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REFOCUS: Challenge to churches to embrace LGBTQ+ community

Gerard Veldhoven
Gerard Veldhoven - FILE

By Gerard Veldhoven

Rev. John Boyd of First Baptist Church in Halifax suggested his congregation hold a vote to be gay friendly.

The result of that vote, in 2006, showed a 93 per cent approval for that particular church to have a gay friendly policy, including same-sex marriage. This, to the ire of the Atlantic Convention of Baptist Churches, led First Baptist to no longer be a member of the convention.

Of the 30 Baptist churches in HRM, John Boyd’s church is the only gay friendly congregation. The majority of Christian churches struggle to be inclusive and feel the need to stay out of the controversy, therefore, if one ignores the situation it just may go away. Not so. It’s not possible to sweep this under the proverbial carpet. Just in Canada alone, only a few of the Christian churches embrace equal treatment of members of the LGBTQ+ community. Transgender people are not even given consideration and are ridiculed. Many members of the clergy who perhaps are willing to call for acceptance, seem reluctant to do so as church membership would dwindle away, which is a common occurrence.

So-called mainstream churches in Canada have, and are struggling with this issue. The United Church of Canada has a total acceptance policy, but leaves it to individual congregations to vote on LGBTQ+ embrace, or to conduct same-sex marriage. A large number of them have what is called an “Affirming Congregation.” These are examples of thoughts of religious beliefs that are part of Christian, or for that matter, other world religions, that influence followers. Teachings differ in all the denominations and that is where influence sway folks in many directions, one being discriminatory against LGBTQ+ citizens. Some will say that, ‘Yes, we will welcome them in our church, but we don’t allow them to marry, or they should not be open about their relationships. In other words, acceptance is non-existent. Marriage should be viewed as a wish for two people, regardless of sexual orientation, to live together in a loving relationship. This is as it should be. If the church is not willing to marry a gay couple, then a public official will do the legal ceremony. Churches should open their doors and welcome all who have a certain religious belief. If not, then it becomes a form of discrimination because of direct rejection on the basis of sexual orientation.

Those who do embrace are obviously very comfortable in bringing folks into the fold to interact with all others. Churches, where love is supposed to flourish like flowers in the wild, are in a prime situation to swing the doors wide open, embrace and make LGBTQ+ feel welcome in every way. See people for who they really are and accept the fact that we come in all forms. That is human nature. We do not choose our sexual orientation and that fact has to be realized by religious minded people. We do not ask a heterosexual why he/she is that way, so one is readily accepted as such. By the same token, a person being a member of the LGBTQ+ community should be welcomed and accepted.

Religious organizations could prevent a lot of agony in our young people, and older ones as well, if acceptance is part of the teachings. True love for another is a dedication to the well-being of a happy society. The type of religion should not matter as that simply indicates a certain belief in a god. What really matters is that a person, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression, will be considered equal. Baptist, United Church, Anglican or Catholic, it should not matter. Love does conquer.

Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears weekly in The News. Comments and information: lgbtconnectionsgv@gmail.com

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