By Jan Shannon
I agreed to be a panelist for this month’s Coffee Talk, because I have some history with rule breaking in church settings. Panelists usually write an article on the topic prior to the Saturday Coffee Talk, but I simply don’t have time. I’m too busy planning the 2nd Annual OutSpokane Interfaith Pride Worship Service. The rules that many different faith traditions have used to bar the LGBTQ+ community from membership, the trauma that the Christian church especially has caused, and the pain and suffering that people who call themselves followers of a loving God have heaped on queer folks, keeps me too busy to waste time writing about it. So let me just lay it out here for you – if the rule is more important than the people, IT’S A BAD RULE!
I used to be a minister in a conservative denomination, but because of their rules, I was kicked out. I hadn’t committed a crime, hadn’t hurt anyone, and wasn’t even given the benefit of a trial by my peers. I was simply told, over the phone, “You’ll never work in this denomination again.” And that was it. I was out. I used to be the Reverend Jan Anderson (married name) but because of a rule, an unwritten rule at that, I was stripped of my ministerial license and told to never step foot in that church again. I am not exaggerating; they actually said that. It took me six years to overcome the trauma I experienced enough to begin the process of becoming a minister again.
You see, sometimes the rules that churches set up end up causing people to leave the faith, or at least leave the fellowship they should experience in church. Some queer folk are able to see that it is only the people that hurt them – not God, but it takes time. Years. And those are painful, tear-full years. The Interfaith Pride service is my attempt, along with other affirming clergy in Spokane, to bring healing to those church-inflicted wounds and provide a way back to faith for LGBTQ+ folks who have been chased out of rule-making churches.
I don’t have time for this – I have work to do…but one last thing…that church, that denomination that threw me out? They are voting this summer on whether to rewrite that rule! Denominations across the Christian church are in conversation about the rules regarding LGBTQ+ folks, and many denominations, and some non-denominational evangelical churches, are now fully affirming of us queer folk.
You see, rules are made by humans, and humans change their minds about the will and nature of God. Theology, and the rules we fallible humans make to try and live out our faith in that God, have never been static. Never. [Reference: The Book of Acts] So, the church that tossed me out, causing me years of pain and grief, is beginning the process changing the d*mn rule that got me chased out! Take some time to think about that. I’ll wait. Actually, no I won’t. I have too much to do.
Note: If you are a person of faith, or who used to be a person of faith, that got chased out of a gay-bashing, trans-hating church, please join me and 12 other affirming clergy from across the faith spectrum at the Interfaith Pride service. I promise…you will be loved and accepted there and in our houses of faith JUST AS YOU ARE!
Coffee Talk will be at 10 a.m. June 3. The topic is “Faith and Rules” and the discussion will be held at Saranac Commons, 19 W Main Ave. Shannon is a panelist.
Jan Shannon is a full-time seminary student at Iliff School of Theology, a wife, mom, granny, and gay Christian.