poor? And yet...still...you don't come out to meet us where we are. To discover our gifts and joys in the midst of persecution.

So now...here is my call. Twenty years after your apology, it's to time to atone. To demonstrate your amendment of our life "together." Because that life together exists out here as well as in your sacred towers. It's not that we don't like you. It's that we don't trust you. We no longer have to prove that we are worthy of you. It is time for you to show that you are worthy of us. And maybe we can even teach you to dance.