It’s the middle of Advent. As a pastor, that’s like saying it’s college basketball’s March Madness (go Buckeyes, by the way). Our church in Portland, Ore., is busy prepping our Christmas Eve worship service and organizing our Christmas Day homeless service project — so why am I in Washington, D.C., to talk about LGBTQ?
Because my faith compels me.
I’m speaking at the National Press Club with others from Union Seminary (where one of my heroes Dietrich Bonhoeffer attended during the rise of the Third Reich). We’ll later go to Capitol Hill and the White House to share how our faith compels us to not only welcome, but fully include and walk with our gay sisters and brothers.
We’ve made such huge strides on marriage equality and other rights, and in the uncertainty of the days ahead, we don’t want to go backward.
A few years ago, my wife and I moved across the country, with a calling to plant a new church in America’s least religious city for God’s glory and neighbor’s good. What we found is that there is more to Portland than craft beer, culinary food trucks, and impeccably curated pour over coffee; there’s a vibrant spirituality already moving throughout the people.
The thing is, though, that many just don’t go to church, because church has been a place of fear and exclusion — a far cry from Jesus’s call to love and embrace. And when you add in the fact that Portland is also one of the gayest cities in the America, you can understand why spiritual folks just don’t have much time for the church.
When we started Christ Church: Portland we were part of an evangelical denomination that had nurtured me and trained me to read the Bible and reach out to people with good news. But when they heard we were welcoming everyone (yes, everyone) they asked if that included gay people. I said, yes, of course — because that’s what Jesus would do.
They kicked us out.
I thought everything was lost: our funding and support were stripped, mentors and friends abandoned us.
But that’s all old news now. We’ve marched in Pride parades, hosted a citywide prayer service in the wake of the Orlando Pulse shooting, and grown strength to strength.
Here’s the thing: I actually think my LGBTQ sisters and brothers will lead the renewal and revival of our declining churches. New friends like Isaac, Jessica, Joseph, Bob, Chin, Amy, and so many more show me what it means to have resilience, faith, and love amidst great loss and exclusion. They help me walk more closely with Jesus.
After the election of Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence, many are unsure what the future holds. The president-elect seems tolerant of gay folks and even supportive of marriage equality. The vice-president elect, on the other hand, seems to be hard hearted when it comes to LGBTQ rights and inclusion.
This Advent, while we find ourselves in a presidential transition, we are waiting for what is about to be born in the new year — will we be a country of fear, exclusion, and backward mobility, erasing the rights of so many of our fellow Americans? Or will we continue to follow the winds of the Spirit, calling us forward to that more, perfect always broken but healing union?
That’s my prayer, that’s my hope.
I pray for our president-elect and vice-president elect. I pray that they lead all of us and defend the rights of all Americans.