Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lisa Larges & The Reprecussions of Rejection

Lisa Larges recently found herself the latest person caught in the untenable Catch-22 of too many churches: How can openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people demonstrate their commitment to their chosen path - and be a positive example to parishioners who need them - when their own denomination labels them as unqualified to be leaders in their communities of faith?

Larges, who was poised to become the Presbyterian Church's first openly lesbian minister, had her hopes dashed when, last week, the church blocked her path to ordination. And while church leaders did not specifically cite her sexual orientation as the reason for its decision - instead issuing a very technical ruling that the process used to advance her ordination was flawed - the fact remains that the Presbyterian Church, like too many others, continues to deny its congregants the opportunity to be led by clergy who reflect, from the pulpit, the diversity already evident in their pews.

Indeed, LGBT people are part of every tradition of faith, but continue to be unfairly excluded from the leadership of their houses of worship. In most cases, an openly lesbian or gay person who adheres to every tenet of their religion is, nonetheless, blocked from ascending to the title of clergy. The result, unfortunately, is an unacceptable message that lesbian and gay people are somehow "less than" in the eyes of God . . . and that, in turn, has real consequences for families, and especially young people, who worship in houses that still refuse to put out a welcome mat for all spiritual seekers.

The truth is that members of the clergy continue to play a monumental role in many people's lives. For lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, that role can either be life-saving or heart-wrenchingly painful. And in both cases, the effects can be long-term.