Chal­lenge to churches to em­brace LGBTQ+ com­mu­nity

The News (New Glasgow) - - OPINION LETTERS - Ger­ard Veld­hoven

Rev. John Boyd of First Bap­tist Church in Hal­i­fax sug­gested his con­gre­ga­tion hold a vote to be gay friendly.

The re­sult of that vote, in 2006, showed a 93 per cent ap­proval for that par­tic­u­lar church to have a gay-friendly pol­icy, in­clud­ing same-sex marriage. This, to the ire of the At­lantic Con­ven­tion of Bap­tist Churches, led First Bap­tist to no longer be a mem­ber of the con­ven­tion.

Of the 30 Bap­tist churches in HRM, John Boyd’s church is the only gay-friendly con­gre­ga­tion. The ma­jor­ity of Chris­tian churches strug­gle to be in­clu­sive and feel the need to stay out of the con­tro­versy, there­fore, if one ig­nores the sit­u­a­tion it just may go away. Not so. It’s not pos­si­ble to sweep this un­der the prover­bial car­pet. Just in Canada alone, only a few of the Chris­tian churches em­brace equal treat­ment of mem­bers of the LGBTQ+ com­mu­nity. Transgender peo­ple are not even given con­sid­er­a­tion and are ridiculed. Many mem­bers of the clergy who per­haps are will­ing to call for ac­cep­tance seem re­luc­tant to do so as church mem­ber­ship would dwin­dle away, which is a com­mon oc­cur­rence.

So-called main­stream churches in Canada have, and are strug­gling with this is­sue. The United Church of Canada has a to­tal ac­cep­tance pol­icy, but leaves it to in­di­vid­ual con­gre­ga­tions to vote on LGBTQ+ em­brace, or to con­duct same-sex marriage. A large num­ber of them have what is called an “Af­firm­ing Con­gre­ga­tion.” These are ex­am­ples of thoughts of re­li­gious beliefs that are part of Chris­tian or, for that mat­ter, other world re­li­gions, that in­flu­ence fol­low­ers. Teach­ings dif­fer in all the de­nom­i­na­tions and that is where in­flu­ence sway folks in many di­rec­tions, one be­ing dis­crim­i­na­tory against LGBTQ+ cit­i­zens. Some will say that, “Yes, we will wel­come them in our church, but we don’t al­low them to marry, or they should not be open about their re­la­tion­ships.” In other words, ac­cep­tance is non-ex­is­tent. Marriage should be viewed as a wish for two peo­ple, re­gard­less of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, to live to­gether in a lov­ing re­la­tion­ship. This is as it should be. If the church is not will­ing to marry a gay cou­ple, then a pub­lic of­fi­cial will do the le­gal cer­e­mony. Churches should open their doors and wel­come all who have a cer­tain re­li­gious be­lief. If not, then it be­comes a form of dis­crim­i­na­tion be­cause of direct re­jec­tion on the ba­sis of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.

Those who do em­brace are ob­vi­ously very com­fort­able in bring­ing folks into the fold to in­ter­act with all others. Churches, where love is sup­posed to flour­ish like flow­ers in the wild, are in a prime sit­u­a­tion to swing the doors wide open, em­brace and make LGBTQ+ feel wel­come in ev­ery way. See peo­ple for who they re­ally are and ac­cept the fact that we come in all forms. That is hu­man na­ture. We do not choose our sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and that fact has to be re­al­ized by re­li­gious-minded peo­ple. We do not ask a het­ero­sex­ual why he/she is that way, so one is read­ily ac­cepted as such. By the same to­ken, a per­son be­ing a mem­ber of the LGBTQ+ com­mu­nity should be wel­comed and ac­cepted.

Re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tions could pre­vent a lot of agony in our young peo­ple, and older ones as well, if ac­cep­tance is part of the teach­ings. True love for an­other is a ded­i­ca­tion to the well-be­ing of a happy so­ci­ety. The type of re­li­gion should not mat­ter as that sim­ply in­di­cates a cer­tain be­lief in a god.

What re­ally mat­ters is that a per­son, re­gard­less of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der iden­tity, or ex­pres­sion, will be con­sid­ered equal. Bap­tist, United Church, Angli­can or Catholic, it should not mat­ter. Love does con­quer.

Ger­ard Veld­hoven is a long­time ac­tivist for the les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and transgender com­mu­nity. His col­umn ap­pears weekly in The News. Com­ments and in­for­ma­tion: lgbt­con­nec­tion­sgv@gmail.com.

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