When I speak at schools, universities, and conferences, my favourite part is the Q and A at the end. I like to leave ample time for questions, because I just love the discussion. Recently, during the Q and A of a talk I gave at a university in Fredericton, NB, Canada, I was asked a question that I haven’t had before; nor have I ever considered it all that much. A student raised her hand, identified herself as Roman Catholic, and asked if I thought that Christianity has any hope when it comes to accepting LGBTQ+ people.
I was asked this question on March 19th. My initial response was that I hope so, but a lot has to change first. On that day, the best information I had told me the United Church was the only denomination to have officially recognized same-sex marriage. Most other mainline denominations have institutional road-blocks that make it extremely difficult to bring change to official doctrine. I cautiously voiced my opinion on the Pope (my un-cautious opinion is available in my piece titled ‘Nothing New Here: The Hypocrisy Of Pope Francis’). I also referred to an article I wrote in November 2013 about paragraphs 2357, 58, and 59 of the catechism.
In my estimation, the Catholic Church will not likely come around anytime in the next millennia, and the Anglican/Episcopalian church has been completely torn apart over this. In many areas of Canada and the US, the Anglican communion is pretty inclusive, but not only are they dealing with whether or not to marry same-sex couples, they are also wrestling with the question of whether or not to ordain gay men and women into the priesthood. In 2003, a diocese in New Hampshire made their position clear when they installed Gene Robinson, an out gay man, as a Bishop. Although New Hampshire is an eastern state, and the majority of allied dioceses are in the west, this caused a firestorm of controversy which resulted in huge rifts. More LGB clergy have come out since, and the Anglican denomination is completely at odds with itself. They have chosen to be divided over whether or not to condemn what they do not understand, and it’s noteworthy that the Anglican communion in Africa is rabid with hate toward the LGBTQ community, which of course makes matters worse.
There may be a little bit of promise in the Lutheran church, but they have some work to do as well. As for the Baptists, Pentecostals, and other evangelical denominations, there’s very little progress happening there.
On March 20th, I learned that the Presbyterian Church had voted to accept and perform same-sex marriages just a couple days before (although the presbyteries who disagree will be free to oppose it). This gives me hope that I didn’t have when asked that question. It’s a bold thing for the Presbyterian church to do, and I applaud them for it. Although I do not see the Anglican/Episcopalian communion coming together on this just yet, much less the Vatican changing their stance, the Presbyterian denomination is still very large. The more accepting Christians there are, the better. On March 19, I saw little hope. On March 20, I saw a glimmer, and that glimmer is awesome.
I don’t know this for sure, but the person who asked me this question appeared to be an ally. At the very least I’m inclined to think she is neutral, and in any event NOT accepting of the traditional Catholic doctrine on this issue. In my experience, this happens a lot. Despite the church’s teachings on LGBTQ issues, it seems that a lot of adherents just don’t buy it anymore. This isn’t surprising in the age of information, and it isn’t surprising considering our natural aversion to harm. We have discriminatory and divisive doctrine spewed at thousands of pulpits every week, reparative “therapy” hurting countless people, freedom to discriminate bills disguised as constitutional protections for freedom of religion, and so much more. Those who don’t see the harm this is causing are deliberately not looking.
People aren’t stupid. They see what’s going on, and they don’t like it. Their opposition to this doctrine may be silent right now, and who can blame them? Indoctrination has many people terrified to speak for fear of banishment, ridicule, or in the Catholic Church, excommunication. Still, they see it. This isn’t going to end well for the church. I may not live long enough to watch, but denominations that uphold scripture as the moral authority on matters concerning human sexuality, will fall. Faith in this authority requires a person to believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God. The God who had Moses command the Israelites to kill every man, woman, and child, but to keep the virgins for themselves in Numbers 31. The God who laid out the rules and protocols for slavery in Exodus 21. The God who inspired Paul to judge humanity in Romans 1, and begin Romans 2 by saying that he who judges will be condemned for it. We have to be aware of these scriptural problems and not continue to trivialize them. People aren’t stupid.
So is there any hope for Christianity? Yes. Is there any hope for the worldwide Anglican church? Considering the current split, yes I believe so. Is there any hope for Catholicism? I want to believe there is, but I doubt it very much. Pope Francis is well respected, but he is the same familiar liar behind a compassionate and likeable mask. We will see more welcoming and accepting Catholics, but the church they belong to, I fear, may never change. If it does, however … if any church truly changes its official teaching on the matter … we must welcome our new allies with open arms.