This Friday 17th May is IDAHOBIT: the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia. On this day, people all around the world will unite to express their pride in being LGBTI+, or to express their solidarity with those who are LGBTI+. In our region, little pixies have adorned local street art with rainbow scarves; and on Friday 17 May at 5.45pm the city of Warrnambool will raise the rainbow flag outside the council offices. This will be followed by a free public function at the WAG, and I am told there might be ‘gake’ (gay (rainbow) cake). Anyone who would like to show their pride and/or solidarity is welcome, and I’ll be there, wearing my dorky rainbow Christian fish badge.
So this is a great week to remind people that, as a congregation, we include LGBTI+ people. We are followers of Jesus who have observed that homosexuality is never condemned in and of itself in the New Testament. The only sexual activity which is criticised is that which is exploitative and faithless. Jesus himself, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, never once mentioned it, and the early church included many people who had formerly been treated as religious outsiders, including people who were gender diverse. If you would like to read further, our congregational statement on LGBTI+ people and the church is here, and includes links to a series of related reflections.
It is a terrible tragedy that the public face of Christianity is, for the most part, fiercely and implacably homo-, bi- and transphobic; and that people who call themselves Christian continue to judge, exclude and persecute LGBTI+ people. Jesus Christ is the Great Reconciler, who came not to condemn, but to save. Through him, as individuals we are called to transcend human boundaries, reaching out beyond any and every identity marker as we learn to know and love, and be known and loved by, those who are considered ‘different’ due to age, race, class, culture, economic situation, sexuality, gender and so on. And as churches, we are called to form communities of extreme diversity, becoming witnesses that followers of Jesus unite with and love not just people like themselves (“even the pagans do that!” Matt. 5:43-47), but those whom people of their milieu, class and culture typically shun.
This week, then, I encourage you to join me at the IDAHOBIT rainbow flag-raising (5.45pm Friday 17th May outside the council offices), or to reach beyond your comfort zone in some other way to a person whom society deems ‘different’ to you, but who might be surprised, relieved, even delighted to discover that followers of Jesus are friends with all sorts of people, particularly those who are often mocked, misrepresented, scapegoated or shunned by the wider society.
And who knows? In reaching out, you might receive a lovely slice of ‘gake’ … or even, perhaps, a new and lasting friendship.