Finding acceptance in a church as a member of the LGBT community can be difficult. But many are experiencing greater acceptance across denominations. Lesbian mother Lacey Sayers in one of those, who found what she was looking for at the Metropolitan Community Church of Omaha.
With the expansion of the legalization of same-sex marriage across the country, some churches are beginning to follow suit by opening their doors to LGBT community members. Gay rights advocates report that there has been an increase of churches in Nebraska and Iowa who are welcoming gay members into their congregations—demonstrating a general shift in acceptance as a whole.
Some church organizations have proven their shifting views by participating in Pride parades and by holding LGBT-focused events at their local congregations. However, this shift does not stand as a universal one, and although churches claim to value love—in all forms—many still believe in the over-arching Christian philosophy that homosexuality is a sin.
As reported by Omaha.com, a 2013 poll by the Pew Research Center indicated that although many LGBT members believe that acceptance has grown in the last ten years, almost one-third of those polled believe that places of worship have remained unwelcoming to the LGBT community.
The 32-year-old Sayer grew up in Iowa where she had positive experiences going to church with her family. However, when she came out as a gay adult and started her own life, her religious experience shifted from one that was welcoming to one which was full of judgment.
“When you hear a lot of things about God judging you,” Sayer said, “you start to think you don’t have a place [in church].”
“If you were slapped in the face by a religion, I think you would close the door, too,” said Omaha gay rights group Heartland Pride’s former president, Beth Rigatuso.
Sayer and her wife, Andrea Caniglia-Sayers, married in 2010 in Iowa, where same-sex marriage was legalized in 2009. They wanted to find a church where they and their now 18-month-old son would feel at home. Metropolitan Community Church was that place for them.
“Everyone (no exceptions) is invited to join us without concern for your ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, how much money you have, the clothes on your back or any other reasons that you can think of to avoid walking through the doors of a church,” states the Metropolitan Community Church of Omaha website.
Other religious organizations in Omaha are also following a similar open doors philopsophy.
“We embrace [gays and lesbians],” said Omaha’s Temple Israel, Rabbi Aryeh Azriel, “They are part of the community.”
Omaha’s Countryside Community Church passed a resolution two years ago which titled them as an “open and affirming” church for LGBT members, as explained by senior pastor Reverand Eric Elnes.
“Here, all people are treated as creations made in God’s very image, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, physical or mental ability, nationality, or economic class,” the church’s website states.
The Heartland Proclamation, signed by over 250 religious authorities, declared: “Homosexuality is not a sickness, not a choice, and not a sin. We find no rational biblical or theological basis to condemn or deny the rights of any person based on sexual orientation.”
However, the Nebraska Heritage Coalition, which is supported by over 220 religious leaders, published a full-page spread in The World-Herald, touting an anti-gay sentiment: “Homosexual activity (not temptation or preference) is explicitly prohibited as sin in multiple passages in the Old and New Testament.”