Queer pas­tor wants to heal ef­fects of ‘spir­i­tual abuse’

GA Voice - - Faith & Religion -

The church has shown a pen­chant for get­ting in­volved in such so­cial jus­tice over the years, whether it’s sup­port­ing the ef­forts of the South­ern Chris­tian Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence dur­ing the African-Amer­i­can civil rights bat­tles of the 1960s or ad­vo­cat­ing and pro­vid­ing ser­vices for the poor and the home­less.

And Cen­tral Pres­by­te­rian couldn’t be in a bet­ter lo­ca­tion for a church de­voted to so­cial jus­tice—it’s di­rectly across the street from the State Capi­tol, where it ap­pears as if the statue of the late Ge­or­gia Gov. El­lis Ar­nall is about to walk over and join the con­gre­ga­tion in some hal­lelu­jahs.

As for the church’s LGBT bona fides, its mem­bers are seen rou­tinely dur­ing At­lanta Pride week­end, whether hav­ing a booth in the park, host­ing a wor­ship ser­vice be­fore the pa­rade or march­ing in the pa­rade. They’ve also hosted the Sylvia Rivera Stonewall Com­mu­nity Brunch dur­ing Stonewall Week, and last year hosted a rally against Se­nate Bill 129, state Sen. Josh McKoon’s (R-Colum­bus) so-

Jan­uary 22, 2016

called “religious free­dom” bill.

“It’s an at­tempt to le­gal­ize dis­crim­i­na­tion in the name of religious free­dom, and who’s not in fa­vor of religious free­dom? It’s like ap­ple pie and your mother, you can’t speak about those,” says Charles, who also signed a pe­ti­tion against the bill along with a cou­ple hun­dred other lo­cal faith lead­ers. “Well, this [bill] has pre­cious lit­tle to do with religious free­dom and a lot to do with a very con­ser­va­tive political agenda that would set the clock back un­der the aus­pices that this is a good and holy thing to do. It’s nei­ther good nor holy.”

It was the chance to meld her in­ter­ests in so­cial jus­tice and com­mu­nity or­ga­niz­ing that drew Arkansas na­tive Molly McGin­nis to At­lanta and Cen­tral Pres­by­te­rian, where she came on as pas­tor in res­i­dence last July.

“I am queer my­self and I know that Cen­tral is a very wel­com­ing com­mu­nity for queer peo­ple and that this is a com­mu­nity in which I would be ac­cepted as their pas­tor,” she tells Ge­or­gia Voice.

She quickly got in­volved in church life and net­work­ing with the city’s LGBT com­mu­nity, and took part in last Oc­to­ber’s Pride fes­tiv­i­ties.

“My role as a queer pas­tor specif­i­cally is to be in a re­la­tion­ship with peo­ple who have been hurt and are an­gry at the church, peo­ple who have been dis­owned from their fam­i­lies and suf­fer from de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety be­cause of the spir­i­tual abuse that they’ve ex­pe­ri­enced from the Chris­tian com­mu­nity,” McGin­nis says. “It’s im­por­tant to me that peo­ple I en­counter know that I’m Chris­tian and that I’m a pas­tor and that I’m queer and that I see those parts of my life as be­ing in­te­gral and up­lift­ing with each other and not an­ti­thet­i­cal or con­flict­ing.”

It’s an on­go­ing process, though, to get those in the LGBT com­mu­nity who’ve been the vic­tims of that “spir­i­tual abuse” to come back around to their faith. McGin­nis re­called a con­ver­sa­tion with a friend the pre­vi­ous evening.

“She told me two sto­ries. One about an­other per­son who was a for­mer Chris­tian and the day she de­cided to close her Bi­ble and never open it again. And that story made me sad. And then she told me an­other story about a com­mu­nity that re­jected her. That story made me an­gry. And I think that is where Chris­tian­ity’s wit­ness is stag­nant in the U.S.

“There are th­ese sto­ries that make us sad and th­ese sto­ries that make us an­gry but there aren’t enough peo­ple who are speak­ing loudly enough a mes­sage of hope and love and wel­come. And I think that Cen­tral is do­ing that and I want peo­ple in the city to know that Cen­tral is do­ing that but there are also other com­mu­ni­ties here that are do­ing that as well.”

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