Each year, Believe Out Loud compiles a list of the top ten moments in the LGBTQI Christian movement. This year in particular, we have struggled to compile a list that necessarily includes the moments of grief and disappointment we've experienced as a community.
In compiling this list, we are also reminded that, amidst our struggles, we will find beacons of light showing us the way forward.
10. 500 Clergy Join Water Protectors at Standing Rock
In November, more than 500 clergy traveled from across the country to join Water Protectors at the Oceti Sakowin camp, where members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe are leading a movement to stop the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The pipeline, which was recently stalled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was proposed to cross the tribe’s sacred sites and main water supply.
In The Courage To Stand, Believe Out Loud Blogger Lynn Young, who is of Lakota heritage, shares why Christians are compelled to stand with the Water Protectors in Standing Rock.
9. LGBTQI Christians & Allies Flood #ChristiansVote with Affirming Faith Values
During the presidential election, LGBTQI Christians and allies staged some #HolyTrouble by flooding the Christian Right’s hashtag, #ChristiansVote, with LGBTQI-affirming, justice-based values. In less than a week, over 1,200 Christians and multiple faith-based organizations signed on to declare that we are Christians who fully and faithfully affirm LGBTQI people, the sanctity of black lives, and reproductive justice for ALL!
After the election ended, we joined together again to affirm our commitment “beyond the ballot,” pledging to protect, affirm, and advocate for LGBTQI people during Donald Trump’s presidency and beyond.
8. Pope Francis’ Document on the Family Fails to Include or Affirm LGBTQI People
In April, Pope Francis issued his second Apostolic Exhortation, called Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). The document concluded a two-year-long Synod process within the Catholic Church that was designed to examine the state of the family in today’s world. Throughout this process, LGBTQI Catholics called for conversation and dialogue about their experiences. According to Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry, the final document “reiterates church formulas” and fails to provide “a new pastoral approach to LGBT issues or people.”
7. Massachusetts Churches Rally to Protect Transgender People
In July, the state of Massachusetts passed a law that protects transgender people from discrimination in public places, including restrooms. LGBTQI-affirming churches like Old Cambridge Baptist Church worked for months to support this bill and ensure it would become law. Unfortunately, churches that object to protections for transgender people secured enough signatures to place the new law on the ballot in 2018—which means Massachusetts voters will decide whether their state will continue to protect transgender people from discrimination in public places. In response, LGBTQI-affirming Christians pledged to defend this law and protect the rights of transgender, gender nonconforming and intersex people in Massachusetts!
6. Presbyterian Church (USA) Passes Three LGBTQI-Affirming Overtures
In July, the Presbyterian Church (USA) gathered for their 222nd General Assembly. According to Alex McNeill, Executive Director of More Light Presbyterians, the General Assembly plenary “approved overtures calling for an end to conversion therapy, for churches to better equip themselves to serve those living with HIV/AIDS, and an overture directing agencies of the PC(USA) ‘to identify and oppose legislation that discriminates on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity and to identify and encourage legislation to accomplish the above goals in the United States and U.S. territories.’”
In the same General Assembly, a widely debated “Apology Overture,” in which the denomination would have acknowledged and apologized for harm done to LGBTQ people, did not pass.
5. Trans-Affirming Christians Share #LoveForGavin
For two years, Gavin Grimm has been in legal battle to use the boys' bathroom at his high school. In 2017, the Supreme Court will hear Gavin’s case and issue a ruling that will impact trans and gender nonconforming students across the country. In August of 2016, as Gavin prepared for his senior year of high school, the Supreme Court granted an emergency stay in his case, which prevents Gavin from using the boys’ bathroom until further notice. In response, LGBTQI-affirming Christians signed and shared statements of #LoveForGavin, to make it clear that all trans kids are loved and affirmed by God, and we will support Gavin as he stands before the Supreme Court!
4. Movement for Black Lives Releases Comprehensive Policy Platform
In August, the Movement for Black Lives released "A Vision for Black Lives," a comprehensive policy platform created by a collective of more than 50 organizations representing thousands of Black people from across the United States. Within the platform's demand to end the war on Black people, the collective calls specifically for an end to the war on Black trans, queer and gender nonconforming people. The platform details the ways that, due to a combination of anti-trans bias and racism, trans people of color experience "particularly harmful levels" of discrimination, violence, poverty, homelessness, police profiling, abuse and degrading treatment in police custody, and harassment and discrimination that prevent access to education, employment, housing, social services, and medical care.
In response, the platform lists specific solutions designed to "reduce profiling, criminalization, police and prison violence," and "improve access to safe and equitable housing, employment, healthcare, social services, and education" for Black trans, queer, and gender nonconforming people.
