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Since I currently have several employers/supervisors/churches/etc., please know that none of the words on my blog represent them or their beliefs. This blog is my own creation.

It also does not represent my children's perspective, nor my mother's; they think I am funny, but misguided.
(Quick update: only my mother thinks I'm funny now.)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Believe Out Loud & Sojourners Kerfluffle

This afternoon the twitterverse and facebook passed around this article from Religion Dispatches stating that the organization Believe Out Loud had attempted to place an ad with the Sojourners organization. The ad, linked to the video below, features two women and their son going to visit a church. The message of the video seems to be that all are welcome, even though parishioners may make faces that look like they ate rotten fruit.

Sojourners is a Christian organization committed to social justice, so on the one hand it makes sense to place ads with them toward LGBTQ equality. On the other hand, their diversity statement makes no mention of sexual orientation. Jim Wallis, CEO of Sojourners, gave this interview in 2008, in which he offers his thoughts on abortion and same gender marriage. There's also a small bit on the time that Sojourners accepted ads from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which also advocates for LGBTQ equality. In that article, Mr. Wallis says they wouldn't run those ads again.

Mr. Wallis also wrote a Huffpo editorial on Christians and Bullying in 2010 in which he basically said that no matter how you feel about homosexuality, bullying isn't acceptable. For those of you who aren't queer, this is not the same as saying that you welcome and affirm LGBTQ individuals, or that you honor and respect their lives and families.

So I want to say that Sojourners does good work in many ways. It is entirely possible to do good work in the world and at the same time contribute to the ongoing bigotry and oppression of queer folk. We all have intersections like that. I'm pretty good at spotting organizations that do good work but don't welcome queer folk, so the Sojourners kerfluffle today was not a surprise.

But here's my challenge to you: I'm also pretty good at spotting churches that welcome LGBTQ folk on their websites. Queer folk who are interested in Christianity sometimes ask me to help them find a local church that is welcoming and will celebrate their queerness. I can tell from a website if this is a church that has decided consciously to welcome queer folk in all aspects of church life. And I can tell you that there are not that many churches who do this. Here are a couple examples from my hometown of Santa Barbara:

--right there on the front page of the website is a link to "open and affirming"

And never mind. There are two other churches in Santa Barbara that I know are welcoming and affirming: St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church (a Covenant Network church) and Trinity Episcopal Church. I believe in the past that both churches had clear statements of welcome for LGBTQ folk on their websites, but I don't see it now.

And this is exactly my point. How would a queer person know they are welcome in your church? How would they know that they could come to the potluck and not have to endure another conversation on how the gay are ripping the fabric of America? How would they know they could come to Bible study and know that they could talk about the fullness of their life without people praying that they straighten out. How would they know that you won't look at them and their family as if you'd just eaten rotten fruit? Because it's not on your church websites, friends. I look, and it's not there. It's not on my church website either. We're all just pussyfooting around this whole welcome the gay thing--and golly, I'm a queer pastor!

So if you were offended by Sojourners' refusal to accept the Believe Out Loud ad, don't bother protesting Sojourners--we are not their main funding sources. Rather, give the attention to Believe Out Loud. Take the video you just watched of the two moms and their son to your church board or session and ask them to link it to your church website. Make it part of your church's dedication to welcoming LGBTQ people. And if your board refuses, then at least you have started the conversation.

Because if you're waiting for Sojourners and other big Christian organizations to change their ways, well, please trust that queer folk have already been waiting a while. Change your church, because that's where you have power. In your church you have voice and vote. Your church could sponsor this video.


  1. Thanks for your encouragement/exhortation on this, Katie. I think, hope, and believe that our website (McKinley Memorial Presbyterian, Champaign, IL) is clear in our proclamation:

  2. I belong to a welcoming and inclusive church as well- Second Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Our website proclaims this:

  3. Thank you for this awesome blog post.

  4. AMEN! Yes, let's not give more attention to Sojourners and support Believe Out Loud!!

  5. Molly and Linda--thank you! Your websites are perfect examples of how I hope churches will express their welcome of LGBTQ folks if they are committed to that. Anyone else looking for wording or how to express welcome should go visit your websites :-)

    And Anonymouses welcome and thanks :-)

  6. Thanks for this post. Our church's website is being re-designed right now, but for now it at least has a link to Covenant Network. And my sermon blog speaks a little more directly to the topic. Thanks for the perspective that we all need to hear.

