I have always been Christian and religious. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t believe in God. I grew up in a conservative Presbyterian church that had a “love the sinner, hate the sin” attitude toward homosexuality, so when I came out to myself as queer at 16, I was devastated. At first, I considered celibacy, which was my church’s only answer to homosexuality. I would have done it if I had been sure it was what God wanted, but something nagged at my brain. How could it be a sin? Who was I hurting? Why would God have made me queer if I was supposed to spend my whole life fighting it? I considered fighting it for a while and then started looking for other options.
I found out that a lot of denominations, my own included, have groups of churches that accept lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people without asking us to change. I visited all different kinds of churches: Methodist, Lutheran, United Church of Christ and Presbyterian. I began to believe that homosexuality was not a sin — that God loves and accepts people regardless of their sexuality. Jesus, after all, said nothing about homosexuality and spent his time with all sorts of people on the fringes of society.
Still, I had considered getting ordained for a long time, and if that was what God was asking of me, I wanted a church in which I could get ordained without having to be celibate. This narrowed my search down to the Episcopal, Unitarian Universalist and Metropolitan Community Churches. I tried a local Episcopal Church and fell in love almost instantly. Sexuality was talked about openly, I was allowed to be a Sunday school teacher and the priest herself was in a committed, same-sex relationship. I was confirmed into the Episcopal Church in June of 2009 and it felt like coming home.
Coming to college, I was afraid I wouldn’t find a religious community that accepted me the way my first church had. By the grace of God, I found two: Canterbury House and St. Clare of Assisi Episcopal Church. The first time I met St. Clare’s parishioners was at an Oasis Evensong, a service held once a month by and for LGBT people and our allies. They encouraged me to visit a service at St. Clare’s, and sure enough, it me feel at home the moment I walked through the door.
At Canterbury House, the Episcopal student ministry, I found another terrific community. The music is wild, the preaching is radical and you will be welcomed into the community no matter where you are in life. In it I have found a Christian community of LGBT people and our allies. I’ve gained countless Christian friends, some LGBT and others straight.
Robin Williams once joked that the best thing about the Episcopal Church is that, whatever you believe, you are sure to find someone there who will agree with you. In some ways, he’s right — certainly not everyone in the Episcopal Church believes LGBT people should be accepted into the life of the church, and we are still struggling over whether LGBT people should be bishops. I love the fact that we can disagree civilly (most of the time), but I wish everyone could see what I see — LGBT Christians pray, laugh, cry, worship, work and raise families in the church just like everyone else.
LGBT people are an integral part of the church. We have a powerful presence in the life of the church and we belong in its sacred space as much as anyone else. Certainly, we have come a long way, but there’s still much more to do. Although it won’t be easy, I truly believe that LGBT people in all faiths have the responsibility of working to advance our cause in organized religion. We too are faithful people, and we too deserve the chance to be welcomed into our religions the way we are. It’s bound to be an uphill battle, but I know we’ll get there.
Allie Wills is an LSA sophomore.