You just found out you have an LGBTQ child or you’ve known for a while. What do you do when your church doesn’t accept your child or you fear they won’t?
I won’t pretend I’ve experienced this. That would be difficult since I’m Jewish. But I have known many parents who have faced this once their child came out. For many, the church they attend has become a family, a community. They have a lot invested in that church, both in time and, spirit and emotions. The thought of leaving the church is very painful.
After my son came out, I chose not to belong to any synagogue that wouldn’t accept him and where he wouldn’t feel comfortable. He no longer lived at home and was an adult. However, I couldn’t imagine being a part of a community that was not fully affirming. When I was considering joining a synagogue in my new town, I asked one of the Rabbis how the clergy and the congregation felt about the LGBTQ community. His response? “Oh, we’re all gay here.” We both laughed and I knew I’d found a home. It wasn’t until years later that I found out he was gay.
I’m not pretending that it’s easy when you find your church home is not affirming. Sometimes we have to make a choice between being in an environment that is toxic for your child and finding a new loving one. A lot depends on the age of your child. If you still have a young child living at home, it can be a different choice than if you have an older teen or young adult.
With an older teen or young adult, it’s a discussion to have with them. What do they want? Do they feel comfortable being their full, authentic self or not? It’s an act of love to let our LGBTQ children that it’s okay to not want to go somewhere where they don’t feel welcomed or where they feel judged. It’s an act of love to choose them over the church, if that is what they would do.
With a young child, as a parent, it is our responsibility to protect them from those who make them feel bad or wrong for being who they are, loving who they love. That may mean finding a new church.
Some parents stop going to church all together. The rejection of their child and sometimes even themselves for supporting their child is just too much and they give up on church all together. For some, they find a loving, affirming church community and start building that safe space. For some, especially if they have older children, they choose to stay in their church and be a vocal advocate for the LGBTQ community and for the parents in the church who have LGBTQ kids.
Each person, each family has to make the choice that is best for them. If you find yourself in this situation and want to find a new church home, check out gaychurch.org where there is a list of affirming churches all over the country.