You may be wondering: Why does The Reformation Project include a focus on racial justice in our work to advance LGBTQ inclusion in the church?
For some of our supporters, including a focus on racial justice in our programming makes intuitive sense. Others have said that while they think racial justice is an important cause, they don’t think it’s something an LGBTQ Christian organization should address. Changing hearts and minds in the church about sexual orientation and gender identity lies at the heart of our work, but we believe that including a focus on racial justice within that work is necessary for us to truly realize our vision.
Why? The Reformation Project’s vision is of a global church that is fully affirming of LGBTQ people. The global church is made of up of believers of every nationality, ethnicity, and race, and as Revelation 7 tells us, that racial diversity will be part of God’s kingdom in the new creation. But tragically, that vision of racial diversity and harmony has been far from the reality of the church’s history, and deep inequities persist between communities of color and white communities in terms of equal access to education, employment, economic opportunity, and fair treatment in society at large. Here’s why that affects our work:
- One-third of LGBTQ people in the United States alone are people of color.
- In light of the terrible histories of racism -- which continue in many forms up to the present -- in predominantly white Christian communities, many LGBTQ people of color feel a double sense of exclusion. They feel excluded from an equal place at the table both because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and because of their race.
- As a result, if we don’t equip our leaders in predominantly white churches with basic tools to address structural issues of racism in their communities, then we won’t be setting them up to achieve the full inclusion of all LGBTQ people in their churches.
- Creating an equal place at the table for white LGBTQ people is not enough. We must create an equal place for LGBTQ people of color as well, and that requires us to include a focus on racial justice in our work.
Focusing on the multiple layers of exclusion that many marginalized people face is often described as intersectionality. That term was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw, and it refers to the fact that different forms of marginalization often overlap -- or intersect -- in people’s lives, especially in the lives of people of color. We invite you to join us in learning more about the interlocking nature of racial justice and LGBTQ inclusion and to partner with us to realize our vision of a global church that is fully LGBTQ-affirming.
Although some Christians see the intersectional relationship between racial justice and LGBTQ inclusion as intuitive, for others the connection is a bit more challenging to see if not entirely contested. One reason the connection might be difficult to make is the erroneous notions many have about racial justice groups and LGBTQ communities at large. Historically, some have asserted that LGBTQ identity, politics, and especially the pursuit to reform the Christian Church’s teaching on sexual orientation and gender identity are exclusively ideas by and for white people. Conversely the idea that communities of color are disproportionately homophobic has also been perpetuated by others who are not a part of those groups. Naturally, these myths harm all the communities involved and specifically individuals who identify as both LGBTQ and as a person of color.
All LGBTQ Christians have experienced some degree of stigma and marginalization in their lives due to sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, so they know from personal experience how painful that can be. But sadly, within the LGBTQ Christian community itself, many parallel forms of marginalization exist, based on race, ethnicity, ability, class, gender, and gender identity. It is all too common for LGBTQ advocacy to focus primarily, if not exclusively, on the needs of white, cisgender gay men, while leaving queer people of color, women, bisexual, transgender, and gender nonconforming people behind. We are increasingly concerned that if we aren't extending a platform to the voices of LGBTQ people of color, LGB women, as well as transgender and gender non-conforming people, then we are doing them a disservice and may be missing the point of what it means to live out the call to “do justice” all together.
We should rejoice in the momentum surrounding shifts in attitudes and perceptions toward LGBTQ people within various Christian contexts, but when the only voices we are hearing from on this are the ones we have always heard from, we miss out on so much that can enrich us and build up the body of Christ, we forsake the gospel imperative to build life and community with all of those who have been marginalized, we fail to steward the influence God has granted us, and ultimately we narrow our picture and understanding of God all together. As an organization, we are committed to challenging that status quo of hierarchy and marginalization by taking an intersectional approach to our training and advocacy—focusing on the unique experiences and challenges faced by those who have overlapping, or interlocking, marginalized identities. (See this article by Kimberlé Crenshaw for a basic introduction to the concept of intersectionality.) As a result, we dedicate significant time and energy within our organization to learning about issues of racial justice in particular, with the goal of ensuring that our LGBTQ advocacy truly advocates for all LGBTQ people, including queer people of color.
Amplifying the voices of marginalized people within the LGBTQ Christian community is one of the top priorities for The Reformation Project, and while we all have a long way to go, we are thrilled to have an opportunity to weave together the wide range of experiences we have all faced and determine how we can best work together to see God’s glory reflected in diversity.