Becoming and being an Open & Affirming Ministry is a journey of ever-expanding welcome. Every congregation can travel this journey and there are resources for every step along the way, from the congregation that hasn’t thought about the welcome of LGBT persons to the congregation that named itself Open & Affirming decades ago.
Below are some suggested resources for each step of the journey. Remember, these are only suggestions. Each congregation has different and unique needs. Don’t hesitate to be in touch with Mark Johnston, Executive Director of AllianceQ’s Open & Affirming Ministry Program for more suggestions.
It’s important to remember that our goal is always graceful engagement.
Graceful engagement is a commitment to listen and honor another person’s faith. When we disagree with another graceful engagement invites them into further conversation. We don’t argue or debate, rather we honor where they are and invite them one small step at a time into deeper conversation.
Graceful engagement doesn’t use a resource to say “No, you’re wrong, and here’s the resource that explains why.” Rather, graceful engagement encourages conversation; and when a question arises, graceful engagement offers a resource to answer the question – and to nurture the next question.
In the first several steps below Bible study about LGBT welcome is not part of this work. To debate and argue disrespects the faith others hold and does nothing to increase welcome. Bible study about LGBT people is not part of this journey until people are already moving into a place where they begin to ask ‘but what about the welcome of LGBT people?’ These first few stages are setting down the stepping stones to bring people to this place.
According to a 2015 CDC report:
- 8% of high school students describe themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual
- Are 3x more likely to have been raped
- Skip school far more often for lack of safety
- At least 1/3 have been bullied on school property
- Are 2x more likely to have been threatened or injured with a weapon while on school property
- 40% have seriously considered suicide, 29% have made an attempt in the past year
- Abuse substance at a much higher rates: 50% more for marijuana, almost 2x for hallucinogens, 2x for cocaine and ecstasy, more than 4x for heroin, almost 3x for methamphetamines