This article was first published in PQ Monthly, Portland, in January 2016.
You are not alone. You are lovable and worthy. You have a place at the table. For those of us longing for a community of faith, longing to be known and loved by God, we need to hear these words.
More and more churches are willing to take a public stand and proclaim that “All Are Welcome” really does include everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Churches are having faithful and sometimes hard conversations, while at the same time working to maintain community. But while these discussions are being had within the sanctuary and church classrooms, many of us may be left outside in the cold, separated from community and kept from hearing those words, “You are a beloved child of God.”
The Rev. Mike Tupper of Kalamazoo, Michigan is a Methodist pastor longing for justice and inclusion in the United Methodist Church. He was brought up on charges within the church for officiating at two marriages of same-sex couples. One of the couples included his daughter. Currently, in the Methodist church, pastors can lose their credentials for marrying a same-sex couple. To protest this, he is camping outside every night until the General Conference for the United Methodists this May. At that time, groups within the Methodist church are going to ask for full inclusion for LGBTQ members and pastors, and for the rules to allow pastors to perform same-sex weddings. (Local folk – heads up – the conference is scheduled for Portland, Oregon from May 10-20th, 2016. You can be involved and find out more here: http://www.rmnetwork.org/newrmn/itstime)
In his moving picture, Rev. Tupper is outside of a tent, in the snow, proudly holding the photo album from his daughter’s wedding. On Facebook, his caption reads, “Day #51 Cold and snowy. I’m holding book of our daughter’s wedding. Sarah is the reason I’m sleeping outside every night thru General Conference. Praying that Sarah will be fully welcomed inside our church. On to Indianapolis this Friday for a witness.”
I am truly grateful for Rev. Tupper and others who work to not only make the church safe for LGBTQ people, but to celebrate and live alongside our LGBTQ neighbor, fully recognizing the wonderful gifts and strengths of each. I will be paying attention to the Methodist General Conference when it comes to Portland this May, and ways that we can help support those working for change in the church.
This work can sometimes feel daunting, so it is also important to find sources of renewal and strength. One such opportunity is being sponsored by the Lutherans in the Portland Metro area. It is a community-wide church service to celebrate that each of us is beautifully and wonderfully made, loved by God and embraced by our community. Our queerness and diversity is part of what makes us beautiful!
You are welcome to join us on Sunday, January 24th at 6:30 p.m. at Central Lutheran Church, 1820 NE 21st Ave, Portland. Child care will be provided. There will be a pop-up choir for the event, if you would like to participate. The one rehearsal is at 5:45 p.m. that evening. A dessert reception follows.
The Episcopal Church also recently had a Festal Eucharist in honor of St. Aelred, the patron Saint of Integrity USA, the welcoming church movement in the Episcopal Church. This celebration was on January 9th this year at St. Matthew’s Episcopal.
The voices that say “No” to inclusion and love are not the whole story. They are not the complete picture of church. God’s hospitality is abundant, and God’s love is bigger than any box we can try to use to set up insiders or outsiders.
Please know that no matter what you are told, you are not alone. You are lovable and worthy. You do not need to stay on the outside, for you are welcome at the feast. You are beautifully and wonderfully made, just as you are.
Photo used with permission of Rev. Mike Tupper.
Some helpful links…
To find a welcoming congregation in your area, of any denomination: http://www.welcomingresources.org/directory.htm
I also highly recommend PFLAG as a place to find comfort, community and strength: https://community.pflag.org/
To find out more about the welcoming church movement in a few of the many denominations with such organizations:
Lutheran ELCA – http://www.reconcilingworks.org/
United Methodist – http://www.rmnetwork.org/
Episcopal – http://www.integrityusa.org/
Community of Welcoming Congregations – an interfaith advocacy group –