Lisa Bontemps is an elder at Parkside Community Church in Westwood, NJ. If you are an LGBTQ person or an ally who is affected by the decisions of the RCA General Synod, please consider submitting a letter for the #WeAretheRCA project. Letters may be published by name, first name only, or anonymously, and may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org along with any biographical information you would like to share.
Dear General Synod,
I attended this year’s General Synod for the first time as an elder delegate representing my classis. On Monday morning we were asked to vote on a matter that would essentially change the nature of our reformed polity and make clear to the LGBTQ+ community that there was no room for them since they would be denied the opportunity to marry in our churches.
I found myself called upon powerfully by the Holy Spirit to speak into the debate not as a theologian or as an elder, but as a mother. I had exactly one minute to share what was on my heart. One minute to explain that I have a son who was born, baptized and raised in the denomination. He has faithfully attended Sunday school every week where he has learned about God’s amazing love and inclusivity at the table. I had one minute to tell how my son was born bisexual and that my greatest desire for him is to be able to marry the one person whom he truly loves, regardless of gender, in the same church that he has attended since birth.
But one minute is not nearly enough time to express what is on the hearts and minds of the hundreds and probably thousands of parishioners in our denomination whose own children may be non-hetero as well. What you didn’t see after my microphone was so unceremoniously cut off was the countless (I mean it … I literally lost count) people who approached me throughout the remainder of the GS and thanked me for speaking the same truth that was on their own hearts. Truths that resonated with many of them as fellow parents of LGBTQ children.
You see, there were (and are) many of us in this denomination who have children affected by your actions last month. Children whose lives we worry about in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting last month. Children who will leave a church that tells them they are not valued and that their greatest sin was being born with a kind of sexual orientation that doesn’t fit your traditional standard of biblical interpretation.
My thoughts throughout the conference as I listened to many of you speak with your bibles in your hands was “Pharisees and hypocrites!” Are you so blinded by your own interpretation of scripture that you fail to comprehend what Jesus meant when he said to love everyone?
My son was created by God just like yours — beautifully and wonderfully made. He is a child of God no less deserving of grace, love and full inclusion in the life of the church than any other child. Some of you have children who may be LGBTQ+ and you might not even know it. I didn’t until recently. But it didn’t matter. What made it safe for my son to come out was the knowledge that his parents (and his pastor) would love him no matter what and would not shame or try to change him in any way. How many children in our denomination can say that? How many are still living in the shadows of fear because of what the majority opinion says about homosexuality being an abomination in the eyes of God?
For all the parents reading this who have children, know that I pray that your sons and daughters who may not be heterosexual may soon be fully welcome, included and able to take part in every aspect of church life and leadership knowing that they are completely whole and loved in the eyes of God and the church.
I also pray earnestly for their safety. LGBTQ+ children are more likely to commit suicide, suffer from substance abuse and depression and be bullied, beaten or murdered because of their orientation. No parent should have to worry about their child suffering this fate any more than an African American parent should have to worry about their sons and daughters being murdered because of the color of their skin. While the church may not be silent about these atrocities, can we really say we aren’t partly complicit by our refusal to grant these sons and daughters the same rights as others? When the church says there is something inherently “wrong” with you because of your biological and emotional attractions, how are they supposed to hear and believe a message of grace and love?
I wonder what Jesus would have said with His one minute at the microphone at the 2016 General Synod. Would you have noticed? Would you have listened? Would you have cared?
My one minute is up. But there are many minutes, hours and days left on the clock for our classes to do the right thing and refuse to vote in favor of these motions passed that close the door on brothers and sisters in Christ who deserve a place at the table in every possible respect.
May we come together at the next General Synod in 2017 with one voice proclaiming that there is room for ALL in the Reformed Church in America.