From the Widening our Vision (WoV) Team…
Q & A – You ask, WoV answers:
Why do we need to pursue Open & Affirming designation? Why single out LGBTQ+? Can’t we just welcome everyone?
The sign at our meeting front door proclaims, “No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, you are welcome here.” Rev. Tanya uses those same words in her greeting at Sunday worship. So why do we need to extend an explicit welcome to the LGBTQ+ community by becoming Open and Affirming?
Consider this analogy: All homes in our community are important. Our fire department works to ensure that every one of them is safe. But when one house is on fire, that’s the house where firefighters aim their hoses!
So, yes, all people of our community are welcome in our church, but the LGBTQ+ ‘house’ is ablaze and needs special attention. These statistics from the 2019 CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance are alarming.
- 29% of transgender youth have been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property vs. 7% of cisgender youth. 16% of gay and lesbian youth and 11% of bisexual youth have been threatened or injured with a weapon on school property compared to 7% of straight youth.
- 43% of transgender youth have been bullied on school property vs. 18% of cisgender youth. 29% of gay or lesbian youth and 31% of bisexual youth have been bullied on school property compared to 17% of straight youth.
- 29% of transgender youth have attempted suicide compared to 7% of cisgender youth. 21% of gay and lesbian youth and 22% of bisexual youth have attempted suicide compared to 7% of straight youth.
- Members of the LGBTQ community are 4X more likely to be victims of violent crime than those outside such communities (PBS 2020)
If you were on the receiving end of these elevated statistics, would you not be seeking a safe haven? Would you not want the sanctuary of a community who assured you that you are, indeed (and regardless of what the rest of the world might say), a beloved child of God–and beloved also by them? And would you not want that sanctuary to visibly demonstrate that they affirm you in ways that are not hiding or downplaying the light of that love?
This data speaks to the reality that our society has not been accepting and tolerant of a group of people who have been stigmatized and targeted simply for being different. Sadly, religious organizations have historically not been welcoming to this population either. And so as a faith community that believes all people are beloved by God, we are called to speak out in support, and to provide these people with a clear, concrete symbol that ours is a safe and truly welcoming space for them. By pursuing the Open & Affirming designation, our church will be an identified safe haven for them. We are called to be Christ in our time and place and reach out to those who are in need. And clearly – this is a group of people in need of our love and support.