What Does It Mean to be Gay or Lesbian and Christian?

Last May I was privileged to co-facilitate a retreat “I Am Who I Am by God’s Grace” with Father Jim Schnexnayder, Executive Director of the Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry (calgm.org).

Growing up in the 1940s and 50s, like many of my Roman Catholic contemporaries, naiveté was the operative word about gay and lesbian relationships.  Total ignorance is a better descriptor. 

When I married in the late 1970s I guessed one of my brother-in-laws was gay. Secrecy prevailed in the family. He had “come out” at our wedding reception after we left to honeymoon. No one mentioned this fact to my husband and me. 

In the 1980s I learned Milton Bennett’s model of Multi-Cultural Sensitivity. It was applied to different ethnic cultures and to the “isms”—sexism, racism, ageism, etc. A new word for me was “heterosexism.”  It enabled me to confront directly my attitudes, beliefs and values around the Gay Lesbian Bi-Sexual and Transgender (GLBT) community.

Two workshops I offered using the model in the 1990s added to my own sensitivity.  At one, a theologian anthropologist was dumbfounded I was using culture to explore my own beliefs about homosexuality. I knew it was the right decision, however, when one of the founding members of the group “came out” to us. She declared it was finally safe enough to reveal her long relationship with a heroine of the organization.

Another opportunity came when I offered a workshop explicitly on homophobia to my colleagues in the organizational development field.  My gay brother-in-law teamed with me.  Again, there was an amazing change at the end. 

Two African-American women, diversity specialists, spoke of their transformation. “Why have we believed the statements about homosexuality in the Book of Leviticus when we don’t believe the negative things the Bible says about being black?”  I was reminded of their words when I read a column by Bill Maxwell with St. Petersburg Times called, “Homophobia: It’s a Black Thing.”  It is not just a “black” thing; it’s a Roman Catholic thing and a Christian thing as well!

I will again co-facilitate with Father Jim a retreat for the Gay and Lesbian community, What Does It Mean to Be Gay or Lesbian and Christian? at the Franciscan Center from Friday, July 22 – Sunday, July 24. The night before pastors, pastoral workers, families and friends of the GLBT community are invited.  Father Jim will present his new book: Setting the Table: Preparing Catholic Parishes to Welcome Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, And Transgender People and Their Families.  

I am challenged once again to face the remnants of my own beliefs about homosexuality.  I hope the results are as transformative for me and others as my previous experiences have been!


About Maureen Connors

Maureen Connors, Ph.D., is Co-Director of Programs for the Franciscan Center and Co-Director of Room for the Spirit in St. Petersburg, Florida. She serves on the Spiritual Life Committee of Eckerd College. She is a retreat and workshop facilitator and serves as a spiritual companion. Maureen brings her gifts in transition coaching, workplace spirituality, and storytelling from her own spiritual journey.
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10 Responses to What Does It Mean to be Gay or Lesbian and Christian?

  1. Cbus Queer says:

    How exciting! It’s really great to see how far we have progressed. We owe so much to those brave men and women who went before us, and made it so much easier to come out. Not that it is easy, but it is so much safer today.
    Thanks for your post!

    • Cbus Queer, thanks for your comments. I think you are right that it is still not easy to come out but it is safer. I appreciate your comments on my blog! The retreat went very well.

  2. Jill Biebel says:

    I am delighted to see that you, Maureen, and the Center are offering such a much needed program. An invitation to an open and honest dialogue on an often misunderstood human condition. Blessings for that weekend.

  3. Georgie says:

    It appears you do not teach the importance of chastity. In the case of a person with homosexual orientation, this would involve abstinence. So in effect, what you are doing is heretical and you are not in fact catholic. Stop posing as one. You are making a fool of yourself and endangering your soul.

    • Georgie, I know abstinence is important for homosexuals and heterosexuals alike. Have you read “Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers” a Statement of the Bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family? As a family member of a gay person it helped me realize the importance of the formation of conscience and compassion in the equation. Thanks for reading my blog.

      • Tim Roach says:

        You are missing the point and weaving around the intent of biblical passages that state homosexuality is an abomination. Catholics opposed to homesexuality are not homophobic, we simply believe in the word of God. Abstinence is not just important, it is mandatory, as it is with unmarried Catholics. When you spin the intent of Catholic teaching and attempt to spread your heresy to the faithful you are guilty of a sin greater than than your projected homophobia. Don’t thank me for reading your blog, I did so just to see how innane your reasoning is.

      • Thank you, Tim, for your comments. We always invite and enjoy a respectful dialogue! Peace and God’s richest blessings upon you!

  4. Pat Burke says:

    “What Does It Mean to be Gay or Lesbian and Christian?”
    I don’t have same-sex attraction; but the answer to that question is very simple, if difficult to live out. It means that part of your particular cross is to give up what you are attracted to in order to be chaste and to follow Jesus. Just as, for me as a single man, I need to forego my desire for every attractive woman I see on the street.

  5. Pat, the crosss comes to us in many ways doesn’t it? Many of the heterosexual people I see for spiritual companioning struggle with issues around their sexuality as they grow in sexual maturity. Glad you read the blog!

  6. Stephen says:

    We so need more education in this area. As a gay Catholic myself, I know beyond any doubt, that God made me who I am, loves and affirms me, as he does all of us. No need for shame or hiding, but a great need for acceptance is called for. Just like heterosexuals, we may be called to be loving parters and parents, or we may not be. There is nothing wrong with either of these options. Discernment is key. God bless all of you, especially my gay brothers and sisters still struggling. God loves you and says you’re ok. Please know that. Amen.

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