June is LGBTQ+ Pride month, and I have a proposal for you. Wear a rainbow to your house of worship. It could be a scarf, a pin, a ribbon, or a clergy stole. You could even pin a rainbow flag on your back like a cape. But I propose that you wear the pride flag as a symbol of support WITHIN the religious community.
A few weeks ago I was asked by a local PFLAG chapter to speak as part of a panel about religion and LGBTQ+ identity. As I listened to the other panelists and the audience stories, I was reminded how often religious spaces are oppressive to the queer community. I heard story after story of pastors kicking kids out of youth group, conversion therapy, thoughts of suicide motivated by religious belief. As a priest, who happens to be a gay man, the stories were heartbreaking. As a Christian, I don’t believe in hate. I believe God created and God loves LGBTQ+ people. I believe diversity is a blessing. I know so many faithful people who value their queer sisters and brothers, and who value their religion.
So I am asking you: “will you wear your rainbow?” If you are in a church, like mine, that openly embraces the LGBTQ+ community, have fun, take a big group selfie. If you are in a congregation that doesn’t talk much about LGBTQ+ people, or where the pastor and other members may hold a different view, will you still show your support? It may feel risky, and you may be surprised how many folks come up to say “thank you” or who want to talk more about your views. Complacency gets us nowhere. If the narrative about faith and LGBTQ+ people is to change, faithful people have to show up and show their support.
The rainbow has been a symbol of the LGBTQ+ movement since 1978, when Jim Baker a San Francisco designer and drag performer created the first modern Pride flag for a march being organized by Harvey Milk. All through the month of June, rainbow flags fly to celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride. Will Pride flags fly from our churches? Will we proclaim publicly, in and from religious spaces, that God loves ALL God’s people? Will you #wearyourrainbow this Pride month?
This Sunday, June 11, is a particularly important Sunday for religious visibility around the issues of LGBTQ+ rights. This Sunday there is a National Equality March for Unity and Pride in our nation’s capital. My former church, St. John’s Lafayette Square, is marching. Here in St. Louis, I’m asking our congregation to participate virtually by wearing their rainbow to church.