Dear World Vision,
As you’ve recently (sort of) experienced, coming out isn’t easy.
It takes courage. It is a risk that can open you up to ridicule and public shaming. It is certain to result in some people disagreeing with you, saying that you made a mistake in your choice of lifestyle, and even saying you are not really Christian.
These people could be your family, your friends — even people you thought might support you. This can happen even if you faithfully and prayerfully make the decision with the intention of creating more unity and less divisiveness in your world.
It can happen even if you’re “just an ally,” someone who doesn’t identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, but who believes in equal rights for folks who do.
Imagine what it’s like for people who are gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender to come out to their family. Their friends. Their employers. It’s unsafe, World Vision, as you discovered.
But sometimes people do it anyway, because it is true and right and they are tired of hiding and pretending to be someone they aren’t just because society doesn’t always embrace diversity.
And unlike you, it is not very feasible for actual, individual people to “undo” a coming out.
No wonder so many people still live in secret fear of publicly embracing who they truly are.
I’m disappointed, though. You see, our faith invites us to stand with people who are marginalized in our society — something a Jewish carpenter’s son did more than 2,000 years ago.
Jesus stood with the marginalized in his society over and over and over again. It got him more than ridicule; it got him crucified.
The prevalent religious leaders of his time loudly decried his audacity to defy their authority.
It’s possible, World Vision, to be a person of faith, a community of faith, even a faithful denomination, and embrace diversity as wholesome and good.
It’s possible, World Vision, to live and work in a spirit of love, and not fear.
It’s possible, even, for people to think for themselves and decide that continuing to sponsor a starving child across the world might be more important than religious politics.
I’m sorry this happened to you. But I’m sorrier you didn’t stick up for what you said you prayerfully considered for a year before publicly declaring. I’m sorry this divisiveness in our faith is affecting people in the world who are just trying to survive each day.
I pray for you and your leaders to have the strength to choose love and acceptance over exclusion and fear.
Amy Johnson, MSW, is a trainer, educator and coach in the Pacific Northwest. She is co-author of the books, “Parenting by Strengths: A Parent’s Guide for Challenging Situations” and “Homegrown Faith and Justice.” Amy facilitates classes and workshops in the Puget Sound area and online. She specializes in working with parents and in sexuality education. Amy can be reached at email@example.com.