One of the sad truths about Christianity is that the church has often been a place of exclusion rather than inclusion. As I read the book, One Coin Found, by Emmy Kegler, I learned about the author’s love for God, the scriptures, and the church. I also learned about the struggles, suffering, and condemnation she experienced in church because of her sexual orientation.
Along with others from FBC Indianapolis, I read one or two chapters of the book each week during the summer, and we met via Zoom for discussion of Emmy’s memoir. Pastor Laura’s questions led us to think deeply about the issues Emmy tackles in her book, and we used the safe space together to talk through our reactions and our opinions. We were also challenged to consider Emmy’s story through the lens of our own personal history and life experience.
In the last twenty years, my eyes have been opened to the pain that LBGTQ+ people have experienced particularly because of the beliefs and teachings of church people. Marshall and I, with our children, moved to Topeka, Kansas, in 1999. The Westboro Baptist protesters were too often in the news, on our street corners, and even in our church parking lot on Sunday mornings with their horrible signs and slogans. They were extremely hateful, but it may be even worse when one’s own church family “lovingly” uses the Bible against their fellow Christians.
As I read about Emmy’s experience with a youth group that pushed her to repent from her sinful ways, I remembered watching a movie that portrayed the struggle of a young gay man who was sent to a Christian gay conversion therapy camp. Emmy and so many other LBGTQ+ people have been urged and sometimes forced to deny their own being, their own self. Although I can’t truly feel the pain of all that they have gone through, I can sympathize and begin to see more clearly the conflict, separation, and despair that church teachings can cause for LBGTQ+ people and their families.
Our church can be a place where God’s love reigns supreme, where LBGTQ+ people can find healing from earlier experiences of rejection and condemnation. We can make it plain that all are accepted and affirmed by God and by God’s people who gather in our space. As we reach out in love, we can be the hands and feet and heart of Christ.