  7. You are quite right that many churches need to be more welcoming and loving, not just to gay people but to all people - as Jesus was. But your article doesn't seem to allow for the fact that many churches struggle to know how to welcome people without accepting their lifestyle as morally correct. The Church has differing views on whether the Bible condones homosexuality, and I think you must try and respect the churches that have searched the pages of Scripture and cannot find support for a gay lifestyle within them. That does not mean they are excused from welcoming and loving gay people - most Christians gossip, disrespect their parents, lie, covet or lust, and we let them in, so sin of any kind is clearly no reason not to welcome poeple into our churches - and I am not excusing churches who treat homosexual individuals unkindly. But as a fellow Christian, striving ultimately for the same goal of helping more people to know the transforming love and salvation that Jesus offers, perhaps instead of criticising you could help churches with practical suggestions of how they welcome gay people into their congregations. How, for example, would you welcome a convicted and registered pedophile into your church without condoning their lifestyle? Or a substance abuser? Or a unmarried sexually active couple? Or someone who lies? Or someone who drives over the speed limit? We all sin, and that sin must be lovingly challenged, but it's often easier to say than to do. The Church must do its best to encourage ALL people to live in a way that honours God, whilst also welcoming and loving them in the way that Jesus does. Do you have any practical suggestions for how that balance can be maintained?

  8. Anonymous--I do not, in fact, have any suggestions for how you can tell queer folk that same gender love is a sin and still be welcoming. It is my opinion that this is not possible. More conservative folks disagree with me, and I suggest you ask them as more conservative churches and pastors abound. Please take your equivalency of homosexuality to pedophilia, substance abuse, lying, and speeding off this blog. As for unmarried, sexually active couples, I give to you the Song of Songs.

    This blog post was specifically focused on those who were offended by Sojourners' refusal to run the Believe Out Loud ad. And to them I provided a specific challenge and feedback as to their web presence and taking the video back to their church boards.

    While I am critical of the stance Jim Wallis and Sojourners takes regarding LGBTQ individuals and families, I gave an accurate accounting of Jim Wallis' actual words and suggested it is possible to do good works while also contributing to the oppression of queer folk.

    I will say it again, because this is important: I do not believe homosexuality is a sin. Or bisexuality. I do not believe it is a sin to be a trans woman nor a trans man nor a genderqueer individual. I do believe it is a sin to be a stumbling block to queer folk though, that I do.

  9. Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not trying to be offensive, I'm trying to genuinely find an answer to the question of how churches can be more loving towards gay and transgender people. I simply stumbled upon this blog, and assumed that with your intense passion for churches involving gay people that you would be able to offer some advice on how to go about it.

    It is odd to me that you can say it is impossible to 'tell queer folk that same gender love is a sin and still be welcoming' Is it then not possible to be welcoming to anyone whilst suggesting that they are sinning? Do you not think that all humans are sinful, and that God wants to address that? (I realise obviously that you do not view homosexuality as sinful, but even laying that aside, you must surely believe in the concept of sin, which is the crux of the question.)

    My post affirmed, several times, the need for churches to be more loving and more welcoming to homosexual people, whilst also being honest about the moral and Biblical questions the lifesytle poses for me and for many churches. I am genuinely seeking advice on a topic you claim is very important to you, and yet your response was hostile and offered no help. Is homosexuality an issue so big that is overshadows the grace we are called to exercise with one another?

  10. This is what is called "derailing," in which a commenter steers the discussion away from the actual content of the blogpost. This blogpost is not about how to make churches that believe homosexuality is a sin look more welcome. This blogpost is a challenge to churches that actually are open and affirming and welcoming to advertise that fact better. This post is about my lack of surprise that Jim Wallis and Sojourners have not changed their mind about homosexuality.

    Here is a link called "Derailing for Dummies"

    DFD lays out the way privilege often functions in these conversations. It is not an easy read, full of sarcasm, but worth it for those who wonder if their privilege is preventing them from critically listening.

    I do not have an intense passion for involving gay people in churches. I have an intense passion for queer folk to find churches (or other places of spiritual nurture) that will celebrate their queerness. In my opinion, telling people that homosexuality is a sin is a form of spiritual violence, and I do not encourage people to return to sites of intimate violence in any of its forms.

    I won't apologize for vigorously defending this blog as a place where the moral merits of homosexuality are not open for debate. I am open for that discussion in many places. But this space I offer as sanctuary for those who seek sanctuary from those who call people's lovers and children a sin.

    With that in mind, I'm not accepting further comments in this vein here on the blog. Please feel free to email me:

  11. Also, for the love of Pete and Mary Magdalene too, if this is someone I know through other channels or in person, reach out to me there so we can have this conversation over coffee. Or wine and bread...

  12. Anonymous--oddly your latest comment was caught automatically by blogger's spam filter, although I'm not sure why. I have saved it in my email. If you wish to reach out to me by email I would be happy to continue this conversation.

  13. Katie, I was a member of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Santa Barbara CA, and now am a minister member of Chicago Presbytery. When I was a member, and under care as an inquirer and candidate, the church had a different pastor. The church and the website had wording that said it was welcoming and affirming. I wish I could say the church is still welcoming and affirming, but I don't see the wording anymore, and I don't know the current pastor at all. I do know several of the current staff, who were staff with the former pastor, and they are supportive too. I also know many of the church members who were members then and still attend the church and they would also be supportive and very welcoming.

  14. Deborah, St. Andrews is still listed as a Covenant Network church on the CovNet site, but there is no hint of it on the church web page. I've heard good things about the new pastor, but I only ever new Dale there.


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