It is our Church too.
by Erwin de Leon

People go to church for a number of reasons: to learn about Christ’s life and teachings, to be instructed on how to live faithfully, to deepen their relationship with God, to be part of a community and an extended family, and ultimately, to be accepted, nurtured and loved.

Sadly, a number of lesbians, gays and transgendered individuals have stopped going to church. They feel alienated, often demonized. They see themselves as outcasts and pariah, as lepers that have been banished into the hinterlands.

This is understandable and to be expected. Rather than learning about Christ’s life and teachings, we are told that homosexuality is an abomination, that our intimate expression of commitment and love is a grave sin and that we would burn in hell. Rather than being instructed on how to live faithfully, we are exhorted to deny our God-given nature and live lies. Rather than deepen our relationship with God, we are maligned and hurt, straining, sometimes severing, our relationship with God. Rather than being a part of community and an extended family, we find ourselves shut out, looking from a distance. Rather than being accepted, nurtured and loved, we are shunned, belittled and feared.

We have to bear in mind however, that congregation members, priests and pastors, and our very own family members who have made us feel unworthy and unwelcome are like us -- human beings. Although they may strongly believe that they know what God wants and thinks, they do not. They do not, because like anyone else, they are limited and fallible. They are human. How arrogant it is for any person to think that his or her mind, heart and spirit could contain the greatness of God!

How could we then believe that we are abominations? That we do not belong in God’s family? That we are not lovable and loved? In spite of everything that has been said and done to us, we need to remember and carve into our hearts that we are God’s children too and that we are all called to be in relationship with God. We are made to serve, worship and glorify God. We are created to experience God’s unconditional love for us.

One way God shows His love for us is through fellowship with other Christians in churches. Through worship services and liturgies, God reveals Himself to us and embraces all present. By coming together to praise and love God, we become one with each other and with the Almighty. For Jesus said that “for where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them (Matthew 18:20).”

We should go to church for the very reasons people do: to learn about Christ’s life and teaching, to be instructed on how to live faithfully, to deepen our relationship with God, to be part of a community and an extended family, and ultimately, to be accepted, nurtured and loved.

The challenge is to find churches that truly live God’s mandate to “love one another as I have loved you (John 15:12).” Although no church would be perfect, there are those that are truly open to lesbians, gays and transgendered individuals. There are congregations that see the beauty, dignity and worth in all of God’s children, places of worship that recognize God in every human being. We might need to look into denominations other than our own. We might have to travel farther, even outside our towns, in order to locate a loving community. But with persistence, prayer and trust in God, we would be able to find these oases. There would we be welcome. There would we finally be given our rightful place at the table. For if we are to lead full and happy lives in communion with our God, we need to be in communion with others.

Church is where all hearts are one so that nothing else has to be one. Church is where there’s such a climate of acceptance that each of us can be his or her unique self. Church is where we learn to be free, strong, and mature by sharing with one another our continued bondage, weakness, and immaturity. Church is where we so love one another that it becomes bearable to live as solitaries.

- William Sloan Coffin


Erwin de Leon works and studies in New York City. He has found a loving and nurturing home in the congregation of Saint Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church, located at the heart of Times Square.

© 2005 Erwin de Leon

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