A Message from Bishop Mariann and Dean Hollerith on the Inclusion & Affirmation of LGBTQ+ Persons in the Life of the Church

by | Mar 29, 2021

Friends, 

On February 21, hundreds gathered to learn more about our decision to invite Pastor Max Lucado to preach at Washington National Cathedral and to express their concerns, anger, and pain. We are grateful for all who were present, all who wrote in advance to share their experiences and raise their questions, and for the many exchanges and conversations we’ve had in subsequent weeks. Again, we acknowledge, regret, and apologize for the pain we caused. We are taking intentional steps to align our practices and processes with our commitment to the welcome, inclusion and affirmation of LGBTQ+ persons in the life of our faith communities.        

The listening session was one part of what we promised would be on-going work, in the ministry of both the Diocese of Washington and the Cathedral. We understand this work to be an integral component of our commitment to equity and justice. Many have expressed their concern that we pay attention to the intersectionality between the treatment of  LGBTQ+ persons, people of color, and others who are often treated as less than the beloved children of God that they are. We hear that concern and share it. 

We’d like to take this opportunity to answer some of the pressing questions raised in the listening session, specifically as they relate to inviting guest preachers, supporting LGBTQ+ leaders, and ongoing learning opportunities.

The Cathedral’s Process for Inviting Guest Preachers

You asked us to explain the Cathedral’s process for issuing invitations to guest preachers.  Recognizing that our internal processes failed in the invitation to Max Lucado, we have carefully reviewed and taken steps to strengthen our vetting process with the explicit goal of ensuring that such an incident does not occur again.  

It is our commitment that those who are invited to be guest preachers will be leaders who:

  • have lived, taught and spoken in a manner consistent with the imperative of the Baptismal Covenant to respect the dignity of every human being;
  • represent the richness and diversity of our nation — consistent with Washington National Cathedral’s role as House of Prayer for All People;
  • have a demonstrated record of ethical leadership and teaching.
  • can bring a fresh understanding to the issues of the day as part of the Cathedral’s mission to live at the intersection of sacred and civic life.      

To identify potential preachers, the Cathedral leadership solicits ideas on an on-going basis from a variety of sources. The Cathedral always welcomes suggestions for preachers. Please send any you have to Dean Hollerith.

On a schedule defined by the Cathedral’s annual planning process, a group of the Cathedral’s clergy and lay leaders will consider potential guest preachers in the context of the above criteria. The vetting group will be intentionally diverse and will include      representatives of different races, gender identities, sexual orientation, age, and political and theological perspectives. Before an invitation is made, designated Cathedral staff will also formally vet the potential invitee, reviewing prior writings, speeches, news coverage and conducting internet and social media searches.

Raising the Voices and Presence of Our LGBTQ+ Leaders & Engaging LGBTQ+ Issues

We are committed to continuing to model inclusion in the highly visible ways permitted by the platforms of Washington National Cathedral and the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.  

We are committed to supporting the influential and gifted clergy and lay leaders within both the Cathedral and the Episcopal Diocese of Washington who identify as LGBTQ+ so that our faith communities may be places of welcome, affirmation, and belonging for all God’s people.      

We will also continue with deliberateness and intentionality our liturgical recognition of the LGBTQ+ community as essential members of our church (e.g., remembering Matthew Shepard each year on his birthday, participating in Pride Day events) and ensuring the LGBTQ+ community’s voice is heard from the pulpit throughout the year. 

And we will ensure that LGBTQ+ leaders and discussions of LGBTQ+ issues are part of the Cathedral’s public programming. As one example, we recently hosted a Lenten conversation with Anna Blaedel, Theologian-in-Residence at Enfleshed. Plans are underway for another guest preacher and public forum in the near future. 

Continuing to Listen and Learn

We also promise to continue listening to the LGBTQ+ community and to educating ourselves so that we may be more effective allies. 

This spring, the Diocese of Washington’s School for Christain Faith and Leadership will take the lead in offering and promoting LGBTQ+ cultural competency training. We will both take part in this training, as will members of the Diocesan and Cathedral staff. As part of the Diocese’s ongoing commitment to equity and justice, the training will be open to congregational leaders and groups and will become part of the School’s ongoing offerings.  All of the School’s offerings are open to persons outside the Diocese of Washington.

The Cathedral’s Alliance for LGBTQ+ plans to facilitate small group conversations to continue opportunities for story sharing and ally education. We are attempting to gauge interest in such conversations both within the Diocese of Washington and beyond. If you would like to take part in those conversations, please let us know by contacting listening@edow.org.

Finally, we are open to hearing from you as we move forward, for we know that there is much more that we can and must do. Please be in touch with us with your suggestions and concerns. As we stated at the onset of the listening conversation, this is not the end of our response, but the beginning. Please know that we are both here to receive and respond to you.

We remain deeply grateful for your willingness to engage with us. As we prepare to commemorate Holy Week and await the promise of resurrection, may you experience the power of Christ’s presence and love. 

Faithfully, 

The Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Bishop of Washington
The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral