In June 2018, the RCA General Synod commended the “Great Lakes Catechism on Marriage and Sexuality” for consideration by the Commission on Theology (COT) and the wider RCA. In response, a diverse group of people from the LGBTQ community, parents, pastors, educators and others shared their thoughts with Room for All and the COT, offering alternative perspectives on a faithful ethic for living as sexual and gendered people of God. Room for All is grateful for the opportunity to share those responses in “Outsights” over the next several weeks.
The Fullness of Our Humanity
Rev. Chad Tanaka Pack, Pennsylvania
As an openly gay Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Reformed Church in America, I often offer pastoral care to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. We sit face to face in my office. They unload their stories, barely taking a breath between sentences. For many, this is the first time they’re talking with a pastor who is LGBTQ.
At Marble Collegiate Church in New York City, one of my primary responsibilities was pastoral adviser to the church’s LGBTQ fellowship group. I met one on one with people who participated at Marble and people who weren’t connected with Marble but wanted to speak with a gay pastor.
They couldn’t believe that they had found a church that was welcoming to LGBTQ people. They grew up hearing pastors preach homophobia. Many of these LGBTQ people I met were active members of the church. Sadly, others could not believe—refused to believe—that they would ever be welcome in church. They came to our LGBTQ coffee hours, somehow didn’t see the smiling faces and the six-foot high “welcome” banner, and left before anyone could greet them.
Churches have systemically destroyed the lives of faith of LGBTQ people. Some of these LGBTQ people find their ways back to church. Some don’t. But almost all of the LGBTQ people of faith I’ve met—even those who have been hurt by the church—still have faith in God.
They refused to believe their homophobic pastors. They refused to believe that God loved them differently because they happened to be gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender or queer. They knew that God loved them. They held on to their faith in God. Or rather, in spite of the church, God held on to them.
Scripture can be used to justify homophobic views. For example, the story of Adam and Eve has been used by the authors of the Great Lakes Catechism to mistakenly conclude that God blesses marriages only between a man and a woman. If the Great Lakes Catechism was intended to offer a pastoral response LGBTQ people, then it has failed. Any teaching that undermines the legal rights of those being taught is oppressive and unjust.
Alternatively, Scripture can be interpreted in a way that affirms the lives of LGBTQ people, while still upholding the authority of Scripture as the only rule of faith and life. This approach requires careful study of the social, political, and cultural contexts of biblical texts when they were written. This approach requires humility and being okay with not having all the answers.
This approach honors our Almighty God, who proclaims:
- You are made in my image.
- You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
- You are the light of the world.
If a person believes that God loves them, and that God calls them to live into the fullness of their humanity, then why would the Church try to convince them otherwise?