Greater NW Pride: God’s Abundant Love for LGBTQI2S+ People


God’s Abundant Love for LGBTQI2S+ People

I was delighted to read of the actions of a Carmelite nun, Sr. Monica Astorga, in Argentina who did the Godly thing of opening up a housing complex specifically for transgender women.
I wasn’t the only one who was delighted of this news. Last week, Pope Francis responded to an email from Sr. Monica, informing him of her latest project—the establishment of this housing for transgender women in Argentina, and the Pope, in a handwritten message, told the nun, “God, who did not go to seminary or study theology, will repay you abundantly.”
It is a blessing from the Pope.
And that the God will repay this good work abundantly.

Reporter Madoc Cairns of The Tablet reported that Sr. Monica began this work in 2006, over 14 years ago, and the former Archbishop Jorge Bergolio (now Pope Francis) blessed her work in 2009. Three years ago, he wrote her another note, praising her work with the marginalized, transgender women, in Argentina.
Argentina was one of the first countries in the world to pass comprehensive civil rights legislation for people who are transgender. Sadly, physical and emotional violence towards those who are transgender continues, and poverty remains high, in which the average age of death of a transgender person is 35-years-old, according to the World Health Organization.
With all that is going on with this Administration harsh treatment of those who are transgender in society, in which the death rate of transgender women of color is particularly high, I found this article made me smile.
Now and then, we need to be reminded of the positive, loving events that are happening around this country and the world in terms of religious communities and LGBTQI2S+ people. 
For example, as was reported in the OR-ID UMC Conference weekly newsletter, Kristen Caldwell reported that Christ United Methodist Church Cedar Mill (Beaverton) is working with SAGE, a group focused on creating housing opportunities for older LGBTQI+ people, moving forward with plans for a 53-unit affordable housing complex on its property that is explicitly LGBTQ friendly.
Other UMC churches have come upon the good fortune of creating a “safe space” for LGBTQI2S youth to hang out during on-line worship, working with the technical end of the on-line presence of worship services. In time, they find other LGBTQI2S+ folks who were simply searching for a place to hang out that was not in their home, with masks and social distancing still being practiced. 
And I’m still waiting for news of a Drag Queen children’s sermon at a church. After all, it has been a “hit” during story time at local libraries. 

There are many places in the life of a faith community in general, and a church in particular, where they can welcome and affirm the lives of LGBTQI2S+ people in the local community. Working on safe housing options in collaboration with other non-profit agencies is one way, especially in light of the rise of evictions, homelessness, and food shortages in this country during the COVID 19 pandemic.
Having safe group programs and safe spaces for young children who are growing into self-awareness of being LGBTQI2S+ is another possibility, as many of us knew our sexual orientation and gender preference earlier in life than middle school of high school. Providing safe group time for the parents of LGBTQI2S+ children would also be a wonderful resource in many communities. I was reminded of this when an old friend, a Presbyterian pastor in Raleigh, NC, the Rev. Mac Schafer, and his wife, Katy, recently led a workshop at Kirkridge Retreat Center of the experience of being parents of LGBTQI2S+ children, speaking out of their experience of raising Hunter Schafer, who knew in her childhood that she was a young girl, but the only resource for the Schafer family in working this out was the LGBT Center in Raleigh. The churches in the area had no programs or groups for such families. This more the norm than not. Thankfully, Hunter got the help and support she needed, as did the parents and her siblings, and today, Hunter is one of the stars in “Euphoria” on HBO.
From LGBTQI2S+ housing to youth groups expressly for LGBTQI2S+ young people, drag queen children sermons to perhaps weekly dinners and Bible studies through a queer lens, or morning prayer times with an LGBTQI2S+ focus in this pandemic age, there are opportunities for churches to meet the needs and provide love for everyone, including LGBTQI2S people. 
And, to quote the Pope, with and from such works, God will repay us all abundantly.

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!