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  • Writer's pictureKimberlee Runnion

I Have Been Complicit in Anti-LGBT Violence - and I am so sorry.

The election happened. The results are real. Once again, the popular vote doesn't matter. Donald Trump will be in the White House.

Here's the good news: I'm still breathing. I'm even keeping food down again.

This week, I found myself returning to an article from a Presbyterian pastor whose blog I follow religiously (pun intended!): Why Even Progressive Christianity Must Own its Complicity in Anti-LGBT Violence. And I realized that despite being an openly queer Christian, I have also been complicit. I attend a church that is only "quietly welcoming" of queer folks like me. Though my church has a long history of fighting for social justice, we have done NOTHING to indicate to people outside of our congregation that we are affirming of queer folks. And yet, I continue to go there. I have found that overall, the congregation is a friendly and safe place, but you would never know that unless you walked through the doors in the first place. I cannot be complicit any longer, so today, I sent this e-mail out to a number of folks in my congregation:

"Hello all,

Normally I wouldn't hit reply all, but I don't want this to be some sort of secret. I have done a lot of soul-searching over the past week. I would like to be removed from the liturgist list for our church. I am not willing to speak from the lectern of a church that will not openly welcome LGBTQ folks like me. The hate and violence in our country is unacceptable, and our church's decision to receive rent money from another church rather than provide true sanctuary for our own members feeds this hatred and violence. Being "quietly welcoming" is not enough, and I am no longer willing to be complicit in that decision.

That being said, I am scheduled to be liturgist this Sunday. I am not willing to fill that role. Is there someone willing to take my place?

At the moment, I am not leaving the church. I will be there Sunday morning to sing in the choir (though I won't sit in the chancel) and play bells. Feel free to come speak with me, pray with me, and show the kindness I know is in all of our hearts."

I quickly received replies from people willing to fill my place on Sunday, wanting to discuss what the church can do, and wanting to learn more about the discrimination I have faced both in and out of church. I have been overwhelmed by the love I have received (including fresh flowers being placed on the chancel in support of me). I also soon discovered that the people replying had no idea what I meant when I mentioned "our church's decision to receive rent money from another church rather than provide true sanctuary for our own members."

Let me start by saying that our congregation rents out our building to a local Hispanic Pentecostal congregation. (For those who are not aware, Pentecostals as a whole are NOT affirming of queer folks.) The rent we receive is not a huge amount, but obviously for a small church, any amount of money helps.

Following the Pulse nightclub shooting earlier this year, our church's Session (the local governing body of our congregation) had a discussion about how we could be more affirming and considered some of the "signs" that queer folks look for to see if a church is welcoming. First, we look for a Pride flag (somewhere...anywhere!). Second, many of us look for a connection to an affirming network (More Light Presbyterians, Covenant Network, Reconciling Ministries, etc.). There are other small signs we notice once we are in worship, but the first two are generally the things that get us in the door in the first place. While our church claims to be "quietly welcoming," none of those signs are present to let people outside of the congregation know that we are a safe place that provides "sanctuary" to queer folks. As Session was considering what we might be able to do, the Pentecostal congregation threatened to find another place to worship if we were to display our support for our queer faith family. Session chose to do nothing for fear of losing that rent money. I think it is incredibly sad when we choose money over people.

I don't know what the future holds for my congregation. I do know that I have felt God's love flowing through those who have already reached out to me, and I have faith that Sunday morning, I will continue to feel that love and friendship. Please keep us in your prayers - we all have a lot of soul searching to do. But being complicit in the hate and violence that is rapidly spreading across our country is not an option.

#church #Pulse #queer #LGBTQ


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