Greater NW Pride: In Search of a Connection with a Community of Faith


In Search of a Community of Faith Connection 

Recently, I attended a class on “Boundaries”, part of the continuing education of Ministers of the Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and also required of UMC clergy as well. While much of the focus of the day had to do with issues around sexual harassment and clergy, there was a fascinating discussion of connection and power, which struck a chord in my work with LGBTQ people and the Church. According to dictionary.com, a connection is the ability to be in relationship with a circle of friends, a community of faith, or associates. This is what many of us who are LGBTQ are looking for: a way to spiritual connection with our God through, in, and with a community of other faithful seekers, and members of the body of Christ. 
What has stopped this connection for those of us who are LGBTQ and people of faith is an abuse of power. According to dictionary.com, power is the ability to do or act; capability of doing or accomplishing something. In order to make the connections occur that we, who are LGBTQ and faithful, hope to make and live into, we needed the power to make that connection happen with and within a community of faith. All many of us wanted and desired as LGBTQ people of faith was a connection with the Holy, not power over and against, for or about anyone. Sadly, for generations upon generations, the Church (universal), through its leadership and its doctrines—be it the Book of Discipline (UMC) or Book of Order (PCUSA)— has used its power to stop untold number of LGBTQ people from joining, being ordained, married, or participating in fellowship and community service in a local church. Even more important, the Church, through time, has overtly and covertly denied that connection between God and God’s creation and creatures, which includes untold number of LGBTQ people. 
There are millions of LGBTQ people who, too, have felt and sensed the connection with the Holy, and looked for a community of faith in many world religions, generation after generation. However, because the Church used its power to deny that connection, the movement of LGBTQ into the Church will be slow, at a trickle pace, if that. Those of us who are LGBTQ and people of faith who attend a Christian faith community are a very small minority compared to the straight majority. (see this research by Pew Research Center in 2015). Instead, many of us are inclined to go to non-Christian communities of faith, in which the use of power to close off the connection has not been as strong. As we, in both the UMC and PCUSA, move forward on this pilgrimage of faith--hopefully to open doors, as well as open hearts and minds--just remember and realize that there simply will not be a strong surge of LGBTQ people coming through those doors that were once locked.  It will take time and constant practice of hospitality, by members of faith communities, for many LGBTQ people to feel it is finally safe to be and "at home,"  in a Christian community of faith. 

Brett Webb-Mitchell
Rev. Dr. Brett Webb-Mitchell is an openly gay Presbyterian pastor in the Portland area serving as the part-time LGBTQ+ advocacy coordinator for The Oregon-Idaho Conference of the UMC. He can be reached at brett@umoi.org. Become a subscriber to the Greater NW Pride blog to get Greater NW Pride in your email box!