How to Be An Ally

17 Apr

This is LGBT Ally Week on our campus – a week in which the LGBT community celebrates, promotes, and engages straight allies who love and support them.  It is a smart thing to do, because it showcases the very important concept that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not a marginal issue that only matters to a marginal group.  On the contrary – it is something that affects us all.

One of the events this week is a panel discussion with individuals representing various segments of our community on what it means to be an ally.  As one representing faith communities, here are some of my thoughts on what it means to be an ally.

  • To be an ally is to love you – gay, straight, whatever.  I know that there are a lot of Christians who say that they love you and then turn around and find 99 kinds of fault with who you are and demand that you change.  But if that’s love, it isn’t the kind of love Jesus talked about.  As Rob Bell says, if I love you with an agenda, I’m not really loving you.  So if I am an ally, I love you as you are, period.
  • To be an ally is to include you in my ministry.  I’m not going to treat you differently because you are gay.  I’m not going to have special events for you because you are gay, but I am going to include you in all my events because you are a fellow traveler, seeker, lover of God.
  • To be an ally is, however, to especially support you in your particular struggles of being a member of an often persecuted group.  There are some people who would have you hate yourself, which is a pretty lousy thing to do to another person.  One of the greatest blessings of being a part of a Christian community is to be able to embody the spirit and the love of God.  As an ally, I can help you to see yourself as God sees you – a beloved child.
  • To be an ally is to be a voice from the church which does not condemn you.  There are quite a few voices that claim to speak for the whole church in saying that you are wrong…just wrong.  They mislead some people to think that all Christians are anti-gay, and that is simply not true.  There are many of us who believe that our God, and the scriptures that are the foundation of our faith, make room for us to see things in a new way.  Where we once may have thought that LGBT folks were somehow more sinful than the rest of us, we can now see things differently.  Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke about “tough-mindedness,” which seeks the whole truth before judging.  The church needs tough-mindedness to recognize that God is continually inviting us to live more completely and fully into God’s image, which is love.
  • So, to be an ally is to sometimes try to be a corrective.  When we hear others saying, “The Bible is clearly opposed to homosexuality,” when we hear others saying, “The Christian believes that homosexuality is a sin,” I have to present an alternative view.  The Bible isn’t really clear on all that much, to tell the truth, but it is clear on love.
    So, we’re right back to the beginning – love.

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Maggie Gillespie is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and is in her fifth year as Director of Protestant Campus Ministry (PCM) at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.  She has lived in Bloomsburg for 18 years with her husband, Kim, and their four children.  Her favorite pastimes include reading on the front porch, hanging out in the kitchen with family and friends, and screaming her head off at high school soccer games.  Maggie holds a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin, a Master of Divinity from Lancaster Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Illinois.

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One Response to “How to Be An Ally”

  1. Steven Tramel Gaines April 17, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    Thanks for this reminder to love. We need to hear it more.

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