As we continue our discussion on intersectionality between race and sexuality for Black History Month, our friend Henry shares about his experience as a black gay man and how he believes the church can better care for other black LGBT+ people.
My name is Henry, and I’m a 29-year-old man who finds himself living at the intersection of being black, a celibate gay man, and most importantly, a Christian.
As a Christian, I affirm that my identity is rooted in Christ. Even so, how I navigate life and faith is different from, say, a white gay Christian, a white LGBT+ woman, or a black straight Christian.
While every person’s identity is ultimately found in Christ, Jesus is not in the business of erasing our lived experiences. Instead, Christ wants to use the intersection of our diverse, lived, embodied experiences for His glory and the edification of the church.
Christ wants to use the intersection of our diverse, lived, embodied experiences for His glory and the edification of the church.
But in order for this to happen, we need leaders who love and value LGBT+ people of color in their community.
Here are some things pastors can keep in mind as they serve LGBT+ people of color.
1. Make Space for Conversation
When people of color speak about their race in a predominantly white church, they’re often told they’re focusing too much on their race. While this may be intended to foster unity, it can make someone feel they must erase or hide part of their lived experience in order to find belonging in the church.
It takes courage for someone to share with their pastor what it’s like to be an LGBT+ person of color. If someone’s genuine thoughts and concerns aren’t taken seriously, it can be deeply damaging. Listen, ask questions, and don’t rush to dismiss someone’s experience.
2. Educate Yourself
Pastors and parents can help by seeking out other resources and materials as they engage with these topics. The more you learn and bring to the table as you begin to dialogue with others about this topic, the easier it is to foster trust with the people you are speaking to.
To learn about racial reconciliation in the church, you can start by reading this article from Pastor Mike Higgins of South City Church. To learn about LGBT+ relational effectiveness, you can start by reading Guiding Families of LGBT+ Loved Ones or considering bringing Posture Shift to your church.1, 2
3. Turn From Valuing Cultural Preference Over Christ
If we want to express value for LGBT+ people of color in the church, we must first acknowledge ways we’ve valued cultural comfort more than God’s glory — which is seen through unity and diversity in the church.
In what ways do the language, history, and culture of your church differ from some in your congregation? Consider how you might incorporate different music styles. Reference non-white theologians in sermons. Celebrate and offer ministry opportunities for single Christians, not just married ones. Eliminate words from your speech (and, most importantly, attitudes from your heart) that could offend a person of color or an LGBT+ person.
In a culture that tends to elevate both heterosexuality and whiteness, people may feel like the goal is to assimilate into a white, heterosexual standard. In reality, our goal isn’t to fit into culturally constructed ideals; it’s to be made holy and sanctified in Christ. Let’s repent of our idols.
4. Help Us Feel Known, Heard, and Understood
In the church, I want to be known and share my life. On top of that, I have a God-given responsibility to use my voice to help make the church a spiritually nourishing environment for all. That’s why I find it important to foster conversations about race and sexuality in the church.
Like anyone else in the church, God has given LGBT+ people of color a unique perspective He wants to use to build up the church. As a pastor, you can allow them the space to feel known, heard, and understood.
God has given LGBT+ people of color a unique perspective He wants to use to build up the church.
Start by inviting an LGBT+ person of color to your home, asking honoring questions, and respectfully listening to their story. A meal could eventually turn into a small group conversation or even a seminar on race and sexuality. Or maybe new friends become like family to one another!
Valuing LGBT+ People of Color in the Church
The kingdom of God is the home where we all ultimately belong, and churches are meant to reveal and represent it. Let’s love and serve one another well even as we seek to adhere to biblical truths.
The kingdom of God is the home where we all ultimately belong, and churches are meant to reveal and represent this kingdom. Knowing this, let’s love and serve one another well even as we seek to adhere to biblical truths. May we seek God’s heart in making church a place where LGBT+ people of color are seen as an integral part of the whole.
Last time, we heard from Thomas Starchia on what it’s like to be black and gay. As Black History Month comes to a close, it has been an honor to have Thomas and Henry share their helpful insights and ideas! Next time, we will continue to learn about the experience of intersectionality from a Latino LGBT+ writer.