Last year I asked whether Christian leaders who quietly support increasing the rights of gays and lesbians in society and church should be outed. I asked because I have publicly stated my position, and I’m often asked told by others that they just know what so-and-so Christian leader/author/pastor thinks about “the gay issue.” In other words, some people suggest that particular Christian leaders are being coy about how they feel about same sex marriage or gay/lesbian ordination in order to not be punished in the Christian marketplace.
I was chastened by a friend of mine who leans toward full acceptance of gays and lesbians in all spheres of ecclesial and secular life. He’s a pastor, and he told me that there’s even more at stake for him. To make the gay issue a major trope of his preaching or pastoral leadership has implications for both his gay and hetero congregants. In fact, he told me that several lesbian couples in his church have asked him not to vocalize his opinions on the matter. They want their church experience to be free of the politics that their sexuality brings up elsewhere in their lives. Fair enough, I said.
Well, along comes the Believe Out Loud Campaign, meant to encourage mainline pastors who favor gay inclusion in church and society but fear congregational dissension to come out about their beliefs. [UPDATE: their website does not seem to work -- not a good sign for the campaign, which launched yesterday (Valentine's Day).] [NEWER UPDATE: Free advice: If you're trying to launch a social media campaign, pay the $19.95 on GoDaddy to get your own URL. And have your subpages up and running before you launch.]
Religion Dispatches quotes Robert Chase, who is running the campaign, saying,
Believe Out Loud signals that the effort to achieve LGBT justice within American Christianity has reached movement proportions. By reaching out to those who are still uncertain about homosexuality in the church, we expand the conversation. As individuals begin to move from fear to empathy, from ignorance to understanding, and from apathy to action, a new space is created for extravagant welcome to all.
The RD piece, by Peter Laarman, goes on to note that, depending on one’s perspective, the untold thousands of gay-friendly clergy who keep their mouths shut about their opinions on the matter are “silent friends” (so says author Steve Clapp), or the “uncertain middle” (so says author Robert P. Jones). Laarman goes on,
Believe Out Loud has serious ambitions: it does not simply aim to lay the groundwork for healthier conversations and new perceptions within Christian communities; it expects to spur a significant increase in the number of congregations that are actively engaged in formal processes either to become officially welcoming for the first time — or to upgrade the quality of their LGBT-related ministries, in the event that they are already officially “on record” as welcoming queer people.
What Laarman does not do in the RD piece is cast a critical eye toward the campaign. Instead, the end of the article is populated with adoring quotes from denominational wonks and a Human Rights Campaign staffer.
But it reminds me of the spate of United Church of Christ ads that I referred to as “silly” in my book, The New Christians. Why silly? First, because they caricatured evangelicals. And second, because ad campaigns are not going to rescue dying denominations.
Believe Out Loud is a bit different. The goal, it seems, is to foster conversation among moderate mainline (and even evangelical) congregations. That, it seems to me, is a good thing. But will it work? I doubt it. (First, they’d better get their website up.)
Do you think it will work?