religious dispatch

Straight Pastors Cannot Possibly Know the Suffering of Lutheran Queers

We’ve been exploring “the gay debate” in the Lutheran church on Queerty for several weeks. Last month’s vote by the ELCA to permit non-celibate gay clergy set off a firestorm of debate inside the church, both before and after delegates voted. Last week, Washington State’s Pastor Erik Samuelson, who is straight, shared his insight into the vote. Today, Houston pastor Lura Groen (pictured below), who identifies as queer, responds to him.


Pastor Erik,

Thanks for your boldness in writing this article. And way to get the Gospel out there, clearly read by so many people!

I bet you know this, but there are some things that being straight makes it harder for you to see. That’s privilege. You didn’t choose it, I know, so don’t blame yourself, but can I show you how to be a better ally?

I first have to disagree profoundly with your statement that the biggest thing the Lutheran church did was agree to disagree; we did something real for LGBT people! Not enough, not soon enough, not clearly enough, but something. We allowed queer pastors to be open about who they are and who they love without losing our jobs and callings! That matters to us queer clergy! It also matters to the LGBT folks who can see themselves in their pastors, and even to the young queer folks in conservative churches who at least know that, somewhere out there, someone like them can be a pastor. This is so much more than agreeing to disagree!

The church, including the Evangelical Church of America, has done great harm to people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. Not only has it denied our callings and refused to bless our relationships, it has provided a theological framework for homophobia. This is more than causing pain to us; this is participating in our discrimination.

I’ll look across the table and say “pass the salt, please” to the anti-gay folks in our church, and love them as my sisters and brothers. I’ll feel their pain. But I won’t agree to disagree, and I hope you won’t either.

Homosexuality is not wrong, sinful, or deviant. But homophobia is deviant. Heterosexism is sinful. Remaining silent in the face of discrimination is wrong. Homophobia, Heterosexism, and silence have caused many of us to lose our livelihoods, our families, our safety, and even our lives. By providing theological reasons for these sins, the church has participated in this discrimination.

The church has also tried to teach us that the love at the center of our beings is sinful, that our sexualities are not created by God, and that the church’s acceptance of us is conditional. The harm caused to our relationships with God is even more violent than the beatings, the murders, some of us have endured.

I won’t pretend to know what Pastor Ryan Mills feels. But to equivocate the suffering he, and other like him, may be feeling to the queer experience is false and perpetuates discrimination.