Hearing From Those We’ve Hurt

by | Feb 10, 2021

I would like to apologize for the hurt caused in inviting Max Lucado to preach at Washington National Cathedral, and for not heeding the appeals that came to Dean Hollerith and me prior to Sunday, February 7 asking us to reconsider. I didn’t take the time to truly listen to your concerns. In a desire to welcome a wide variety of Christian voices to the Cathedral pulpit and on the assumption that Max Lucado no longer believed the painful things he said in 2004, I made you feel at risk and unwelcome in your spiritual home. I am sorry.  

In the days since, I have heard from those who were not only wounded by things Max Lucado has said and taught, but equally wounded by the decision to welcome him into the Cathedral’s pulpit. I didn’t realize how deep those wounds were and how unsafe the world can feel. I should have known better.

More than apology, we seek to make amends. As a beginning, we invite all who wish to speak of their experiences in the church as LGBTQ+ persons and their allies to join Dean Hollerith and me for a listening session on Sunday, February 21 at 7:00 p.m. EST. Register for the discussion   

I share, with permission, excerpts from some of the people who wrote to me this week. Their voices are the ones we did not listen to, and theirs the pain endured by our actions. I am listening now, and so is Dean Hollerith.  

** As a gay man of faith who grew up in the south, my parents were heavily influenced by Mr. Lucado’s words of hate. It took years for me to work with them to overcome rehetoric such as from Mr. Lucado and for them to find the Grace to accept that I am not only a gay man, but a gay Christian. This was a painful process for us both, and while certainly Mr. Lucado is not solely responsible for the unfortunate homophobia that exists within many denominations of Christianity, he has certainly had a harmful impact on the LGBTQ+ rights movement within Christian circles and has actively contributed to a culture of hatred and exclusion within Christianity. **

** As the mother of a transgender child, I am sad and confused about the choice to invite him. . . Sadly my child does not feel that we have “won.” As a transfeminine person, gay marriage is no real victory as they worry if they will even make it past 30 living in the identity that they do. Every day is a battle to be in the world – a world that fears people like my child and very often extinguishes them. **  

** In truth, I still had to force myself to listen to Lucado’s message. Though he had some insightful things to say, having lived in the South for 59 years, I could feel the underlying condemnation that Lucado and his followers have cast upon the LGBT people, but also anyone who does not buy into their dogma. Because of this type of message, I am estranged from my family because after 50 years I finally tired of my mother and sister’s condemnation of me for my lifestyle. The irony of it all is that I have spent my entire life in service to G-d and the church. **

** This morning in my quiet time, I was pondering why the events of this past weekend were so upsetting and why I am still so shaken. I know analogies don’t always land but my stunning and brilliant wife suggested this one: You’re at a family dinner and the man who abused you is there. He has never confessed or tried to heal things. Your mother knows of the abuse, invites him anyway, and suggests (again) that it’s important for you not to bring up the abuse and to be polite because he is family. This is not the first time she has invited those who hurt members of the family in this way. And each time those who have borne the brunt of the abuse are expected to be silent — and even expected to eagerly learn from them. And this time it’s not just a regular dinner, it’s a special Sunday dinner. He’s given the place of honor at the head of the table and expected to ask God’s blessing. **

** My husband  and I were saddened by the invitation extended to Max Lucado to preach from the Canterbury pulpit. It leaves us feeling shaken and unsure. The decision to invite Bishop Gene Robinson to preside on Sunday felt like a strange appeasement. . . Marriage equality is not the only issue for the LGBTQ community and our families. Trans people are murdered every day on our streets and young people who identify as LGBTQ end their own lives in terrifying numbers. We are left feeling hurt and disregarded. The Cathedral ploughed right ahead to provide a platform to Rev. Lucado, even though it must have been apparent the hurt this was causing. As a gay couple in our 50’s, we have always been aware that our society often feels it can debate our right to happiness, or even whether we can be full participants in the church. **

