Letting Out Our Light
by Lori Heine

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Christians stand in a unique position when it comes to helping bridge the growing divide in the Church.

Straight Christians are now increasingly divided between conservative and progressive camps. They have a wider choice in churches than we do, but their choices are, by and large, between one camp and the other.

Most Protestant congregations now choose to define themselves very narrowly. They tend to be either “Right” or “Left.” This does not serve straights any better, of course, than it does gays. What if you happen to be – as most people are – somewhere in between the two extremes?

Even straight Christians who wish to experience the faith in all its potential broadness now find themselves spiritually homeless. If you are LGBT, most of your options will be on the “Left” end of the spectrum, whether you happen to be at home there or not.

In an earlier essay, I spoke of the fact that we often feel ill at ease in a congregation because, though it welcomes us, it has a theology very different from our own. I suggested it was important for us to speak up about this, and to help others in the congregation to understand this. But this is easier said than done.

We must be true to our faith and our principles. We must be a force to be reckoned with, but that must not mean what many straight Christians think it does. Even those who welcome us fear that we may split the Church – ignoring the fact that it is split already.

Straights tend to stereotype us as wildly liberal in every way. Many are still trying to wrap their minds around the fact that we can be Christians at all. If we are Evangelicals, conservative Catholics or Right-of-Center Episcopalians, we may be afraid they can’t wrap their minds around us at all.

We’re not going to get them to change their entire theology, and of course the chasm between Left and Right will continue to exist no matter how little we like it. But those of us who are Right-of-Center may be the only Christians of this sort with whom they come into contact. We can help them see, at the very least, that we believe that the earth is round, that we do not worship a God who hates everyone who believes differently than we do, and that a great many of the straights in more-conservative churches – the ones they too-easily dismiss as bigots – actually grieve that we are not welcome there.

Christians in the two opposing camps have become so bitterly antagonistic toward each other that their disagreements often seem to be more important to them than the points upon which they still agree. Even during the Protestant Reformation, when Christians of various stripes were killing each other, there was not as much antagonism between them simply for antagonism’s sake. This civil war is literally tearing the Body of Christ limb from limb.

I didn’t ask to be drafted into this. The hatred now raging between Christians revolts me. Infinitely worse, it breaks God’s heart. Because LGBT believers come from all across the spectrum, we’re the ones who must help to bridge the gap. We may, ironically, do the very opposite of splitting the Church – we may be the only ones who can help heal the growing rift.

I now attend an Episcopal church. This denomination is still broader than most, which is why I like it. I go out of my way to let the conservatives I encounter in my parish know that though they may be suspicious of me because I’m a lesbian, I actually agree with their traditional theology. This seems to be a pleasant surprise to them, and it allows them to see me in a brand new way.

They are wrapping their minds around me. And their arms as well.


© 2010 Lori Heine

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