On this day after a very big day, as I reflect on the SCOTUS decision in favor of marriage equality, I can’t help but consider what an amazing change that has taken place in this country in such a relatively short period of time.
When I was in college in the mid 1980s, I remember taking an English course that focused on the literature of gays and lesbians. It was a controversial course that was mocked by some members of the college community. It was also a course that included the telling of a few personal stories from members of the class. The instructor shared her experiences of harassment. A few students spoke in whispered tones about their own awareness of their homosexuality, and when it started. The straight students in the class, like myself, were sometimes very moved, and alarmed, at the stories that were told, of the lives lived in secret and the concerns of threats and violence.
Although things aren’t perfect, we live in a very different country—just thirty years later.
As we reflect on these changes, and as we also listen to a lot of chatter on the national stage, I suspect that there will be some references to the “Christian Church” lagging behind, and perhaps even being an impediment to this progress.
Except that that’s not entirely true. The United Church of Christ has long been an advocate for those on the margins, including the LBGTQ, etc. community.
In my many years of belonging to the United Church of Christ, twenty as an ordained clergyperson, it’s really been the commitment to the humanity of all—including the LBGTQ community—that has kept me in the denomination. Over the years, I can count a number of times when I have dangled on the edge, when something has made me want to run from the UCC, when something has made me so angry or when I have felt so disillusioned. But I’ve stayed, mostly because of its long commitment to LBGTQ folk.
I’m not an LBGTQ person myself, but I have many friends who are, as well as parishioners. I can’t imagine being a part of a church that does not welcome and affirm all people. It’s also hard to imagine, for me, being a part of a denomination that has only recently changed its tune in this regard. It’s been significant to me to be a part of a church that adopted this open, welcoming and affirming view a long time ago, when it wasn’t popular, but oh so necessary to the life of the Church.
Ever since I took that English course at Colby College, I’ve felt connected to how important it is to recognize the humanity of all people, and the humanity of those who may at first seem different but who are really not so different. It’s important to recognize those who live on the margins, and to welcome them in—as Jesus did.
In the midst of all of the changes we are experiencing, I also hope that there will be a change in how we understand the “Church,” that the “Christian Church” will not be spoken of as one, single entity. And, not only that, that there will be some acknowledgment that some Christian churches have been right there in the middle of the struggle to bring about change, living out the love of the God we worship.