I’ve been doing the work for LGBTQ equality in the church both personally and professionally for over a decade now. In the early days, because I was newly out and still so raw with that experience, I was happy for whatever crumbs of tolerance I was able to find. This church didn’t overtly condemn LGBT people from the pulpit so I felt good there. This person told me they still loved me even though they didn’t support my “lifestyle”; they got a pass because they at least still loved me.
As the years went on I became a little louder in my calls for true equality but I was still willing to walk and work with people who were on a journey. The mom’s of the kids who had just come out, the Pastors who were personally affirming but struggling with an unaffirming congregation, the people who “wanted” to be on board but just couldn’t get there “theologically”. I may have been frustrated at their slowness but I also trusted that they were moving.
Now, though? Now things have changed. It’s a change that I’ve felt coming on slowly, but that has crystalized rapidly since the November election.
I no longer have time to waste on mealy mouthed half acceptance. I no longer have time to “walk with you” on the journey you should have completed a decade ago. I no longer have time to hold your hand while you process your grief about your kid’s transition. I no longer have time to do this because people are literally dying (and your kid who is transitioning but who is very much alive isn’t one of them).
I run an online community called Sanctuary Collective. It’s a place for LGBTQ Christians to come together and find support. For some of them it’s the only place they can be around other LGBTQ Christians, for others it’s the only place they can bring all of themselves to the table. In in their affirming churches they still have to leave too much out. I am both honored to run this community and angered by the need for it.
And the stories I hear break my heart because they come from people who consider themselves loving and affirming but who won’t let LGBTQ people serve in leadership in their churches, or who require ridiculous standards around sex, or who “love” their kids but who still won’t let them bring their partner over for dinner.
All of these people who claim to love but who are killing the souls of LGBTQ people. It has to stop and it has to stop now. Right now. Right this instant. Not with another ten years of theological writings or discernment periods. Not with church committees to “examine the issue”. Not with agreements to disagree in love. A full stop to the oppression and marginalization of LGBTQ people in the church needs to happen today. No more excuses. No more journeys that are really shields to protect you from having to do the hard things.
People need to leave unaffirming churches. People need to abandon hateful theology. People need to love their LGBTQ siblings in all of their complexity (and that includes identities that you might not understand or be comfortable with).
In Deuteronomy 30:15 it says “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.” God sets a choice between the people and lets them choose: life or death. there is no third way when it comes to justice, there is the way of life and the way of death. There is the full acceptance of LGBTQ people (which is the way of life for both LGBTQ people and for straight, cisgender people) and there is the way of death. There is no middle way. Not anymore. Though, the more I think about it, I don’t think there ever really was.
If you’re willing to choose life, then let’s get to work. If you’re choosing death? Well, I no longer have time for the way of death. My community and I have too much beautiful living to do.
Father Shannon T.L. Kearns (he/him/his) is a writer, speaker, and theologian. He is the co-founder of Queer Theology. He is also the founder of Uprising Theatre Company. He graduated from Union Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity and is an ordained priest in the Old Catholic Church. Fr. Shay is a sought after speaker on queer theology, transgender issues, and the intersections of identity and faith. He’s been published in Geez Magazine, Lavender Magazine, Believe Out Loud, and the Huffington Post, and featured in The Advocate and the Star Tribune. You can find him on Facebook, twitter, tumblr, instagram, and his website.