The campaign centers around a website that is being used to draw together resources in West Michigan for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and questioning (GLBTQ) persons. That website indicates that the campaign is “designed to make it clear that God does not exclude or withhold love because of who we are or how God made us. It is also an opportunity to foster healing, understanding, awareness, and an acceptance of everyone and everything God has created.”
My own part in the press conference was small. I said a few words about why this campaign is important to me as a Christian priest, but I was just one of several who spoke. If you happened to catch the story of the press conference on the evening news, the only thing you probably would have seen was me standing with other clergy in the background, nodding vigorously.
I was rather content with that. The most important thing was to stand alongside my brothers and sisters in Christian ministry as we all stood up and declared with one voice that there are churches in West Michigan where GLBTQ persons can be full and vibrant members of the community of faith without having to deny or repress who they are.
As someone who grew up in West Michigan, I am so very proud of the broad coalition that is a part of this campaign — almost 40 churches now, with more being added every day. There are congregations from Episcopal churches like my own joined by Christian Reformed, United Church of Christ, Presbyterian, United Methodist and Lutheran. Even just 10 years ago this list would have been much smaller.
When I spoke at the press conference, I talked about how my own thinking on this question changed over the years. I talked about how the more I studied the biblical text, the more disillusioned I became with the conservative interpretation with which I was raised. I shared how in the Episcopal Church, we spent decades exploring the question of same-sex relationships in the church. Decades of work by laity, clergy, theologians and biblical scholars were a part of this process.
The big difference between our process and that of some other religious group is that our process also included a very intentional listening to our GLBTQ members. Thus, we discovered the immense fruits of the spirit evidenced in the lives of our GLBTQ members. Those in partnered relationships had many of the same spiritual fruits we had seen in heterosexual marriage. Indeed, in some cases, their relationships proved even more holy — filled with peace, love, self-sacrifice and a mutual commitment to care for others; all key gifts in Christian marriage.
We felt like Peter in Acts 10, when he was faced with the radical idea that Gentiles might be invited into the people of God without first requiring that they become Jews. This was a huge departure from tradition, a huge departure from the way the Hebrew Scriptures had been read. When faced with the undeniable presence of the Spirit in these people with holy and godly lives, similar to Peter, we said: “Can anyone withhold full participation in the church from these who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
And in my own life, I have experienced immense blessings from my GLBTQ brothers and sisters. As I said at the press conference, neither I, nor any other straight Christian welcomes them into the church — they welcome us. Our GLBTQ brothers and sisters are the ones who welcome us into the larger family of God. They show us all the varied and beautiful ways that our God is at work reconciling our broken humanity, and calling us all into renewed and whole relationships with God and each other.
Gay Christians? Absolutely yes! And I along with other straight members of the church are richly blessed by their ministry among us.
More information on the “Gay Christian? Yes!” campaign can be found at gaychristianyes.org.
— By the Very Rev. Jared Cramer, who grew up in Grand Haven and now serves as the rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church.