Many times, in the struggle for marriage equality, a terribly misguided frame is invoked. On one side are people of faith and on the other are LGBT people and their loved ones. This misconception harms both the LGBT community, as well as people of faith. Thankfully, that mistaken frame is slowly being dismantled, as faith leaders speak out more in support of LGBT people.
Take, for example, the opinion piece in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, authored by the Rev. Herbert Chilstrom, the first Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Bishop Chilstrom speaks directly to his counterparts, the Roman Catholic bishops in Minnesota. Despite being from very different Christian denominations, for many years, Lutheran and Catholic bishops have enjoyed a good working relationship. In fact, a few months ago, the Star Tribune did a story on the annual retreat that the bishops take together, in order to dialogue about their respective ministries.
It is from this position that Bishop Chilstrom speaks. Addressing his peers in his opinion piece, Chilstrom reminds the Roman Catholic bishops that they have been champions of human rights for American citizens in the past, and calls on them to pause and reflect on their position regarding marriage equality for the people of Minnesota.
Then, Chilstrom advises his fellow bishops to follow the same path that he has prayerfully and intentionally taken. He challenges the Roman Catholic Bishops to spend 2 hours with at least 15 different gay or lesbian people. In his own words, “Thirty hours are a pittance compared to the time you are investing to promote adoption of the marriage amendment. Use the time, not for confession, but to listen to them describe what it is like to live in our culture in Minnesota.” Chilstrom’s challenge is both spiritual and practical, unifying Minnesotans to support all families.
One can hear from Bishop Chilstrom’s other speeches and writings that he has gone through his own personal conversion experience, mostly due to intentional relationship-building with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. He calls on the Roman Catholic bishops to listen and learn, so they can better meet the spiritual needs of all Minnesotans. GLAAD gives thanks for witnesses like Bishop Chilstrom, and challenges other faith leaders to step out as well.