For the past couple of years, I’ve been part of a “closed” Facebook group for Christian mothers of LGBTQ children. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon this group, but it has become a second family for me and for the other approximately 450 women in it from all over the world.
There is great diversity within this group. All identify as “Christian,” but that’s about it. Some are the mothers of a gay son or daughter. Many are the mother of more than one gay child. Some are the mothers of bisexual children. Some are the mothers of transgender children. Some are the mothers of asexual or queer or gender non-conforming children. Some will simply say, “I don’t know what the heck is going on.” And others will say, “It’s okay…we’ve been there, too.”
The group comprises Pentecostal mothers; Roman Catholic mothers; Mormon mothers; mainline denomination mothers; Reformed Church in America (RCA) and Christian Reformed Church (CRC) mothers. Many of these are women who have left the church after a lifetime of service to it; women who have been asked to leave their church-related positions when a child comes out; women who are afraid to try the church again for fear of being pushed back out.
Some are bitter about the church; some are hopeful. Some have chosen to stay in their conservative congregations and fight for equality; others have abandoned that to find an open and affirming church. Others consider this group their only church home.
As I talk to these women and read their comments and hear their stories—so many of them similar—one thing strikes me time and time again: the RCA and other denominations can dig in, can choose not to welcome the LGBTQ community, can deny ordination to our brothers and sisters in Christ, but these denominations are seemingly unaware of one thing—you don’t mess with the Mama Bears.
Time Magazine noted this in an article in its April 13, 2015, issue. While faith conferences for groups like the Gay Christian Network or Believe Out Loud originally attracted mostly LGBTQ folks, today they’re exploding with participants who are family members of LGBTQ persons. I’ve also seen this in the Room for All Conferences I’ve attended. And there’s no foreseeable change on the horizon. The article, which talked about many denominations being ‘blindsided’ by family members of LGBTQ Christians said, in part, “Many churches were not counting on the family members—especially the mothers—to rise up.”
That doesn’t surprise me at all. When an organization hurts someone, excludes someone, shames someone—intentionally or unintentionally—they are hurting that person’s family members as well. When an institution denies the sacraments and the communion of the saints to its covenant children, there will be repercussions. And the Mama Bears who are involved will not “go gentle into that good night.” Once many of us have recovered from the shock and the fear and the panic of our children’s coming out, we will become some of the strongest advocates for those children.
Our denomination has seen some of this, but my gut feeling is that they “ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” RCA, you’ve been warned. We’re coming out of hibernation.
Valerie Van Kooten is a writer and editor from Pella, Iowa, who currently works as Central College’s Grant Proposal Writer. She and her husband Kent have three sons (two of whom are married) and a beautiful grandson, with another grandbaby on the way! Valerie attends St. Paul UCC in Oskaloosa, Iowa and Trinity Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa.