Dear GLBTQI Christian
Subject: No Fear in Love 1 John: 18
Over the last few weeks there has been a lot of discussion and anger (on both sides) due to Israel Folau’s comments. It seems very obvious to me, highlighted so well by Tuiloma Lina Samu (and others) that so much of this kind of thinking is the fallout from extensive colonisation of the Pacific and the role that the Church played in that. I am (just as you are), sadly, also well aware of the very real damage these kinds of comments can have.
To provide a positive Christian voice I have spent time using the Facebook comments sections to guide people to the Church in Progress’s resources page. In the hope that more people would discover an inclusive way of reading the bible. The bible that embraces the rainbow community and declares that homosexuality is not a sin or a sickness.
I now realise that engaging with trolls on facebook is not enough (and it’s a little soul destroying). Plus, I wanted to do something positive with this moment.
You see (maybe like many of you reading this post) I went to church as a youngster and quite enjoyed it. God loved me and I loved God. It was easy. During my teenage years I started questioning things and simply got bored with the church experience. My faith in God was intact but church didn’t reflect what was going on inside of me. I eventually stopped going apart from Easter and Christmas and wasn’t struck by lightning. No big deal.
When I moved to London in 2003 I had an urge to return to church. I went from church to church looking for a ‘home’. I soon realised that many of my friends would not be welcome in those places due to their sexuality. I didn’t have a theology degree then to back up my thinking but I just knew that this didn’t sit well with my faith. A faith based on John 13:34-35 …
And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.
Soon I found myself sitting in the pews of MCC South London under the wise leadership of the late Rev Elder Jean White. Here I was in the minority surrounded by members of the GLBTQI community. As the token straight I wasn’t sure I belonged. Jean was quick to educate me – this was a church for everyone just as the Kingdom of God is for all.
This was the first time I had sat in a church surrounded by people who actually wanted to be there! No one was forcing people to be there out of guilt, social pressure or routine. Many people there had already suffered rejection from other churches, sometimes from their own families too, and they had found their way to MCC. I found it incredible that they had not rejected God and buried their faith altogether considering the hurt they had suffered at the hands of so called ‘Christians’.
I now find myself as Pastoral Leader of Church in Progress MCC here in South Auckland. Once again, inspired by those in our faith community who have chosen the path of reconciling their faith in God and their sexuality. It breaks my heart to see comments like this, posted by a member of Church in Progress …
So, I write this blog post to affirm those who identify as GLBTQI and also identify as followers of Christ. You are an integral part of God’s family and yes, the Bible belongs to you too!
You, as a GLTBQI person of faith, are also the reason why I continue on my own journey of faith. Just like Paul describes his friends in the verses below, you’re the message to me. To stand strong in your faith, to follow in the way of Christ, to love others even when you are being persecuted by those who claim to be representing God – I am in awe of you.
1 Thessalonians 1 from The Message translation 2-19
Convictions of Steel
Every time we think of you, we thank God for you. Day and night you’re in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ, before God. It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put his hand on you for something special. When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn’t just words. Something happened in you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions.
You paid careful attention to the way we lived among you, and determined to live that way yourselves. In imitating us, you imitated the Master. Although great trouble accompanied the Word, you were able to take great joy from the Holy Spirit!—taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble.
Do you know that all over the provinces of both Macedonia and Achaia believers look up to you? The word has gotten around. Your lives are echoing the Master’s Word, not only in the provinces but all over the place. The news of your faith in God is out. We don’t even have to say anything anymore—you’re the message!
Much love, Rev Emily
Church in Progress will baptise, marry and ordain those who identify as GLBTQI. You are not tolerated within this faith community, instead you are accepted, affirmed and celebrated.