For (too) many years, with others, I've coaxed and cajoled. Sadly though, at this transition point, I’m going to have to say it clearly once more - many ‘affirming’ church leaders truly frustrate me and are major problematic parts of the continuing ‘issues’ that churches and wider society have with sexuality & gender Individually some church leaders can be quite kindly in disposition, as well as otherwise gifted, but as a body they are a key element of the (straight) problem we have, alongside the bigots they refuse to face down publicly. It also sometimes feels like they are stuck in a time warp. For two things stand out...
wake up to the abuse and ways out
Firstly there is the seeming inability often to do much more than lift a finger (sometimes that too is paralysed) to do something substantial about the patently obvious, now well documented, cruel, and unnecessary, personal violence and spiritual abuse endured by LGBTIQ+ people. That is shocking, a betrayal of their occasional welcome positive words, and almost unconscionable after what we now know about how other kinds of abuse flourish. It is not that, as individuals, they are unsympathetic but they typically fail to see or act on the urgency of the matters at stake. Daily my ‘in-box’ is full of stress, struggles, and even suicide, of Christians. Yet serious attempts by some of us to initiate effective pastoral care schemes and education programs are so often rejected, held at arms length, or enabled to be sabotaged by reactionaries (and yes, hello too in this to LLF in England). Why are they so resistant to such watershed changes in attitudes and approaches in their church members' lives, organisations and work standards?
'nothing about us without us'
Secondly however, this is coupled with continuing refusal to engage properly with the very people who might help them out of their paralysis and save them and their churches too. Again and again, LGBTIQ+ people of faith are denied natural justice (even in some churches which talk loudly of social justice) and are even prevented from sharing their voices, gifts, and liberating good news - by the very people who say they are our leaders, pastors, siblings and friends. One striking example is the production of the recent national official Australian Anglican resource on marriage and ‘same sex’ marriage (that very terminology showing how dated it is) - with not a single out LGBTIQ voice included (and no efforts made to remedy this since, or willingness to share queer responses - see here for my own considered response). What a symbol of straight Anglican inadequacy, embarrassment and dysmorphia! Sadly Anglicans are hardly alone in this.
not new but still renewing
How long, O Lord? This little collection of LGBTIQ+ Christian memorabilia here (see photo above) are some of those which fell out of the latest box of personal effects I’ve been sorting - and it makes the point strongly. They are only a few aspects of my own personal journey - there is so, so much more. Churches have had half a century, and more, of deep and perceptive LGBTIQ+ faith experience on which to draw - and still ‘leaders’ hands are tied and ears closed??!! The Metropolitan Community Church - thank God - was formed in 1968 and there are now other flourishing examples of truly celebratory affirming faith communities. There is truly no excuse any longer not to act and enable rich LGBTIQ+ faith resources (of people, theology & spirituality) to be shared.
'straight' people have so much to learn about depth of faith
A beautiful, loving and highly articulate MCC friend (one of many) put it well a little while ago, in words with which I heartily concur. I am frequently sought out by certain kinds of ‘Christians’, he said to me, who ask me if I’ve read the Bible and considered what God feels about my sexuality. ‘More than you can ever know!’ he replies - ‘you think I haven’t wrestled so very deeply with my faith and the Bible since I was very young, and at a depth you may never comprehend?! You may never know the love of God as I do, because it comes out of such intimacy, such costly but profound insight, such hard but ultimately so immensely rich joyful journeying. Do you know that kind of love and faith?’ What arrogance and destructiveness it is for church leaders to deny these profound gifts to others, and reject the liberation of themselves in doing so!
time to catch up and share the work
This little collection is a deliberate selection as it is also illuminating of my own journey. Note that the (UK) Christian LGBTIQ+ movement I joined years ago only had one letter in the alphabet soup - the G. Then it added the L, but it was years before even the T became visible (the story of my life!). Today it is known as OneBodyOneFaith (Uk folks especially, check it out). Note too that, from early on, LGBTIQ+ Christian faith liberation was never limited to itself, but included many other partners, including the delightful Rabbi Lionel Blue. Note too that it included, as it still includes, some of the finest theological minds of recent decades, including the brilliant Grace Jantzen (one of my all time favourite muses) who died way too soon. Thanks to Grace, to Lionel, to my bi, trans, intersex and Q+ faith friends, we also don’t need to talk anymore of ‘towards’ any kind of queer theology - we have them, increasingly gloriously, published in books, lives and loving communities, in so many, kaleidoscopic, ways. So when will those poor old, tired old, tied-up-in-knots old, ‘affirming’ straight leaders wake up and smell the roses?! You guys (and, significantly, though not entirely, it is almost exclusively men) are missing out - the Holy Spirit is working even if you won’t let her/them in. We’re still waiting lovingly for you but you too have to do the work...
Go joyfully and with extravagant grace in this extraordinary journey! 🙏❤️🌈🦋💃
The Revd Dr Jo Inkpin: