As a society, we have been embroiled in a battle over equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community for years now. We have fought for legal recognition of marriage and gender status, healthcare coverage and equal services and simple non-discrimination protections. There is justifiable fear that we are losing ground on some of those hard-won fronts. Fighting for equal rights is an important first step, for our society and for those people who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, but from a faith perspective accomplishing those goals must never be mistaken as a final step.
We are called to value something more than simply making sure everyone is treated fairly and equally. We are called to recognize the dignity of every human, to encourage their full expression of who God created them to be, and to commend the gifts that each person contributes to the fullness of the human family made in the image of God.
In our faith tradition, we did not start blessing same-sex unions with the Christian designation of marriage simply because we believed in equal rights. We did it because we saw in these faithful unions a glimpse of the type of love with which God loves all and we are commanded to love in return.
Marriage is a sacrament – a visible and tangible sign of God’s love and grace in our world, a place where we can catch a fleeting glance of the reality of God’s presence active among us. We blessed these marriages because we needed their example of faithfulness. We needed the steadfast standard of these gay and lesbian couples, who have stood with each other across decades where they weren’t recognized and in the face of withering discrimination, to call us all back to the example of fidelity that marriage vows call us all to. We believe God is redeeming the world through love, and we need more examples of that. That’s why blessing same-sex marriages is so important.
Similarly, we do not support transgender and queer people simply for the sake of equality. We do it because we need their stories of bravely becoming who it is that God created them to be, of faithfully following the path that they feel in their soul God called them to. Transformation is part of our Christian story. None of us is born as God fully wants us to be. All of must do the work to live into the life that God dreams for us. This work not only changes ourselves, but helps redeem the world, and transgender people are courageously demonstrating how freeing it is to become who you know in your soul God dreamed you to be.
In the Christian faith we believe that God became fully human in the person of Jesus Christ. The only way to see the face of God is with the composite picture of all humanity gathered around the table. We are called to something beyond acceptance or even affirmation; we are called to a place of celebration of the full spectrum of human expression. We support LGBTQ+ people not simply for the sake of equal human rights, but because without their full embodiment of who God made them to be we are all a little less fully human, we are short of the full grandeur of God as a people. Each person embodies things that others cannot. None of us will glimpse the reflection of Christ in our world until we can hold up every individual and honor the reflection of God they each help us to see.
The Rev. Jonathan Thomas and the Rev. Jenny Replogle are co-rectors at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Peoria.