Dean Owens Responds to Policies Banning LGBTQ+ Expression
One of the highlights of this past year for me was gathering, not just as a cathedral congregation but as the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio, at the Pride in the CLE march in June. Our new (and now fully installed) Bishop, the Rt. Rev. Anne B. Jolly, joined us dressed in a festive rainbow skirt, as Trinity’s LGBTQ+ fellowship led fourteen episcopal communities behind a banner of love and inclusion. My whole family was there, and we loved being a part of this celebration of God’s diversity.
Yet as we know too well, so often the voice of the church speaks not inclusively, but in a way that does greater harm to those who are so often marginalized, including member of the LGBTQ+ community. Like so many of you, I was saddened to learn of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland’s policies forbidding gender diversity and expression in their schools. Indeed, I have spoken this week with members of the Roman Catholic community whose hearts were broken by the news.
Though this has happened in a different denomination, we are all connected. The pain felt by many within the Roman Catholic church is shared here as well, especially among many of our LGBTQ+ members and allies. If you are in need of support or prayers this week, please reach out to me or the Rev. Adrienne Koch.
I am proud to be the pastor of a church and cathedral that proclaims boldly: God Loves You…No Exceptions! I consider it a great blessing that we aspire to be a sacred place for all people…indeed, that offer of inclusion, healing, and reconciliation is essential to what it means to be a place that is truly sacred.
Yet I also grieve as a parent of an LGBTQ+ child, knowing how important it is for teachers, priests, parents, and mentors to be truly supportive and affirming, from using preferred pronouns to being greater discernment around gender-affirming care. An adolescent who is learning to express their sexuality and gender is in a vulnerable, yet generative, place in their growth and development; when educators and adults are unwilling or unable to offer appropriate support, there is the potential for lasting harm, to say nothing of the missed opportunity to help that young person grow in the image and likeness of God.
In response to the recent slate of legislative and judiciary decisions that have great potential to broaden LGBTQ+ discrimination, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, said, “I believe deep in my soul that God is always seeking to create a world and a society where all are loved, where justice is done, and where the God-given equality of us all is honored in our relationships, in our social arrangements, and in law.”
Yet “our hearts break when people are hurt by the church, marginalized by the church, and told they are not worthy of God’s love as they are,” Bishop Anne has said. That heartbreak is especially powerful when practices and policies which limit the full expression of who God created each of us to be are enacted; instead, we as the church are called to a voice for unconditional love.
We believe that God invites us to build the Beloved Community, where all are given the chance to flourish and thrive, and not to be made to feel ashamed or marginalized for who they are.
I am proud to be a part of a church that affirms the spectrum of gender identity and sexual orientation that is a part of God’s loving creation. This affirmation is a core value of a church that is faithful, dynamic, and growing, where each of us – including that wonderful nonbinary teenager who I’m proud to call my child – are supported and celebrated as a child of God.