We're used to LGBT individuals coming out of the closet and self-identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, etc., but I hold that their allies need to come out too. LGBT Facebook pages can accumulate "likes," and Twitter accounts can build "followers," but there is something to be said for organizations, employers, parents, siblings, or fellow congregants publicly coming out as embracing LGBT people or marriage equality.
It was over 40 years ago that faith communities first affirmed and included LGBT people. As the number of LGBT-affirming denominations grows, so does the language and descriptors they use on websites and media. It becomes code as they identify as "affirming," "open and affirming (ONA)," "diverse," "accepting," or "inclusive." It's wonderful. But as a minister and chaplain, I've noticed another trend: Not everyone knows the code.
My message to faith communities is this: Drop the code and speak boldly and loudly and clearly. Let everyone know that you embrace lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people as they are. Come out to your community as people of faith who accept LGBT individuals and families totally.
It is a courageous step when an LGBT individual comes out, and our allies need to be equally courageous when coming out. But words are not enough. The code has been broken. I have seen many faith communities describe themselves as "affirming" only to discover, after asking pointedly and repeatedly about homosexuality, that they "accept [or affirm, etc.] homosexuals as any other sinners" and "believe in forgiveness."
Our world needs to know the places of faith that have come out as fully inclusive of the LGBT community. To faith communities: For a month, try using straight talk as you embrace LGBT people in your synagogue, temple, church, mosque, or meetinghouse.