Dear Presbytery Friends,

Yesterday, I attended the Mahwah Pride gathering and I was greeted by people lifting up a cross and calling people pedophiles over their bullhorn. There is no denying that right now, religious communities are deeply divided over issues of sex and gender.

I heard someone proclaim recently that the church is divided over joy, saying the reason people don’t like pride events is because they are upset people get so much joy from being who they are. When they see people gathered, what they witness is an outward expression of joy and love and community and when they see that people want to come out and be a part of that and not their churches, they get upset. And rather than try to learn from these events, they try to stop them.

Of course, not every faith community is trying to do that. Others are doing their best to welcome and include everyone. But someone else reminded me recently that being welcoming is just a first step. They went on to say that our LGBTQ colleagues and friends are looking to be wanted, not just welcomed.

The church can’t just welcome people into our sanctuaries, we must want our LGBTQ neighbors to be there, want them to share their culture, their understanding of God, their interpretation of what it means to be made in the image of God. We want them to share what love means. When you honor someone’s value as a person, that’s how we build our communities. This is true for all of our neighbors.

And for those who feel unwelcome in church, don’t give up on your spiritual journey. Keep searching. Start looking around for a place where you can live openly and participate with pride and joy – there are many in this presbytery. But if you feel that the emotional and spiritual costs of being open in a faith community are too high, trust your judgment and take your time. Remember: It’s your journey of faith. You have a say in the path you take and the pace you go.

Organizing Co-Leader & Resource Presbyter