I really like fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and buttered biscuits with jam. I used to watch Grandma Stone drop a big spoonful of lard into a pan before frying a chicken, with the skin still on. Grandma’s biscuits with homemade blackberry jam and home-churned butter were heavenly. I loved all the food Grandma Stone made, but I don’t eat much of it anymore. Those foods will cause your arteries to stand on end! They taste good, but they could kill ya.
But what if I was impervious to the negative effects of the foods Grandma made? What if I was immune to high cholesterol and coronary artery disease? Would I indulge in those foods while others looked on with envy? Yep, I imagine I would.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago that almost no megachurches in the United States are open and affirming to the LGBTQ population. Of the 100 largest churches in the US, not one will allow an LGBTQ person into leadership. We can attend, but we cannot lead. An article in Tuesday’s Washington Post quotes churchclarity.org in acknowledging that disturbing truth.
The maddening reality is that these churches go to great lengths to avoid telling you the truth. Brian Houston, the senior pastor of the Australia based global megachurch, Hillsong, has publicly refused to say if their pastors will perform same sex weddings or ordain or hire LGBTQ people. In response to Church Clarity’s attempt to get answers to these three simple questions, Brian Houston blocked Church Clarity on his Twitter account. I’m good with letting Church Clarity carry the banner for fighting for equality and equity on the national and international stage. I am more concerned about Boulder County, Colorado, where I serve as one of three pastors at Left Hand Church. None of the three megachurches in Boulder County are LGBTQ affirming.
I have friends who continue to attend all three of these megachurches. Most are white males who suffer no personal ill effects from their participation in non-affirming churches. They can eat the fried chicken and biscuits without any personal consequences. Their privilege allows them that freedom. I, on the other hand, cannot.
For the first time in my life, I have some small understanding of how women and minorities have felt in patriarchal society. For centuries they have been on the outside looking in, while most straight white males have moved about with little concern for those whose gender, color, gender identity, sexual identity or ethnicity prohibits them from full participation in society.
When I was a straight white male, I was guilty of enjoying the spoils of the patriarchy. Yes, my views on LGBTQ issues were not in line with evangelicalism, but I was taking my time becoming public about it. Before I came out, I wrote one 400-word column for the magazine at which I was a weekly columnist and editor-at-large, asking for sensitivity for the transgender population. The editor was approached by a former president of our denomination’s convention suggesting I should be relieved of my duties. To his credit, the editor kept me. After that, I decided to lie low with my public beliefs. It was the wrong decision. I know that now. As Maya Angelou said, “When you know better, you do better.”
I was comfortable, and I did not want to be made uncomfortable. I did not want to be confronted with my prvilege. I thought in time I would be able to make headway within my faith community to bring about LGBTQ acceptance, and that was enough. Except it was not. I was maintaining my personal comfort at the expense of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters.
When I was called to transition, I had no choice but to make my views known. Straight allies choose to make the decision to be affirming of LGBTQ people. They pay a price. They are my heroes. Mark Tidd was defrocked by his denomination for supporting the family of a transgender child. Jen Jepsen listened to her conscience and left her megachurch. Jen and Mark and the leaders at Denver Community Church and my own son and his wife, and a whole host of others are the ones who have chosen to pay the price for supporting the LGBTQ community.
I know some are uncomfortable reading this post. Some are pastors who truly struggle with discerning the right time to lead your congregation toward inclusion. Some are believers trying to get by, and need your non-affirming megachurch to keep you afloat. I understand that. Sometimes you just don’t have the energy to listen to a prophet and take up a sword. Some are doing important work in the bowels of those churches, advocating for change. I respect their decision to actively work for change from within. (Of course, please note that I do use the word “actively.”)
I like to comfort the afflicted, but occasionally I feel called to afflict the comfortable. Of course, a lot of you who are reading my blog are already willing to be made uncomfortable, so I’m not sure what I accomplish by increasing your discomfort. I suppose I am writing mostly to the “me” of ten years ago, someone who knew where he stood on LGBTQ issues, but did not feel called to lead the charge. I’m not sure when I will be ready to forgive myself for that mistake. As often as I write about this subject, it’s obvious I’m not ready yet. I should have led the charge. I know that now. When you know better, you do better.