By The Rev. Christopher Adams
Trinity on the Hill Episcopal Church
Painful words from the Vatican were recently offered to all the world: priests cannot bless same-sex marriage because ‘God can’t bless sin’.
Which is, on the surface, a hilariously flawed argument, given that the history of Christianity and large elements of the Hebrew Scriptures evince belief in a God who seemed to bless a great many things we would rightly call sin today: genocide, slavery, and incest just to name a few. I had thought here to provide Scriptural references to the above-mentioned ills, but really, that’s not the point here.
The point is that the definition of what is sinful has always been up for debate and interpretation, yet institutions like the Catholic Church (or even my own, the Episcopal Church) concretize what is to be considered ‘sin’ in ways that are inconsistent with the naked facts of history. That the Christian Church, in all of its many forms, has redefined what should be considered ‘sinful’ throughout its history is indisputable. We just don’t like admitting that’s something we’ve done. At least, some among us won’t admit to that kind of evolution. God forbid a religious tradition ever be seen as a living, evolving thing!
Values change. Ideas change. Our understanding of personhood, neurology, and psychology change. We are constantly receiving more information on what it means to be human, yet these advances in information and understanding are too often tossed aside as churches cling to definitions of sin, among other things, that are revealed to be fundamentally antiquated.
We simply no longer live in the thought world of the first century, when people had no knowledge of evolutionary biology or neurology. Though there is much to be admired in what philosophers and religious thinkers articulated in the ancient (or even recent) past, they were working with concepts and cosmologies that we now know to be incomplete at best, flawed at worst.
To privilege antiquated religious and philosophical arguments that support the exclusion and indignification of LGBTQIA+ persons, to continue the lie that they are ‘disordered’ (to use language from the Catholic Church itself), or to privilege the words of a written book over and against the living, breathing ‘book’ that is another human being … to do all of these things is, I fear, the mark of an institution lapsing further into the abyss of irrelevancy.
Let me make something clear: if anything deemed sacred (i.e. a church, a book, a member of the clergy, etc.) can look at any individual and say of them, ‘You are disordered and not fully welcome into our common life’, than that, dear friends, is nothing sacred at all. It’s just a furthering of the great many traumas that the Christian Church has inflicted upon people deemed ‘other’.
And while the Episcopal Church affirms and embraces LGBTQIA+ persons, ordaining and marrying them, it wasn’t always this way. In fact, it’s only been within the last 20 years that such an embrace has occurred. So, it’s not as if the Catholic Church is the only one guilty of such things. It’s just that they have the loudest voice with which to make such proclamations.
To all who read this who have felt the pain and exclusion that has come from the Church, I say I am sorry. I can’t speak for the whole of the Christian Church, but I can speak for myself as a priest and pastor. I am sorry. And while you don’t need my voice of affirmation in order to know your sacred worth, I’ll offer it here so there can be no equivocation on the matter:
LGBTQIA+ persons are whole, and beautiful, and you are not disordered in the eyes of the God I have come to know in Jesus Christ.
You know this already, and you certainly don’t need a priest at an institutional church to tell you this. I hope you know in the depths of your soul that you are loved and worthy of love.
And if you struggle to know this, I’m here how you need me.