How Straight is Your Church?

Each month, we post a series of blogs around a common topic. This month, we’ve asked some of our 2016 National Gathering workshop presenters to share their thoughts on their importance of their workshops in today’s context. Laura Cheifetz is one of our presenters. Learn more about his workshop at the end of this post. We invite you to join the conversation here, on Facebook, or Twitter!

by Laura Cheifetz

After years (and years and years) of discussing and debating sexual orientation and the place of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer people in church leadership, the church constitution changed the requirements for ordination. Rather suddenly, the way was clear for people to serve in ordained capacities regardless of sexual orientation. Several years later, the constitution was changed so that same-sex marriages would be recognized and could be celebrated/officiated by Presbyterian churches and pastors.

painted cross copyAfter these decisions and constitutional changes, some of us shrugged and continued on in our ministries. Some couldn’t stomach the thought and have fought the decision however they could, to the point of leaving. Some of us were ushered into a joyful gay parade of sparklers and streamers. Others, especially those who had left us for denominations who had already given churches permission to officiate same-sex marriages, welcomed us into the throngs of churches who had long been accepting of GLBT persons and their relationships.

While the national scene mattered at a policy level, it is the congregations where the vast majority of Presbyterian GLBT persons spend their time. For these people who are committed to congregations, because faith isn’t separate from community, not every church that professes to be open to membership of GLBT persons is altogether successful.

Even the most self-consciously welcoming church can make missteps in any number of things. A church may consider itself more queer-friendly than it is really is. Some churches are fine with gay people who conform as closely as possible in education and political leanings to the straight people in the church. Many churches are active in working for the rights of gay and lesbian people, but are less able to address the concerns of queer people who face racism and sexism or are gender non-conforming. Others sail along and stumble only when an ill-equipped member says something offensive to a gay or lesbian or transgender member.

Want to talk about it? Attend the workshop I will be facilitating at NEXT Church later this month, called “How Straight is Your Church? Making Congregations Welcoming Spaces for LGBTQ Christians.”


Laura CheifetzLaura Mariko Cheifetz works as the Vice President of Church & Public Relations for the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. She blogs at churchrelations.blogspot.com and enjoys food, friends, her dogs, bad pop music, and television marathons.

Laura’s workshop, “How Straight is Your Church? Making Congregations Welcoming Spaces for LGBTQ Christians,” is offered during workshop block 1 on Monday.