I came across this article today regarding a Michigan pastor who felt the need to highlight the level of exclusion felt by LGBTQI persons who are being pushed out of the United Methodist Church– his particular denomination of Protestant Christianity. From 9:00 PM to 6:30 AM, he sleeps in a tent pitched outside his home as a visible protest and as an experience he can learn from and try and connect with.
The interesting thing is, before recently in 2015, my only real experience with religion and church and Christianity had been as a young kid and tween within the United Methodist Church in Wethersfield, Connecticut. This was at a time in my life where I had never considered myself transgender– at least then there was no language or full understanding of what “transgender” was or what it meant to be transgender. I was living fully as a male– but with questions and concerns and curiosities I could never let out or explore or understand. Had I given voice to my conflicted feelings or concerns or internal struggles, I may have been shunned by my church then and ridiculed or harassed to change my thinking and beliefs, or I might have been outright banned from attending church with my grandmother.
Now, more than ever it is becoming important for churches of any and all denominations to recognize that all people deserve to be their true, genuine selves and have a right to express themselves fully, safely, and comfortably without sacrificing their faith or beliefs, or membership in a church community. Every person has a right to their dignity as well as their identity.
I applaud any pastor who is willing to stand up for inclusive churches and congregations. I am all for pastors that support LGBT equality and social justice and social equality.
A part of me misses the feelings and emotions and spiritual connectedness I had felt growing up in the United Methodist Church– however, I find myself now seeing the American Baptist Church to be much more open and compatible with my beliefs and with me as a person. My church has boldly stated that they are a church with no walls– no barriers of separation. They accept me as Rachel, they accept me as a transgender young woman, and they respect my identity. And I feel most welcome and comfortable worshipping and participating in the church community.