It’s tough in so many ways to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, but add being a Christian to the mix and suddenly you’re a minority in a minority. Now take your LGBT Christian self and plop down in some rural community. It doesn’t matter where, north, south, east, west – the challenge you face is one not faced by your city brothers and sisters. Where will you go to church? How will you find an accepting congregation in the nooks and crannies of the country? And if you can’t find one – how will you find spiritual community?
Kathleen Lourde is examining this question in a series of stories about LGBT Christians in rural areas:
In many parts of the country, the opportunities for worship in rural areas and small towns are predominantly Christian, and a higher percentage seems to be fundamentalist than in larger cities.
Of the more than 30 people interviewed for this story, many grew up in households in which homosexuality was seen as a sin, even if it was largely unspoken. Many went to churches whose position on homosexuality was that it was sinful. Most eventually turned away from mainline religions and spent a period of their lives studying various belief systems and developing their own brand of spirituality—especially in rural areas, that often included a sense of God in nature.
A few, however, were lucky enough to be raised in, or easily find, gay-friendly churches even in small towns, usually Episcopalian, Presbyterian, or United Church of Christ churches.
Founder of Motley Mystic and the Jubilee! Circle interfaith spiritual community In Columbia, S.C., Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008). Founder and Editor Emeritus of Whosoever, she earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She is also a musician and animal lover.