Several weeks ago our Whatcom Lutheran clergy group began talking about how we could send a message of support for those in our community who have been ostracized and shunned because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We decided to march as a group in the Bellingham Pride Parade on Sunday, July 14.

Around the same time, I learned that a beloved member of our church had recently come out. This person is among several LGBTQ+ members and friends of our congregation. I am certain that each of us know, respect, and love someone from our church who is LGBTQ+, even if we are not aware of their sexuality or gender identity.

In my studies and prayerful discernment about the issues of sexuality and gender, and in seeking guidance from the ELCA Social Statement on Sexuality, I feel conscience-bound to support those who are LGBTQ+ and advocate for their full acceptance in our church and our community.

As the ELCA Social Statement on Sexuality says, “[The ELCA] opposes all forms of verbal or physical harassment and assault based on sexual orientation. It supports legislation and policies to protect civil rights and to prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, and public services. It has called upon congregations and members to welcome, care for, and support same gender couples and their families and to advocate for their legal protection. The ELCA recognizes that it has a pastoral responsibility to all children of God. This includes a pastoral responsibility to those who are same-gender in their orientation and to those who are seeking counsel about their sexual self-understanding. All are encouraged to avail themselves of the means of grace and pastoral care.”

Our church council voted a few years ago to allow same-sex weddings in our church building. Even though several people in our congregation very thoughtfully, respectfully, and passionately disagreed with that decision at the time, I think we all would agree that those who are LGBTQ+ are created in the image of God and loved unconditionally by God. Though we might disagree with how we view the morality of sexuality and gender, where we can meet in agreement is the love, grace, and mercy of God.

I feel a particular calling this year to support the members of our congregation who identify as LGBTQ+ by marching in the parade. For those who would like to join me and the other Whatcom County Lutherans marching in the parade, please plan on meeting in the narthex after church on July 14 around 11:20am to travel to Bellingham for the start of the parade at noon.

And please know that if the topic of sexual orientation and gender identity is one you would like to discuss, whether we agree or not, I remain open and welcome to conversation, and promise to approach such conversation in a respectful manner. Please feel free to contact me at pastor@clcferndale.org or 360-325-5269 to set up a time to get together.