Many churches and organizations happily use the phrase “All Are Welcome!”, but what exactly does that mean? Does that mean that women and queer people are fully welcome to bring all of themselves into community?
- to some this means full inclusion and celebration of all people, to others it means ‘come in, give your money, but we’re not going to allow you to get involved’
- to others it means ‘you can get involved as long as you maintain our sexual purity and celibacy rules’
- to others it sadly means that you’re welcome as long as you hide who you were created to be.
All Are Welcome! doesn’t necessarily mean that EVERYONE is welcome to bring ALL of themselves into community. Not only is this messaging confusing, it can be mentally, emotionally and spiritually damaging to individuals who are seeking to be in community with you.
Project Lit will be a comprehensive guide and rating system for how inclusive churches and organizations really are and what they really mean when they say “All Are Welcome!”
How lit is your local church or place of worship?
This is where I need your help. Have you ever dreamed of becoming an investigative reporter? Well, Now’s your chance.
I want you to call up your local Baptist, evangelical, Pentecostal, Catholic or non-denominational church (and let’s not leave out Mosques, temples and other places of worship and ask them the following questions.
Question 1: Do your policies allow LGBTQ+ folks to be baptized in your church? Get married here? Are there any restrictions on how LGBTQ+ folks can participate in your church?
Don’t be afraid to get specific. Start with the lowest level of participation, maybe a hospitality team member, door holder, cafe worker, etc. Continue towards roles with more responsibility, and ask if all LGBTQ+ folks can teach Sunday School to children, preach in services or serve as pastor. If there is a “women’s retreat,” specifically ask if trans women can attend or if it’s only for cis women. Clarify if the policies differ for gay, celibate folks as opposed to non-celibate, gay folks. Even if the church has a rainbow flag in the sanctuary, double-check if they officiate same-sex weddings, because they may not be able to due to their denomination’s policies. Asking yes-or-no, policy questions will get you the clearest answer possible.
QUESTION 2: Are women currently permitted to preach in the primary church service? Serve as elders, board members, or be a part of other governing bodies of the church? Would a woman be permitted to be senior pastor/minister?
There is no room for ambiguity when faced with questions like these. If the pastor responds with verbose, vague language (e.g. “we support women’s leadership”) and doesn’t give you a clear answer, be polite but insistent. Redirect them back to your original question, and (if needed) ask for a simple yes or no. And if they do answer “yes,” ask them about the gender demographics within the leadership team and how often women preach.
Question 3: Will you ordain (or recommend for ordination) and hire openly LGBTQ+ people at this Church?
Policy. Policy. Policy. The more specific you can be, the more direct the answer should be. Asking about hiring and ordination policies is one of the quickest shortcuts to getting a satisfactory response. Clarify if the policies differ for gay, celibate folks as opposed to non-celibate, gay folks.
Once you’ve completed this assignment I want you to look at your investigation results and ask. What message do these results send to my children?
What subtle messages do these findings teach our boys on their place in the world when interacting with women and queer people?
What messages of worth and equality do your findings reinforce and teach our girls about their place and space in the world?
What messages of worth, equality, love and acceptable do your findings send to our queer children who may be silently wrestling with their orientation but too afraid to ask a question?
What would our world look like if our governments could answer these questions in the same way as our churches do?
What about our places of employment? Would you even be able to have a job if your employers were allowed to answer these questions in the same way as some of our churches do?
Are these the messages that we want to be teaching to our children? Are these the message that YOU ACTUALLY BELIEVE FOR YOURSELF? Or are these the messages that you’ve been told that you HAVE to believe so that you can belong yourself?
I’d love to hear what you discover. Send us a note with the findings of your investigation