The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow: My Mixed Reaction to the Believe Out Loud Video

Now for those who know me, there should be no doubt where I stand on homosexuality and the church. Not a sin, not a choice, not an issue for me. Still, there is much work to be done to address how the church responds to the still controversial "issue" of homosexuality. My own denomination, the PC(USA) [just passed] a constitutional amendment that, for all intents in purposes, will no longer exclude LGBT folks from holding the office of Minister of Word and Sacrament and there is a group of us who will be in Washington DC as part of the Human Rights Campaign Clergy Call to lobby legislators around issues of civil rights, bullying and more. Much work to do indeed.

One of the groups that has been doing some really powerful work around creating positive postures in the church is the cross denominational, Believe Out Loud campaign of Intersections International. Recently an ad that they created was rejected by Sojourners of Jim Wallis fame and needless to say this has created quite the kerfuffle [Good post from the Episcopal Cafe].

I think that Sojourners took the easy way out [see Robert Chase OpEd] so my initial reaction was not based on whether or not the video should be shown, it should,  but the assumptions made in it.

Take a view and then I'll offer my thoughts.


So I obviously have no opposition to the intent of the video and I think Sojourners big-time missed the mark on this one.  The church has been both a violent perpetrator of exclusion as well as healing community of welcome and we must be diligent in speaking out against the former and creating the latter.  What struck me as off,  was the tone and assumptions set by this particular ad.  There was just something that struck me as off a bit.  The ad seems to say that the pastor is the one who is more open and the congregation members are the ones who create the sense of exclusion and discomfort.  I simply have not found this to be the overwhelming story of the church.  While there are certainly many places where the congregation is more "conservative" than the pastor, in my experience it is the pastoral leadership of most churches who are the most outspoken against LGBT folks with many people in the pews simply remaining silent in their disagreement.

Now maybe this was supposed to be a challenge to those pastors who would NOT act as the one in the ad did, kind of a "If you speak out, the church will change too!" but that was not my first reaction.  Again, I am not denying that this particular version of he church exists, but I would love to see two or three version of this that would/could flesh out the different ways in which LGBT folks experience both exclusion and welcome in the church, thus sharing both the blame and the love across the community.

[UPDATE:  During the time I was writing this post, the Believe Out Loud Team left this comment in the video, "Hi there, we here at Believe Out Loud agree that lay leaders and congregants have historically led the efforts of welcoming LGBT folks in the church. This video was made to drive the point that more clergy need to take an active stand and be public about their welcome of LGBT individuals. Hope that clarifies our intention and goal for this video."]

[Taken with permission from Bruce Reyes-Chow's blog on Originally posted 5/9/11. Follow Bruce on Twitter @breyeschow.]