Why Churches Need to Be More Supportive of LGBTQ People

 
June is LGBTQ Pride month, so there’s no better time to think and talk about the relationship between churches and the LGBTQ community. It’s a great time for church leaders and members to take a hard look at their treatment of marginalized peoples and work toward creating an accepting and supportive environment for all, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity.
 
People should be able to be both LGBTQ and active members of a church community if they so choose. There is a great need for more acceptance of LGBTQ people in religious communities around the world.
 
If more people develop an understanding of the dangers of discrimination, examine the current relationship between churches and the LGBTQ community, and learn how churches can better support LGBTQ people, hopefully a positive change can be made.

The Dangers of Discrimination

People who identify as LGBTQ are no strangers to discrimination. It happens on the street, it happens at work, it happens when businesses refuse to serve the LGBTQ community, and it happens in the legislature. It’s a shame that it happens in the church, too, as a church should and could be a place for love, acceptance, and community.
 
Discrimination is not only hurtful and demeaning — it’s also dangerous and causes a huge amount of harm to LGBTQ people around the world. Discrimination can seep into every area of life, causing both mental and physical turmoil.
 
According to Duquesne University, “Researchers found the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community runs into obstacles when trying to access healthcare due to gaps in coverage, social stigmas, and discrimination, among others.”
 
The same obstacles and challenges apply in the world of mental health. The weight of worrying about discrimination and dealing with the instances of it, both big and small, on a daily basis can greatly impact mental health for LGBTQ people.
 
“Many LGBT youth who suffer from mental health problems won’t seek help because they distrust the system and worry about being labeled and objectified,” says Ohio University. “LGBT youth report high instances of bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when compared to non-LGBT youth. Up to 73 percent of LGBT homeless youth report suicidal ideation, compared to 53 percent of their heterosexual peers.”
 
Discrimination against LGBTQ people played a large part in the HIV and AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. The idea that HIV/AIDS is a “gay disease” contributed to a negative social stigma that has affected the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ people around the world. Fear of contracting HIV made many people shun the LGBTQ community even further, accelerating the misconceptions around the disease.
 
If being LGBTQ means that you have less access to healthcare and have trouble getting your basic health needs met, then it’s clearly time for a change. It’s extremely important that religious leaders and organizations take a leadership role in this change to become more accepting of the LGBTQ community so that people can experience equality and live happier, healthier lives.

The Relationship Between Churches and the LGBTQ Community

While there are certainly churches and religious organizations that are great allies to the LGBTQ community, the overall relationship between churches and LGBTQ people is fraught at best. Whether someone cites religious reasons for denying service to an LGBTQ person or someone fears that they won’t be welcome at a church service because of who they love, discrimination is real.
 
The fight for acceptance reached a new level recently when the Methodist church placed an outright ban on LGBTQ clergy. Church leaders in the West struggle with whether or not to conform to the new, regressive standard.
 
It is vital always, but especially in the wake of such a huge step backward, that church leaders speak out in support of the LGBTQ community. Church leaders have a huge influence around the world and on a local level and can have a hugely positive impact if they choose to be an ally to people of all sexualities and gender identities.

How Churches Can Support LGBTQ People

Churches can help support LGBTQ people in a variety of ways. Because of the history of the church and LGBTQ justice, a little can go a long way. Church leaders are often role models and trendsetters in a community, making votes of inclusion all the more necessary.
 
Take Reverend Andrew Foreshew-Cain, for example. Being gay cost him his job, and now he’s taking that energy and starting a campaign to advance the rights of Christian LGBTQ people. The fact that Foreshew-Cain took a stance for inclusion is undoubtedly comforting for LGBTQ people who want to be involved in a Christian community.
 
Churches can also support LGBTQ people by supporting political candidates who can help with equality on a legislative level. Presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg, who identifies as a gay Episcopalian, says that both LGBTQ rights and religious freedom can be protected.
 
“It’s high time our laws reflect the reality that religion and homosexuality are not mutually exclusive and indeed often both exist as core aspects of personal identity within the same individuals,” according to USA Today.
 
If church leaders can see and understand the dangers of discrimination, examine the relationship between the LGBTQ community and their place of worship, and work to support and include people of all gender identities and sexualities, we will be one step closer to equality for all people. LGBTQ people already face so much hate and discrimination in the world, and church should not be one of those places. God’s love is unconditional, and the church needs to set that example in the world by showing their unconditional love and support for the LGBTQ community.

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