It is a testament to the incredible vitality of queer spirituality that, despite centuries of both physical persecution and theological abuse, many queer people still have faith.
According to a Pew Research Center survey, about 59 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans report being affiliated with a religious tradition. Forty-eight percent identified as Christian, while a significant number identified with non-Christian faiths like Judaism and Buddhism.
Those affiliations aren’t easy to maintain. Overwhelming majorities of lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans say major American Christian traditions are unwelcoming to their community. Seventy-nine percent of the LGBT adults Pew surveyed described the Catholic church (79 percent) as unfriendly towards people who are LGBT, while 73 percent said the same about evangelical churches. Queer Americans are also much less likely to be Christian than the general public.
And with vehemently anti-queer religious conservatives filling out the ranks of President Donald Trump’s administration, it’s clear that the complicated relationship between Christianity and the LGBTQ community will get even more tense.
Still, because the relentless work of queer Christian activists and theologians, there is much to be thankful for. Their activism has revitalized and challenged America’s faith community in important, history-altering ways that must not be forgotten.
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And the victories certainly aren’t contained to Christianity ― there have been advances in Judaism, Islam, and other faiths.
In honor of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, which falls on May 17 every year, HuffPost has gathered together these 15 iconic moments of hope in queer Christianity from around the world. From evangelical churches embracing their LGBTQ members to Christian musicians making the choice to come out, these moments from the past five years are reminders of how far we’ve come, and how much more we need to accomplish.
Special thanks to Brandan Robertson, a queer Christian activist, John Gustav-Wrathall, of Affirmation: Gay and Lesbian Mormons, Rev. Broderick Greer, an Episcopal priest and queer theologian, and Ross Murray, GLAAD’s lead on faith matters, for offering their suggestions for this list.
Alex Douglas / Courtesy of Vicky Beeching
Being out in the Christian music industry could cost you your career. But in recent years, a number of queer Christian artists have taken that difficult step anyway. British rock star Vicky Beeching
(pictured here), Everyday Sunday's Trey Pearson, and country singer Ty Herndon are a few.
Carlo Allegri / Reuters
In January 2015, Tennessee pastor Stan Mitchell announced that his congregation
, GracePointe Church, would fully embrace LGBTQ members into its fold, welcoming them to take up leadership roles and celebrate the sacraments. Other evangelical mega-churches have done the same -- including Highlands Church
in Colorado and EastLake Community Church
in Washington state. Although some churches have faced financial repercussions and a drop in membership, that hasn't always been the case. When Denver Community Church
, an evangelical megachurch in Colorado publicly affirmed its pro-queer stance in 2017, its pastor Michael Hidalgo said that only a handful of people
decided to leave the church as a result.
And some evangelical pastor who were kicked out of their denominations for supporting queer Christians now have thriving new congregations
. Rev. Danny Cortez (pictured here, left) is one of those pastors. After his son came out as gay
, the former Southern Baptist pastor expressed his love for his son in front of his congregation. Cortez later went on to form a new, queer-inclusive church.
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, the bishops of the Episcopal Church decided to allow clergy members to perform same-sex weddings. The church defended that decision in 2016 in front of its international umbrella organization, the Anglican Communion. That resulted in a three-year suspension from the Anglican Communion -- but the Episcopalians didn't back down.
Michael Curry, the Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop, said after the suspension that “Many of us have committed ourselves and our church to being ‘a house of prayer for all people,’ as the Bible says, [where] all are truly welcome."
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The Chicago Consultation is a group of Episcopal and Anglican clergy and lay people who work toward full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians in the Anglican Communion. In 2015, the group had its third meeting in Africa, this time in Elmina, Ghana. The Rev. Broderick Greer
, an Episcopal priest and queer theologian, described the important work of this group in an email to HuffPost.
"Every day, I heard a new story about the ingenious ways they were resisting stigma around HIV/AIDS, LGBTQ visibility, and equitable access to health care. People from five different countries told stories of courage and resilience motivated by a nagging sense that their full humanity should and will be affirmed. The small scale and quiet setting of the gathering is indicative of the manner in which social transformation often takes place: over a drink, in a huddle, or elbow-to-elbow."
Jim Urquhart / Reuters
Mormons Building Bridges
brings together members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who want to show support for the queer community. In 2012, this group marched at Utah Pride for the first time. For John Gustav-Wrathal, a gay Mormon activist, this was an iconic moment.
"Since then, there have been some crushing, traumatizing moments as well. ... Most of the hope has come from queer Mormons themselves. Attendance at Affirmation conferences has quadrupled since 2012," he told HuffPost. "LGBT Mormons are coming together in a spectacular way and finding new ways to provide mutual support and engage with their faith."
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The Calvary Baptist Church in Washington hired Sally Sarratt and Maria Swearingen as the leaders of their 155-year-old congregation in 2017. The Baptist ministers told HuffPost their mission is
"to sit at bedsides, to march for justice, to proclaim ‘belovedness’ when the world (sometimes even the religious world) proclaims ‘otherness,’ and to set the table of hospitality for those who need it most."
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As part of a conference on queer theology in 2017,
three pastors from Brazil, Canada and the United States flew into Cuba to lead an LGBTQ-friendly worship service. The mass is believed to be a first for Cuba.
One participant, a 26-year-old Cuban trans woman named Malu Duardo, told Reuters
, "I leave with having learnt a lot of things I can share with other trans, in particular that there is a God for everyone."