Progressive churches trumpet their support for sexual minorities. So why don’t they employ them to work with children and youth?
I ran a series of strict Google searches for the following terms: gay church youth leader, openly gay youth leader and transgender church youth leader.
“Gay church youth leader” returned exactly one result: the testimony of a man from the UK whose church youth leader lost his job in the 1970s for being gay.
I next searched “openly gay youth leader.” Again, I got one result: an article about Daniel Hernandez, an intern who aided congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot by a madman. There’s no indication that Hernandez works in a church – he’s simply described as a youth leader who attends the University of Arizona.
A search for “Transgender church youth leader” returned zero results.
Best I can tell, no church in the English-speaking world employs an openly LGBTQIA+ person to work with children or youth. At least there’s no mention of such a person on any web site I could find.
Four years after the Boy Scouts rolled out the rainbow carpet to gay youth workers, not one church in North America has publicly announced that it’s doing the same. The Episcopalians, Presbyterians and United Church of Christ have been silent on the issue.
Why would inclusive churches exclude sexual minorities from working with kids? Or if they do allow it, why keep it quiet?
Blame those bigoted parents.
It’s amazing how the open minds of moms and dads suddenly snap shut when they perceive a threat to their children.
How many parents would choose to raise their daughters in a church whose pastor is involved in a polyamrous lesbian relationship? Who could blame a progressive parent for thinking twice before leaving an infant in the care of a man dressed in a blouse, skirt and stilettos? Would a youth leader who was surgically altered during (her-to-his) gender transition be a good role model for your daughter?
Ambiguity is everywhere. Church is one of the few places parents can turn to for clarity. A church that takes ambiguous stands regarding sex and identity will not endear itself to most parents.
A theology centered on caring for the poor, social justice, diversity and environmentalism doesn’t address the tangible dangers teens face. What’s more likely: your daughter becomes a white supremacist, or your daughter asks for surgery because her friends are all suddenly transitioning and she thinks she’s a boy? What’s the bigger threat: your son fails to recycle or your son comes down with an STD while he’s out exploring his sexuality?
Conservative churches preach a message of self-control and conformity to traditional norms – particularly surrounding sex. Such a message may not be popular with the culture, but it’s a winner with parents who are trying to protect their children.
Families with small children are the growth engine of the church. Liberal mainline churches are in steep decline, in part because they are unable to attract young families.
So prove me wrong. If you know of a church that has LGBTQIA+ children and youth workers, please let me know in the comments below.