There is hesitancy in writing a letter calling for conversation among Christians and LGBT people. I feel vulnerability in coming out in a forum like this. I am a Christian. I am gay. I have feared if I were honest with those close to me, I would no longer be welcomed as a friend. If you do not identify as either a Christian or someone who is LGBT, perhaps my words will have little meaning. If you are a Christian and/or LGBT, then my words are meant for you. We have seen countless articles lately about values, equal rights, love, hate, free speech, violence and chicken sandwiches. The last thing I want to do is fuel all the rhetoric. However, sometimes being quiet is being a coward. Whatever side of the issue you are on, I am stuck in the middle.
This is why I decided to pen two open letters to the two communities where my identity lies. I'm calling for peace because both of these identities make me who I am. You can see my letter to the LGBT community here.
Dear Fellow Christians,
Like you, I have been concerned that America's moral barometer has taken a beating over the years. There are many who feel separation of Church and State is meant to limit the Church's voice in matters of politics or public life. I disagree. The Church has more to offer than hospitals, schools, food pantries and places of worship.
I know this because I grew up in a church where I was taught that we can make a difference in the world. My family holds many ''traditional values'' that some feel are being threatened. My parents are celebrating their 50th Anniversary in 10 days. I am proud of them. Soon, I am headed back to Iowa to be with them. From my family I learned that ALL are welcomed -- at our table, at our church and in our lives. I have been on four international missionary trips where I either worked as a teacher or a medical aide. I have taught Sunday school, led worship, washed dishes after some incredible pot-lucks and cleaned church toilets. Yet, I have also been told that I was not welcome to join a church. I have had fellow Christians tell me I should not help lead a Christmas program or teach. I have had to hide who I was so I could take communion. I was a scapegoat for why some left our church for another one. I have felt the sting of marginalization.
Rather than talk about the freedom to eat chicken sandwiches or of my own personal salvation, I want to tell you about a few gay friends of mine. They seem to get this whole values thing. My friends at Church of the Holy Spirit Song in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., are evangelical gay Christians who preach the Gospel, feed the homeless, give hope to the addicted and care for those ignored by other churches.
Talk to my friend Ross who works on a national level trying to correct media based stereotypes between the Church and the gay community.
I wish you could see pictures of my friend Robert and the two children he and his partner adopted. They ARE family. He has made a career of making forever families -- families with gay or straight parents -- all made in heaven.
I wish Joe could tell you his story. He lost his partner after many years. The loss of his soul mate was real. They never threatened anyone's marriage. They deserved to have their love and commitment recognized by the State and supported by the Church. They got neither.
I wish you could spend an evening getting to know Gene and Paul. They have been a committed couple, caring for each other for over 52 years. Their dedication to each other and their relationship has outlasted the marriages of some of their heterosexual friends.
All of these friends are living out their values and in doing so, making the world a better place for all of us.
Please, the next time you are peacefully showing your support for values at a particular venue, and you see others standing on the street peacefully demonstrating to show their values, bring them a glass of water. It is hot outside. Ask their names. Ask to hear their stories. Let go of fear or judgment for a minute and begin a conversation. My family values, my parents' marriage and my faith in God have not been threatened or compromised by any of these friends. On the contrary, I have seen Christ's love in all of them. Make friends with them now. We will be spending eternity together.
Christ made a habit of ignoring labels. Why? Because we know He valued people over traditions. God tears down walls where we would form lines. Communicate. Start by finding one similarity. Then act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. Preserving values is great. Valuing love is better still.
Richmond L. Schmidt