First of all, let me apologize to those reading this who have followed me here for a while now. When I originally started this site, I swore to myself I’d never use it to become involved in political events or to advance any political cause whatsoever. It’s just too easy for such efforts to devolve into hate, which does nothing more than hurt those involved with it. That being said, given what happened this past weekend and what has been on my heart since then, this platform seems to me the perfect place for what follows.
An Open Letter to the LGBTQ Community
My name is Mike Shewfelt. I am pastor with the South Carolina Baptist Convention, and I would like to talk. Before you get tempted to write me off as just another stereotypical conservative, let me state that I am originally from Canada, and for what it’s worth, I have shoulder-length hair that is both permed and colour treated and which I had put in a French braid yesterday (which I’m loving every minute of). That’s not to say that we necessarily have anything in common, but simply that I am not your typical Southern minister.
What I want to say, first of all, is that I’m sorry. I’m sorry not only for what happened in Orlando this past Sunday, but also for the way we Christians have, as a whole, treated you in the past in general and in recent months in particular. When I read of outpourings of love and prayers for you all following the tragic shooting, more than anything they pissed me off. Not that they are not genuine or called for in such circumstances, but rather that they do nothing to take away from the reality that our attitude towards you has, as a whole, not been very loving. We’ve condemned you. We’ve ignored you. We’ve stated that what makes you who you are is nothing more than a mental illness. What really pisses me off is that it took an event of this nature and scope to get us past all of that to actually show you love and support. We should have done so a long time ago, and we didn’t.
As the Bible tells us, when Jesus was here on earth He loved the unlovable. There was no one who could out love Him, and it didn’t matter who the recipient of that love was. Some of the people He loved the most were the outcasts and misfits of society, and without being too blunt, that is how we should have been towards you. (I speak for myself here as much as for any of the rest of us. There are very few gay, lesbian, etc., individuals in my life, let alone any who I have made the effort to have a relationship with.) Again, I can only say I’m sorry.
I believe we can do better in the future, however, and as part of that belief I have a proposal for you. I want to talk, as I said, but more importantly I want to listen. I want to hear from you. I want to hear your stories, your frustrations, your anger. All of it. What makes you who you are? How do you see the world? How do you see us as Christians? How has the Church helped you? How have we failed you? I want to know. I want to understand. And please, don’t hold back. I promise to be honest, and I would hope you will be the same. (Edited to add an aside for my Christian friends here, because when one lives in the South apparently even reaching out to the LGBT community can be misconstrued in many different ways: I am not seeking to join the LGBT community. Any good conversation starts with respectful listening, and that is all I am trying to do here.)
I promise not to judge. I know that may seem an empty promise coming from one who calls myself a Christian, but if you knew me, knew the person I am and the things I’ve been through, you’d know that I am the last one to judge anyone. If you still doubt my word, read other of my writings here on this site. You’ll see that I don’t judge or condemn. Mainly, I just try to encourage. So, again, here’s my promise to you: I won’t judge. I won’t condemn. What I will do is keep an open mind and treat your views with dignity and respect. All I would ask from you is that you try to do the same.
Feel free to use the comments section below. I do have a full-time job in addition to being a minister, so it may be a day or two before I can reply, but I will do my best not to keep you waiting.
Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.