Why are straight allies in faith communities so important?
Straight allies have become a powerful voice in the ongoing conversation about equal rights. In faith communities this is especially important for a variety of reasons. First, straight allies in faith communities are uniquely positioned to make the case for equality because there is “nothing in it for them.” Additionally, by being supportive and talking about these issues straight allies send a powerful message to members of their congregations who are LGBT or who love someone who is. And finally, straight allies in faith communities have an unparalleled ability to reach members of their own churches by talking the talk AND walking the walk.
Can all people of faith be straight allies?
We know that 8 out of 10 people personally know someone who is gay and many of those people struggle with how to reconcile their faith with the love and respect they have for their LGBT friends, family members, coworkers, and fellow congregants. We also know that even some of the most conservative faith communities are starting to have this conversation. So even for people who initially think that being an ally will not be compatible with their beliefs, there are ways for you to start the journey to being an ally and to find ways to demonstrate support that align with your spiritual life. We want to be there to help and we hope you do too.
It would be disingenuous to suggest that PFLAG, Straight for Equality, and these resources have the ability to resonate with all people of faith. (Members of the Westboro Baptist Church are unlikely to pick up a copy of be not afraid – help is on the way! straight for equality in faith communities any time soon.) But as we see allies develop in unexpected places, it gives us hope that change is happening. We’re inviting you to be part of it.
What I can I do to be a better straight ally in my faith community?
There are many things that straight allies can do in their faith communities, but for Straight for Equality and PFLAG National personal stories are the best place to start. Your journey to becoming a straight ally is the most powerful tool that you have when talking about these issues in your faith community. Tell your story, talk about why these issues are important to you, and make it personal. When these conversations are centered on people that a potential new ally knows and cares about it is no longer about the ‘other’ and resonates differently. If you’re interested in other ideas check out 10 Things You Can Do to Be a Straight Ally in Your Faith Community or the resources focused on issues of faith in the Straight for Equality Ally Spectrum.
How can I convince the leaders of my congregation that this is a conversation we should be having in our faith community?
Talking to the leaders in your faith community about these issues may seem like an extremely difficult task, especially if you are the member of a more conservative congregation. The first – and perhaps most important – part of this conversation is to be clear about the ways you and other congregants are personally connected to these issues. Make it clear that when we don’t discuss these topics, congregants who are LGBT (or love someone who is) may feel ostracized and disconnected from their faith and faith leaders may need to be reminded of that. It is also important to remember that Straight for Equality in Faith Communities is not about institutional change or even necessarily changing people’s beliefs. It is simply about having conversations, learning more, prayerfully thinking about these issues, and considering how our behaviors and actions impact those around us.
What do I do if I am interested in facilitating institutional change at my church?
We believe that thinking about these issues, having these conversations, and really spending time prayerfully considering how we treat one another is a huge first step for many people. With that said, some Christian denominations – including the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association – have formalized a process that congregations can complete to demonstrate that all people are welcome in their pews. Their efforts have been duplicated by groups like the Reconciling Ministries Network (United Methodist) and ReconcilingWorks (Lutheran). Learn more about these programs and see if they can help you in your push for institutional change within your own denomination. Also the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Institute for Welcoming Resources is a great place to get started.