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Ask Pastor Paul: How Can I Be a Lesbian and Stay in My Church?

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Ask Pastor Paul: Spiritual Advice for the Real World.

Have a spiritual question, ethical dilemma or religious curiosity? Don't be shy! People of all backgrounds, ages and creeds are encouraged to submit questions to askpastorpaul@huffingtonpost.com.

Dear Readers, I have received many inquiries from LGBT identified people who have asked me about inclusion in their tradition. I have chosen one of them to feature today and hope this answer will bring comfort to others who have written to me. I look forward to hearing from you.
Peace,
Pastor Paul

Dear Pastor Paul,

I am a theology graduate student who also happens to be a lesbian. I have spent the past few years in a loving relationship with a woman who has helped me to grow in my spiritual life, and I believe I have also helped her to grow. It is very difficult to wade through all the messages we hear today about homosexual relationships and Christianity, even after having studied the Bible and other religious texts for many years. Intellectually, I know that we cannot assess biblical references to homosexual behavior in the same light as we look at the committed, loving gay relationships of today's world. Spiritually, I feel that my partner is a gift from God, and that she and I are meant to continue our journey and help each other along the way to heaven. The problem is how all of the negative messages affect my self-concept and feelings of belonging within my faith community. I have been Catholic all my life. I love my church and do not want to leave and find a more socially liberal Christian community, but sometimes other members of my parish make me feel like a social pariah and a second-class member of the Church. It seems there are few places I can turn for comfort at this point. Do you have any suggestions for how I can support my own development without abandoning the rich theological and spiritual tradition that I have always known and loved?

Sincerely,
Catherine

Dear Catherine,

Thank you for writing and sharing your story. Your very life is a testimony to the way that God is moving in the world today and while it may be painful at times, my basic message to you is to stay strong and turn to your faith for comfort and resolve.

I know that some of the messages that you are hearing about homosexual relationships are negative, and some of the most heinous ones are the loudest. But I have some very good news for you. We have won. There will be equality for LGBT people in the church and in all religious traditions. It is only a matter of time. As MLK said, "The arc of the universe is long but bends towards justice."

There is no turning back now from the understanding that God makes people who love the opposite gender, the same gender and both genders. And everything God makes is good. The fact of your life and love for your partner gives witness to this natural law. But it will take some time for all people to learn this truth. And the virulence may grow even as the last gasps of bigotry are vanquished.

I encourage you during this transitional time to practice the commandment of Jesus to love your enemies -- even those who might attempt to make you feel like a second-class citizen and social pariah of the church. Don't give them that power. Know that God loves you fully, and so your task is to love even those who persecute you. Your love for them will eventually transform enemies into friends and allies. Changing the minds of people in the church (and anywhere!) is slow business and it happens one person at a time, but LGBT people have come incredibly far in a very short period of time because of the hard work of people like you.

The Catholic Church is your home, and don't let anyone kick you out. When the going gets tough remember that you have many friends in the pews and in even in the clergy. Recent polls have shown that Catholics are actually more accepting of LGBT people than the average American. If you need extra support you can also turn to Dignity, which is the Catholic LGBT support group that holds meetings and offers resources for advancing full acceptance of LGBT people in the church.

And when the going gets tough, be grateful that God has sent you a partner who supports you in your Christian walk. As you know, to reject that love and to pretend to love a man just because someone told you to would be a sin. Cherish her, and help each other in the way of Jesus. People will see your love and will eventually recognize it as sacred.

Ultimately, you were born for exactly this moment, and your courage will pave the way for young people in the generations that follow you. The difficulty and oppression is part of your cross, and while it is painful at times, picking it up and following Christ as a faithful lesbian is about the most Christian act you can do.

Have a spiritual question, ethical dilemma or religious curiosity? Don't be shy! People of all backgrounds, ages and creeds are encouraged to submit questions to askpastorpaul@huffingtonpost.com.

If you are in spiritual or emotional distress, please contact a clergy person or mental health professional who can help you. If you are in crisis, please contact the crisis hotline.

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