VOTER IDS + ZOOM LINKS will be emailed to AC members Tuesday (June 6)

Greater NW Pride: Seeking Sanctuary


Seeking Sanctuary

As a man of Christian faith who is an ordained pastor, parent, grandparent, partnered and gay, the last few week's news has been an emotional roller-coaster, as are most days of the week, weeks, months, years when it comes to LGBTQ+ folks around the world. By “emotional roller-coaster,” I mean there are some stories in the media that celebrate progress being made by those of us who are LGBTQ+ and our non-LGBTQ+ allies, as well as those stories that feel like “two steps back.” As many LGBTQ+ people knew after the US Supreme Court made it possible for those of us who are LGBTQ+ to wed legally, there would be a tremendous backlash, and these observers of social trends were correct.
For example, consider the ebb and flow of LGBTQ+ news in the last few weeks:

  • Utah became the 19th  state in the US to ban conversion therapy for minors. Conversion therapy is the faux “psychological” process aimed at changing a patient’s sexual orientation or gender identity. There are still thirty-one states that allow this heinous therapy to continue.


  • Waiting for Color” is a short documentary covering the anti-LGBTQ+ purge in Chechnya in 2017 that has been released for worldwide distribution. This film captures the stories of the arrest, torture, and blackmail of LGBTQ+ people during the Chechen anti-LGBTQ+ in 2017, though this torture happened before and after 2017. The arrest, torture, death, and blackmail of LGBTQ+ people takes place around the world, today, simply because one is LGBTQ+.


  • Vice President Mike Pence: at Holy City Church of God in Christ in Memphis, TN, on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2020, Mr. Pence gave a Martin Luther King, Jr., speech to the largely black congregation. This sermon was televised by the White House. Following the speech, Bishop Jerry Wayne, Taylor, founding pastor of Holy City, denounced LGBTQ+ people as “the work of the devil.”


  • New Jersey “Gay/Trans Panic Attack” is illegal defense argument: On Tue., Jan. 21, 2020, the Governor of New Jersey signed a bill that made NJ the ninth state to prohibit homicide defendants from claiming that panic brought on by a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity could be used a legal defense. This means that in 41 other states, such a defense is still possible.


  • In Missouri, State Rep. Ben Baker has proposed a bill, “Parental Oversight of Public Libraries,” which would require all Missouri public libraries to establish parental review boards, elected by voters, aimed not a banning or censoring books, but stopping drag queen story hours held in libraries in St. Louis, Kansas City, and St. Joseph. Of course, anyone who has been to a drag queen show knows the brilliance of telling a story by many drag queens. And when a drag queen reads or tells a story, in word or song, we, the audience, listen.

There are more stories that I could go into, like those in authority in the Church of England who want to be sure, still, that sex only happens in marriage between a man and woman; that the 1953 charge of “lewd vagrancy” against gay, black civil rights hero Bayard Rustin be dropped posthumously by Gov. Newsom; and gay couples allowed to dance together in a national championship ballroom show at Brigham Young University, while LGBTQ+ people are still discriminated at Mormon-Brigham Young University.

At the end of a week in reading and hearing such stories, I feel both elated in and celebrate the good news, and feel beat-up emotionally and intellectually by the news in which the anti-LGBTQ forces frolic in our demise.
So, imagine, when coming to worship at a United Methodist Church on Sunday morning, seeking a sanctuary of love and the Holy in the midst of Christian community; thirsty for a time of respite from the roller-coaster of life outside a church, hungry to hear and receive the Good News. Instead, one goes to a UMC worship service and knows that there is still this struggle within the UMC of whether or not this UMC is a safe space to be as the Traditional Plan is now in place. The struggle is now going on for forty-eight years in the UMC. This open-ended question does not provide rest; does not make one feel safe; does not provide sanctuary. Even if we are in a Conference that is designated as "Safe Harbor," if our sibling in Christ is experiencing charges in another Conference, we are all experiencing charges in the body of Christ. There simply is no sanctuary for LGBTQ+ people and our non-LGBTQ+ allies.
Prayer: that in May 2020, a decision will be made by the General Conference of the UMC, and that the future that God is bringing the Church universal towards, in the integration of LGBTQ+ people into the body of Christ, will be realized in the UMC, and the UMC will move forward without undue delay or hesitation. After all, to quote Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday we celebrated this week, “justice too long delayed is justice denied” (Letter from a Birmingham Jail,1963).
May it be so.

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!