Throughout the year, LGBTQI Christian individuals and organizations have convened in a multitude of ways to ask ourselves how we can answer the call of "A Vision for Black Lives." At Believe Out Loud, we recognize the importance of amplifying the particular experiences of Black LGBTQI people as we design public education and action opportunities for our community. Additionally, we invite all our community members to stand in solidarity with those on the front lines of work intended to liberate all of us from the burdens of oppression. In the coming year, we will challenge ourselves to further examine and align with the policy demands set forth in "A Vision for Black Lives."
3. Christians Call for Full Repeal of North Carolina’s HB2
In March, North Carolina’s House Bill 2 became the first anti-transgender law to pass in any state across the country. Reaching far beyond its original intention (which was to overturn the city of Charlotte’s trans-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance), HB2 also denies hourly workers the opportunity to make a living wage. In response, LGBTQI-affirming Christians joined protests led by Rev. Dr. William Barber and the North Carolina NAACP’s Moral Mondays movement, and together, organizations from North Carolina and across the country gathered signatures from over 187,000 individuals calling for the full repeal of HB2. These petitions included signatures from 2,111 LGBTQI Christians and allies who signed on to proclaim that God’s love extends to ALL of God’s beloved children.
HB2 was one of more than 200 anti-LGBTQI bills filed in the U.S. at the state level this year. That’s the most anti-LGBTQI bills we have faced since 2009.
2. Christians Mourn Lives Lost In Orlando Pulse Shooting
In June of this year, our hearts were broken with the news of the Pulse shooting in Orlando, Florida. During Latin Night, when Pulse was filled with black and brown LGBTQI people and allies, we lost 49 siblings in a tragedy that shook our communities to the core. 23 of the 49 victims were Puerto Rican. On our blog, Rev. Manny Santiago, a queer Puerto Rican Baptist minister, shared a message of lament in English and Spanish, sharing how gay clubs are sanctuaries for many LGBTQI people who experience rejection in their families, their communities, and their houses of worship. Across the country, churches and faith leaders hosted vigils, prayer services, and memorials to support their local LGBTQI
On our blog, Rev. Manny Santiago, a queer Puerto Rican Baptist minister, shared a message of lament in Spanish and English, sharing how gay clubs are sanctuaries for many LGBTQI people who experience rejection in their families, their communities, and their houses of worship.
Across the country, churches and faith leaders hosted vigils, prayer services, and memorials to support their local LGBTQI communities. Within a week, one network of faith leaders launched a bilingual, LGBTQI-affirming trauma support network to offer safe and affirming space for grieving members of the LGBTQIA community and their allies to be heard. On our blog, writer and student Candace Simpson shared resources to help faith leaders prepare to remember LGBTQI people of color during their services on Sunday, as so many struggled to find words of comfort and care for their communities in the face of such horrific tragedy.
1. United Methodist Clergy Stage Historic, Courageous Coming Out
In a denomination that does not allow LGBTQ clergy or same-sex marriage, clergy who come out put their ordination, and career, at risk. In January, Rev. Cynthia Meyer, pastor for Edgerton United Methodist Church in Edgerton, Kansas, stepped out in faith as she came out to her congregation.
But Rev. Meyer’s coming out was just the beginning. Four months later, as the United Methodist Church prepared for their General Conference, 111 LGBTQI Methodist clergy and candidates came out to the United Methodist Church through a “love letter” originally published by Reconciling Ministries Network. The letter shared the experience of LGBTQI clergy and candidates, who must hide their sexual orientations and gender identities in order to serve the United Methodist Church. These church leaders professed concern for LGBTQI young people and families, and they shared their hope that, by the end of General Conference, Methodists would “find the body of Christ stronger….not weaker or more deeply harmed.”
In response, 500 LGBTQI Christian leaders from a multitude of denominations penned a letter of affirmation for their Methodist colleagues, sharing prayers of comfort and courage for LGBTQI people and leaders within the United Methodist Church as they prepared to attend their denomination-wide gathering.
At General Conference, the Council of Bishops did propose a “way forward," and they established an historic commission on sexuality. Unfortunately, as the process has unfolded, many are concerned that the commission process is excluding LGBTQI people. According to Dr. Dorothee Benz, a national representative for Methodists in New Directions: “We are not named, our oppression is not acknowledged, and our voice is not sought.”
After all the up's and down's of this year, our Queering Advent campaign reminded us that, even in difficult and uncertain times, we can turn to one another to share messages of great hope, courage, joy and love.
That's why we are grateful for our community at Believe Out Loud, for the individuals, churches, and communities who have worked tirelessly this year to protect and affirm LGBTQI people.
When obstacles come, we are so glad to know we face them in community with you.
Photo via flickr user UMWomen