** Certainly you must know the deep harm caused by the conversion therapies Max Lucado supports, and that conversion therapies have been rejected as “dangerous and discredited” by the American Psychiatric Association. You must know the alarming suicide rates among LGBTQ teens who have been subjected to the unholy torture of conversion therapy. If you have never had the experience of pastoring a family through the suicide of their teen, I do not wish that on you. If you have, you understand what it means that 40% of LGBTQ teens say they have seriously considered suicide. To hear you say we must “find common ground” and step out of our “echo chambers” made me weep. **

** Living in San Antonio for 15 years, we got the full experience of evangelical Christianity and the types of people who fund Rev. Lucado’s church, which wasn’t far from our first home there. I’ve been denied hospital chaplain positions, had to hide my spouse’s identity when I worked as a private school chaplain, been yelled at by parents as I protected our LGBTQIA students’ right to have a special interest group as part of our overall club structure, etc. Had my elderly parents not needed me, I would still be living in the UK where I had more civil rights than I do in my home state in a country whose uniform I wore proudly for 22 years, albeit in the closet. No, we don’t know how this ends. **

** Part of my ministry in the world is as a church finder for wounded seekers who want to return to a safe Christian community. Some are gay people recovering from being kicked out of their churches or from years of hearing that they are less than from pastors like Max Lucado. Some are women recovering from harsh fundamentalist traditions. Max Lucado is a person who has no doubt inflicted this kind of harm on LGBTQ+ Christians and likely, women, as well. I am also writing as the mother of a transgender queer child who has grown up in the Episcopal Church, worshiped in person and online at the National Cathedral, and who has found loving acceptance in her home church. To see the Cathedral celebrating this preacher is hurtful. **

** If you are not hearing and seeing the LGBTQIA+ Episcopalians and allies who are saying, “I’m not sure I’m safe, I’m not sure I belong, I’m not sure I can trust the leadership of this denomination, I’m not sure I should keep sharing my gifts in this institution…”, then perhaps you need to do some prayerful looking and listening. I have been seeing words like that everywhere I look, over the past few days. . . And it doesn’t help at all to tell people, “This is just the National Cathedral, it doesn’t say anything about our parish/diocese.” What people see and hear is that Episcopal church leaders claim to have their backs, but do things that hurt them, and then don’t listen when they speak up. That tarnishes all of us. It damages our witness and ministry churchwide. **

** If the invited preacher were a known white supremacist would the Cathedral make the same accommodations for him? Isn’t racial equality an undebatable subject? Wouldn’t the harm to people of color be immediately spotted given history and the church’s history? I would say it is comparable for LGBT people, the cost. **

** Inviting Mr Lucado to preach at your pulpit was irresponsible. He does not share our view of Christ’s Love. He puts people in the category of “other.” He represents a tradition of white men in power who diminish women, gays, black and brown people, and anyone who resists their power. . . He represents a throughline to those who have used God’s name to demean me — because I am adopted from an unwed mother, because I am a survivor of sexual assault, because I am gay. With one action, you turned what I have valued as a safe space every Sunday since the start of the pandemic to one which — at least for one Sunday — was unsafe. **

** I would be remiss not to call this out — “THIS IS US!”. . . These actions are not one-offs, and involve all marginalized groups. These actions are a manifestation of the ugliness that’s in “us” within the Episcopal Church — TEC and across dioceses, including EDOW. I implore you to openly acknowledge this reality in the Episcopal Church — the work of striving for justice and peace is as important inside the Episcopal Church as it is in the world outside of our corporate body. **

Reading your words has broken my heart, and I will carry them going forward. Thanks to all who have written or posted about your thoughts, feelings, and lived experiences. Your courage in speaking out should not have been necessary. Again, I am sorry for the pain we inflicted.  

Once more, I invite all who wish to speak of their experiences in the church as LGBTQ+ persons and their allies to join Dean Hollerith and me on Sunday, February 21 at 7:00 p.m. EST. Register for the discussion

In addition, I invite you to read a message from Dean Hollerith

May God order our steps going forward.

Bishop Mariann