Thursday, June 17, 2010

Why I go to church

Originally posted on the Washington Blade

Among those of us who attend religious services, finding a faith community that is truly welcoming of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and all queer people is crucial.

We’ve been hurt emotionally, psychologically and, at times, physically because of the beliefs of religious leaders and their followers. Religious beliefs that breed fear, ignorance, delusion and hubris. How many of us have been separated from our families and communities — by choice or otherwise — because of man-made dogma?

Some of us decide to sever ties with the faith tradition we grew up with and become followers of another religion, such as Christians who are now Buddhists. Others stay with the same tradition but shift allegiance to a denomination that embraces LGBT people, such as Roman Catholics who become Episcopalians. A few cling to what they know with the hope that they will change the system, even though their tradition deems queer folk abominations and is not likely to abandon its discriminatory practices anytime soon.

I grew up Roman Catholic but am now an Episcopalian. The transition was easy. The worship and trappings are similar — except that the Episcopal Church truly welcomes me and “my kind.” We can actually serve as priests and be elevated as bishops, not just read the lessons or assist male priests. Women can head the entire church. The leader of the Episcopal Church is a mother and a scientist. Best of all, I don’t need to leave my brains at the door. We are encouraged to seek the divine in scripture, tradition and reason.

At the end of the day, though, the main reason I go to my church, the stone building near the National Zoo, is the sense of belonging and community that I and other members feel. It is a diverse community that includes straight, gay, bi and trans people; blacks, Latinos and Asians; birth and adopted families; and pretty much anyone who chooses to become part of the family.

This family was well represented at last weekend’s Capital Pride celebration where straight parishioners proudly marched during the parade and staffed our booth, where parents brought their children, and where twenty-somethings stood by retirees.

I can never know with certainty what God thinks, how she wants the world to be, or even if she exists. But I know firsthand of the love, joy and fellowship of a bunch of diverse and very human believers.

You can follow me on Twitter at @ErwindeLeon

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