Queer and Christian? You Have Options.
Being queer and Christian can be difficult. Some extreme Christian groups have made it their mission to denounce gays as sinners and exclude them from involvement in the church. The Westboro Baptist Church, for one, is notorious for its anti-homosexuality stance. Its picketing activities have caused the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center to label the WBC as a hate group.
However, research shows that being involved in a religious community may be good for your mental health. A 2009 study published in The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry found that, in general, higher levels of religious involvement are associated with better coping with stress, as well as lower levels of depression, suicide, anxiety, and substance abuse. This can be especially important for LGBTQ youth, who are at an increased risk for mental health problems like suicidal ideation and self-harm. But for some queer youth, coming out means the loss of a spiritual community that had previously served as an important social support.
LGBTQ youth may long for a religious community that accepts them as they are, and there are many Christian groups that hope to help them in their search. For every Westboro Baptist Church, there is an organization like The Marin Foundation, which is known for holding signs at Chicago Pride apologizing for the church’s treatment of gays.
The Marin Foundation attempts to bridge the divide between gays and conservative Christians by encouraging dialogue between the two groups. Another example of Christian group sensitive to the needs of LGBTQ-identified individuals is the Reconciling Ministries Network, which is a part of the United Methodist Church. According to RMN’s website, it has worked for the “full inclusion of all God’s children regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity since 1982.”
There are many informal groups for people of other faith traditions as well.
Check out the links below to find a gay-affirming church in Chicago!
Resources for LGBT Youth in Chicago:
Koenig, H.G. (2009). Research on religion, spirituality, and mental health: A
Review. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 54(5), 283-291.