Everyone can distinguish a genuine welcome from one that is half-hearted and it is not difficult for LGBTQ people to realize whether they are welcomed or not in a particular congregation. Merely posting a welcome sign or publishing a statement of acceptance does not prove, of course, that a congregation is actually welcoming and inclusive. Signs and statements can certainly be important indications of welcome and inclusion but they must be backed up by reality, that is, by a congregational commitment to an ongoing process of learning how to become a community of care for LGBTQ people and their families.
A church or synagogue that cares for queer people is one that honors them as morally complete human persons, invites them into full membership, and celebrates their life experiences in all aspects of congregational life. Building a community of care requires reversing age-old prejudices and doing away with insidious practices of exclusion, however unintended they may be. Building a community of care also calls upon the leaders and members of a congregation to expand their notions of community in ways that are counter-cultural because they violate the heterosexist norms of our society and call into serious question the anti-queer theologies and practices of many of our religious traditions.
A congregation that seeks to open doors of welcome to LGBTQ people may face disapproval from some members who believe that they do not have a legitimate claim to membership in the community. A congregation may also face censure from denominational officials who oppose any change in belief systems and policies that marginalize queer people. To become a community of care may, indeed, mean that some members will leave the congregation or that a congregation’s institutional affiliations will be jeopardized or even terminated. For the congregation that feels called to welcome and include all people, however, these risks are worth taking because they are outweighed by the opportunity to grow as a community that welcomes, loves, and includes all of God’s children.
A Genuine Welcome is
To Be Continued Next Week!
Adapted from Schlager & Kundtz, Ministry Among God’s Queer Folk: LGBTQ Pastoral Care (Second Edition, 2019): p. 156.