Finding acceptance within the Church and the LGBTQ community

When people think of the church, “LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, questioning/queer) friendly” is not the first thing that comes to mind. Many times, younger people are turned away from the church and their faith because of a bad experience.

Many churches that shut their doors to LGBTQ persons quote the Bible as the main reason they turn them away. In many books, it does condemn homosexuality as a sin. If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable: Leviticus 20:13.

In 2009, First Baptist Church of Dallas Senior Pastor Dr. Robert Jeffress gave a sermon titled “Why Gay Is Not O.K.” He drew protestors, and in an interview with WFAA said “even though culture changes, God’s word doesn’t change.”

Hateful experiences and harsh words from the church has some members of the LGBTQ community running away from organized religion and faith.

Shelbi Smith, a Southern Methodist University senior, said that it may have been “too little, too late” because she was turned off to religion entirely due to early criticism from her grandmother.

“My grandmother always taught us that it was a deadly sin and all gay people would burn in hell. Luckily, my parents didn’t believe that. But she was basing her belief off the teachings of the Nazarene Church, that was her defense. I’ve come to realize that obviously that’s not how all churches are; it’s not the idea across the board. But it just makes you want to leave it all,” Smith said.

According to the Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Youth Suicide, LGBTQ youths who are unaccepted by their families and communities are eight times more likely to attempt suicide than those who are accepted, six times more susceptible to depression, three times more likely to get involved in drug and alcohol abuse, and three times more likely to contract HIV/AIDS and STDs.

But what those who treat the LGBTQ community badly fail to recognize the books and verses that say not to judge other and to love everyone. Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you: Matthew 7:1-2.

SMU Sophomore Kat Kendrick was turned away by her the church in high school because of her sexuality.

“I’m from a small town, so I kind of got burned by the church. I was kind of involved in this church, I really liked it,” Kendrick said. “I noticed my friends were bringing their significant others, and the girl I was dating at the time, I couldn’t hold her hand in church without the fear of being shunned or exiled, or how it would change my place in the community.”

But Kendrick found her way back to religion during her college years through Kunëo, a bible study-type group that meets at Union Coffee shop on Tuesdays.

“It’s the only church I’ve ever been involved with that I’ve felt comfortable… I really felt like I had a group of people who I could be involved with, plan things, really just celebrate our religion together without my sexuality being a factor at all. It’s not something that mattered,” Kendrick said.

The majority of religions have not accepted same-sex marriage as something that should become a law. But, many churches like Unity on Greenville, do not look at members of the LGBTQ community as outcasts and sinners, but as equals.

“We look at each person as having been born in the image and likeness of God… We believe that we need to live the principles by which we believe,” Unity Spiritual Leader Karen Romestan, LUT, said. “We interpret the bible metaphysically rather than literally. Our mission at Unity on Greenville is that we are a beacon of spiritual light and a loving and supportive community expressing our oneness with God. We practice the teachings of Jesus: love, life, happiness and abundance. We make no judgement on how a person lives their life.”

Acceptance goes further than just letting the members of the LGBTQ community into the congregation. It includes fostering community outside the church and in public.

“A lot of people are religious and queer. It’s very hard to find a place to express the two at the same time. [Kunëo] made such a huge impact on my life,” Kendrick said. “To have a place like Kunëo, where I can worship God and have a community that accepts me for who I am, and in turn, has helped me find a deeper sense of self acceptance.”

Although a lot of the portrayals of the church and LGBTQ community in the media are negative, a lot of churches have begun opening their minds and their doors to everyone. According to Believeoutloud.com, an online network that empowers Christians to work for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, the United States alone has more than 5,000 churches that intentionally embrace the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Four of the United States’ largest Christian denominations, representing some 10 million people, have passed inclusive policies ranging from statements of LGBTQ affirmation to LGBTQ ordination and marriage equality. Other denominations are actively working to pass similar policies in the near future.

“If you’re using God and the gospel as an excuse to hate something, you’re doing something wrong. One of the biggest messages in Christianity is the idea that we are supposed to love our neighbor and love one another,” Kendrick said. “Even if you disagree with what someone is doing or you don’t think it’s ‘okay,’ that doesn’t mean that you can be hateful toward them. To take the gospel and God’s word to use it as a weapon against people, to hate, to hurt them for who they love, how is that any better than being gay? How is that any more righteous and noble? You should use God’s word to love people.”

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