Crosby, Gass, Shafer and Washer: For a more open religious community

In light of Christopher Yuan’s talk on Friday at an event sponsored by several campus Christian groups, we come forward as Christians first and foremost to repent. We repent for the silence and outright homophobia and transphobia from many organizations and individuals within our tradition, including those at Yale. We recognize that responses to gender and sexuality issues within the Christian tradition that deny the full dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) persons, no matter how well-intentioned, continue to cause incredible spiritual, emotional and physical harm to members of the LGBTQ community. We know that even we Christians who identify as LGBTQ or allies all too often fail to advocate vocally for the full inclusion of LGBTQ persons within our society in general and our religious communities in particular. We wish to call these sorts of responses what we believe they are: sinful, and contrary to our understanding of our faith.

We, like many other Christians on campus and worldwide, believe that LGBTQ identities are beautiful manifestations of God’s creative power, and we celebrate this diversity. Further, we believe that LGBTQ relationships are holy expressions of God’s love, a love that calls us to authenticity. We believe that the Christian community has been richly blessed by the Christian witness of LGBTQ members and leaders — and we are humbled by their integrity and awed by their Christ-like generosity, often in the face of strong adversity.

We believe in the sacredness of Scripture. It is by engaging with God’s Word that we have arrived at a theology that celebrates LGBTQ identities. Moreover, we strive to follow Jesus’ example of speaking out against social discrimination of marginalized communities. We oppose prejudice on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, class, race, religion and disability. In addition to creating faith communities as spaces of sanctuary, we believe that we are called to acts of social witness. We call upon Christians to speak up, and speak for justice. It is because of our faith — not in spite of it — that we denounce those beliefs that do not affirm the holiness and equal participation of LGBTQ individuals within our faith communities.

We celebrate the individuals at Yale, including members of the organizations that invited Mr. Yuan, who are LGBTQ and allied. We celebrate the many Christian organizations at Yale that enthusiastically welcome and affirm LGBTQ individuals. We celebrate the several large Christian denominations and many individual congregations that have rejected their history of heterosexism and transphobia to embrace the full participation of LGBTQ persons within the church. While we do not wish to label or discredit Mr. Yuan’s experiences or identity, we do wish to assert that his position on LGBTQ issues is not representative of the diversity of the Christian community at Yale, and that we firmly stand beside our friends and loved ones in the LGBTQ community — Christians and non-Christians alike.

We are hopeful that this weekend’s events, despite the very real hurt and offense which they have caused, may nevertheless spark more honest and open conversations around issues of gender and sexuality within the Christian community as we strive to affirm the full dignity of all persons. We are pleased to see that various faith-based and LGBTQ organizations have already begun plans to co-host follow-up events in which LGBTQ and allied students and those who are still questioning their identity can come together for constructive and honest dialogue. We would also be happy to continue those conversations on the intersection of faith and sexuality on an individual basis or direct you to other resources at Yale.

We would also like to acknowledge the incredibly powerful outpouring of support we have received from many members of the Yale community: from undergraduates, graduate and professional students, and alumni, from people who are religious and secular, LGBTQ and straight. We sincerely thank them for their words of encouragement and celebrate the fact that there are many on this campus, within and outside the Christian community, who are willing to struggle alongside the LGBTQ community to make Yale an open and affirming campus.

Ben Crosby is a sophomore in Pierson College and the coordinator of Bridges, an LGBTQ and ally interfaith group. Joan Gass is a junior in Morse College and the founder of Bridges. Matt Shafer is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College and a member of Christians for Social Justice at Yale. David Washer is a senior in Ezra Stiles College and a Yale Christian Fellowship student leader.

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