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Being Church in the Lesbian and Gay Community

While many of us feel unwelcome in traditional parish communities, we do not pursue our Christian vocations alone. There are smaller communities of men and women who, united in Christian faith and worship, choose to be accountable to the Almighty together and consequently to each other. Together, as a People of God, we need to minister to one another and to pursue the ethics of our sexual expression, emerging as men and women strengthened in our faith, our commitment, and our love.

Dignity and the communities like us have been sources of faith and strength. They have made it possible for us to come together as gay and lesbian Christians and to realize that we are linked with believing brothers and sisters of all times and places. Together we discuss basic issues of faith and sexuality with our friends. We listen together to what God is saying. Together we minister to the sick, the needy, the lonely, the alienated, and to one another. We play together, cry together, pray together, and work together.

The Dignity community and others like us are experiences of being Church. Although generally organized on the foundation of shared sexual identity, these communities go beyond that single issue. They are a source of peace, healing, and reconciliation, signs of the Spirit's presence. They enable us to rediscover our own worth and to minister to one another and to the world. In them we have a grassroots experience of Church where we are able to realize and to express our responsibility to and for one another. We can together be agents, like Jesus, through whom the Spirit continues to bring good news to the poor and to set captives free (see Luke 4:17–21).

This is an experience of Church as a community of disciples where traditional barriers are taken down, where all are welcome and able to contribute. Our communities must provide this experience of living, liberating, and reconciling Church where Christians come together as equals, knowing that they are disciples of Christ. As Dignity we accept responsibility for one another and for Christ's work of justice and unity in the world. Together we strive to discern God's will and God's presence in the lives of all.

We acknowledge our deep human need for symbols and rituals and we celebrate the sacramental dimension of our lives in communal worship. We welcome new members into our community, including baptizing our natural and adoptive children. We continue to break bread in the name of Jesus. We forgive and seek forgiveness. We celebrate God's call to service through affirmation of those who are called to minister among us. We bless and console those who bless and console us as they face illness and death.

We need the affirmation and validation of a loving community when we make commitments to one another as couples. Through ritual, as witness to our unions, our community becomes a presence of grace and symbol of God's blessing. We commit ourselves to support each other in the continued celebration of our love. We also need to recognize and celebrate the choice of a single life style and to ritualize other significant moments of our lives. In our tradition, for example, loss and separation and break-up are rarely acknowledged and celebrated in rituals other than funeral and memorial services. Yet these are probably the moments when we most need the consolation that a loving gathering can provide.