I’m a queer, disabled Christian, and as such I am passionate about challenging Christians where their beliefs may not be affirming, and creating a far more inclusive church. However I haven’t always identified as queer – up until my wife came out as transgender I genuinely thought I was straight. Figuring out I wasn’t in my late 30s was an interesting and eye opening experience to say the least. Yet my desire to be an LGBTQ+ ally as a Christian long predates this, as this post I wrote several years ago shows.
As a late comer to Christianity, only really finding my home in my early 30s, I understand that I come to it without most of the baggage those brought up within the faith often have. It is far easier for me to question practices that seem less than loving, when I haven’t spend years believing they were what the Bible taught, and doing so won’t drive a potential wedge between me and my family and friends. So I appreciate that changing a worldview that has felt safe and solid to you in the past can be far from easy.
To Be Truly Affirming
But as Christians I believe we are called to love our neighbour, and that includes everyone. We aren’t called to judge or change or condemn anyone else, only to love them. Sadly this isn’t what happens a lot of the time. And this is very much the case when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community. There are churches and Christians that completely deny anyone who is queer, those that say they “love the sinner but not the sin” (can I get an eye roll, please), and those which only accept people if they commit to a life of celibacy. None of these are truly affirming!
To be considered truly affirming, you need to drop any conditions placed upon the love you offer. After all, you wouldn’t ask a cisgender heterosexual member of the church to remain celibate, would you? Nor would you say, “I love you, but not your relationship” to a couple in an opposite sex relationship. And this is just the start of being an LGBTQ+ ally as a Christian.
Allyship is more than accepting someone
Accepting someone for who they are is the most basic prerequisite for being an ally. You can’t stop there and decide to feel good about yourself, because all you’re doing is being a decent human being. Being an ally means being willing to put yourself on the line, to use your privilege within society, and to demand better for those you support. It means doing the hard work, and not expecting others to do it for you.
With this in mind, I’m going to take you through five steps you can take as a Christian LGBTQ+ Ally to work towards a more inclusive church. We have years of prejudice and intolerance to overcome, and it should not be on the LGBTQ+ community to do the work. We should be making our spaces not only safe for them, but warm and welcoming too.
1. Confront your own prejudice and acknowledge your privilege
We all have privilege, whether we like to acknowledge that or not. As a queer, disabled woman I have a lot of disadvantages within society. But as a white person I have huge amounts of privilege. I also have privilege by being a Christian in a society where it is safe to be so. And I am privileged to be a member of a church that is affirming, both within the denomination itself and our individual church.
By acknowledging my privilege I am better able to speak out. I know that writing this post won’t cause me any real harm, even if some Christians resolutely disagree with it, and therefore I can be more vocal than others may be able to.
Likewise, we all have prejudices, as uncomfortable as that may be to admit. When wanting to be an LGBTQ+ ally as a Christian, it is really important to confront the places in which your theology may be condemning and excluding those who are queer. Is your understanding of the biblical texts often used to justify poor treatment of LGBTQ+ people accurate? And what practices within the church have damaged and traumatised them?
There are a range of books available to help you in this step, including those which look at scripture itself, and those which share the personal experiences of those who have both been hurt by and found a place within the church. The list below is not exhaustive, but they are all books which I have personally purchased. I haven’t been able to read them all yet, so cannot comment on their contents but offer them as a place to start.
Click on any book image to be taken to a website where you can find out more about them and purchase them. I have tried to link to independent bookshops and publishers where possible.
2. Work to make YOUR church more inclusive
There’s no point in doing all this work on confronting your own prejudice and becoming a more affirming Christian, if you don’t then put what you’ve learnt into action and try to enact change within your church. After all, as much as you can do as an individual, it is the combined resources of the church that will make a bigger difference.
Look at the website of the denomination you belong to, and find out what they say about LGBTQ+ issues. Are queer Christians invited to become clergy? What is their stance on same sex marriage? Is there a desire to make amends for hurt caused in the past? Are they doing anything to challenge homophobic and transphobic attitudes and policies? Can you speak up in any way?
And then look at your individual church. How inclusive is it really? What can you do to make it more welcoming and a safe space for queer people, both those who come for worship and those who might wish to visit events or access support provided by your church? Can you start a Bible study or book group so that members can read through some of the resources above together?
I know that I still need to do some of the things in this list – I don’t expect you to be able to do everything all at once. But make a start. Every little step you take will bring you further towards being a more inclusive church.
If you’d like some inspiration, check out St Nicholas Church in Leicester. It is a thoroughly inclusive church, which has a pride flag on the altar, and takes part in local Pride events.
3. Tackle injustice in society
When we read the gospel accounts of Jesus’s life, we see how often He tackled injustice within society. We are all called to do the same as Christians, and it is always good to do whatever we can to make the world a better place.
You may well feel like you are already doing a lot of this – writing to your MP about political issues, doing what you can to care for the environment, donating to charities etc. But how much of what you do helps the LGBTQ+ community?
We’re currently living in a society with rising levels of homophobia and transphobia, with Liz Truss declaring during her leadership campaign that trans women are not women, and our current government implementing Section 35 to block Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill. And this isn’t something which is limited to one side of the political spectrum or the other. Only 11 Labour MPs turned up to vote on the issue of Section 35. Homophobic and transphobic attitudes are being brazenly declared by MPs in different parties, and are often seen across mainstream media.
Educate yourself on the issues that are affecting the LGBTQ+ community. Write to your MP and let them know that you are an ally and that you want change. Sign petitions. Donate to charities. Report any homophobic or transphobic messages you see online.
If you don’t know where to begin, here are a few organisations you can start with:
4. Make it clear that you’re an ally
There are lots of different ways you can show the world that you are an ally. You could put your pronouns in your email signature and your profiles on social media. You could buy pronoun pins to wear at work or at social functions. You could buy a reusable bag with a design that shows people are safe with you. Or volunteer at a local Pride event.
I decorated my wheelchair with a range of stickers and pin badges that show both my queerness and the fact that I’m a queer Christian. You could do the same as an ally. Here are some of my favourites.
You might also want to provide pronoun badges at your church, so that everyone can wear one and any new visitor knows it is a safe space. You can buy bulk packs like this one to place in a basket in the church entrance. Or you might like to wear an ally badge or one that specifically states you’re “safe with me”.
Whatever you choose to do will make a difference. Because it means that LGBTQ+ people will see you supporting them and know that you’re a safe space for them. You never know who in your community might be queer and too afraid to come out.
5. Support LGBTQ+ businesses
Taking point 4 above, if you can buy any items you want from a queer owned business, you will be making sure that money made goes straight to people within the community. LesBeMums has created an incredible directory of LGBTQ+ Businesses in the UK. Check it out next time you’re looking for something – there really is something for everyone.
By supporting independent businesses like this, rather than big corporations, you are helping queer people to fund any treatments and support they may need, and build a life that reflects who they are. In a world that is often dangerous for those in the LGBTQ+ community, and where support can be hard to find, this means a lot.
And if there is a queer owned business near you, maybe you could offer them a table at a church fair or coffee morning, allowing them to reach more people in the local area. Because what is the church for, if not to help meet the needs of the community?
I hope that this post has given you some ideas of how you can be an LGBTQ+ ally as a Christian. Some of these are obviously things anyone can do, but I’m always reminded of James 2:17-18 which says, ‘So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.’
We must always remember that our faith is worthless if we do not act upon it. And if the greatest commandment is to love our neighbour, then we should all be working towards a more inclusive church.
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