Queer pastor wants to heal effects of ‘spiritual abuse’
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.”