Navigating the politics of the local church can be very difficult and vary from church to church, person to person, parent to parent. It can be very tricky to be an Ally, and want to show your support for LGBTQ people, but don’t want to find yourself in hot water, or asked to resign. Be aware of your surroundings and situations, and know that not every church or person is ready to be a Nazarene Ally of the LGBTQ people in their community. Know this as well, you are not alone as an ally! Taking the first step, of showing your support for the LGBTQ people in your life is a difficult one. In a sense, Nazarene Allies, have to “come out of the closet” as well.
It takes all types of conversations with all types of people to help end the stigma of dealing with sexual orientation and gender identity issues within the context of the local Nazarene Church.
Be aware that your youth group has at least one self identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. There are many ways to show your support to your LGBTQ teens, while upholding a Biblical view of sexuality. There no way to “spot” a closeted LGBTQ teen in your youth group, you can listen. Sexual orientation and gender identify develop differently for everyone. Stereotypically male characteristics does not mean the teen is a straight male, or identifies as a male. It simply means this person has attributes similar to the cultural has ascribed as being a male. Assumptions get people into trouble.
The process of coming out is different for everyone. Training is available for those who would like to know more about what to say (and what not to say) when a student comes out. Remember your conversation with the student falls under pastoral privilege and should remain confidential. (Because of the negative atmosphere in the Church of the Nazarene surrounding LGBT issues, there might also be a confession of suicidal thoughts or self harming. These must be reported, but you can do so without revealing why. The “why” is for the student to disclose. Your job is to get them to a safe place.)
If you over hear of a student coming-out to another student wait for that student to come to you. Coming-out is process. Don’t assume the parents know. Many students tell their friends first and wait longer to tell their family members, parents, or youth pastors. Or may tell school friends before telling church friends.
Always speak in a way that shows your support, even if in general terms. Have conversations with your Youth Workers about appropriate joking. Ask them to listen for inappropriate joking or defamatory slurs. (This is something that should be done anyway regardless of a youth pastor’s stance on LGBT issues.) Asking Youth Workers and youth group teens to refrain from using anti-gay slang phrases is a subtle way to show your support. Safe speech creates safe community.
Sunday School & Small Groups
Sunday School classes and Small Groups are great ways to get the conversation going about LGBT issues. Watching a film or going through one of the many devotionals and study guides about becoming an affirming Church can help with this process. Discussing current events can get the ball rolling.
Kansas native and Harvard student, Matthew Vines, lays out the case for proof-texting the Bible on LGBT issue. His hour long video takes all the passages related to sex and does exegetical work (examines the origins) of them to show how translation, and mis-translation and 20th Century interpretation led the Church to form an anti-gay stance.
Nazarene Ally wants to see a world free of HIV/AIDS. For the last few years the theme of “World AIDS Day”, celebrated every December 1st, has been “Getting to Zero.” Here was some of the ways the Church of the Nazarene is helping with the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. Speaking openly and frankly about sexually transmitted diseases and infections help to break the stigma within the Church about them. Education about HIV/AIDS and other STDs, will help students, and young adults get infections rates to zero.
The Swaziland Partnership:
Bethany First Church of the Nazarene has invested time and resources to help fix the “Santa Clause” approach to helping overseas churches and hospitals by creating a partnership to assist churches and clinics, rather than “write a blank check.” See how they are doing, and ways you can get involved here: