Completely and Radically Welcomed
This week Westminster is reflecting on why it is important to joinÂ More Light PresbyteriansÂ and renew our commitment to theÂ Covenant Network of PresbyteriansÂ this coming weekend, September 6, 2013. Westminster's College of Wooster Intern, Evangeline Smith shares her perspective.
My answer to why I think it is important for Westminster to become more inclusive towards LGBTQ individuals through becoming More Light and by reaffirming its commitment to the Covenant Network involves me sharing my story. A story that would have been unheard of a decade ago, and that is still pretty rare today. Over and over again you hear stories from people who have been rejected by their church, who feel like they have to hide their whole truth from their religious community in fear that they will no longer be welcomed.
My story has been made possible by many people. People I know and people who I will never know. My story is about coming out. It's about being loved, validated, accepted, and even celebrated in the church.
I grew up in Madison, WI, which is known for being home to the first openly gay senator Tammy Baldwin. I grew up having dinner conversations about theology, church politics, and creating a more loving church with my pastor father, and seminary grad mother. I have parents who would care much more about the tattoo I got without telling them than they cared about me being gay.
I came out for the first time at church camp. Of all places. I was always taught that the church is a community where it is okay to ask questions, it is okay to challenge ideas, and most importantly that we are all God's beloved children. I was part of a youth group that talked about political issues surrounding gay rights and discussed in length the role the church plays. When I came out to my youth pastor, she did nothing but smile. The news I was sharing with her was equivalent to sharing any other truth, one that should be celebrated.
When I asked Dries why Westminster wasn't More Light he quickly got back to me and said, "Lets do it! This is the time!"
It wasn't until going to General Assembly last summer that I discovered that the church is not always so LGBTQ friendly. Not just any church, but my church, the Presbyterian Church. I was shocked. I knew that there were some conservative people who passionately "quote" the Bible and argue against the "gay lifestyle" but I was not fully aware it was widespread, across all denominations. I was living in this blind liberal bubble!
I'm not advocating that everyone grow up in Madison, WI and be raised by my liberal parents, have my experiences, and be gay.
I am advocating for love in hopes that the story that I just shared, my story, stops being the unusual story. I hope that through action, like the action Westminster is publicly taking this weekend, that my story becomes a common story. That kids, young adults, adults, and parents can look to their church community, to their faith traditions, and to their religious leaders and feel completely and radically welcomed.
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