by Miller, 2023-2024 LCM Fellow

October is LGBTQ+ history month. October 11 is National Coming Out Day. National Coming Out Day is an annual day that spreads awareness of people “coming out of the closet.” It gives visibility to the lgbtq+ community, whether people are “out” or not. This month and this particular day might not seem like it has much significance, especially in the church setting, but to many, it does. To some members of the lgbtq+ community, the topic of church is hard for them to approach, let alone talk about. Lgbtq+ people have often been marginalized and to an extent, oppressed in the church setting. They have been told time and time again that they are sinners, they don’t deserve to be loved, they aren’t worthy of love, or worse–that God hates them, and they will be sent to hell because of who they are. We often don’t talk about this subject in church, but we should. Every church is made up of different people, and it’s important that we recognize and respect that. In Confirmation, I was taught that the greatest commandment is “love thy neighbor as thyself.” These days, it seems that more and more Christians forget about this. In a society that has become increasingly more divided, lgbtq+ people have continued to become targets of hate crimes, hate speech, oppressive legislation, and even targets in church. Some people use the Bible and God’s word to justify their hatred and bigotry, but that was never the way it was intended to be used. God loves all his people–that’s what we are taught as Lutherans. It doesn’t matter your identity or orientation, you are loved by God.

Here at LCM, we are always reminded of this fact. Put onto cards and stickers, in different places inside the building, and even on the outside of our windows is the phrase “You Belong.” And this phrase is true. Everyone belongs in the church. As someone who identifies within the lgbtq+ community, sometimes it’s hard for me to remember that God and Jesus love me for who I am when I constantly see and hear messaging that says otherwise. But, every time I walk into LCM, I’m reminded of the fact that this is a safe, welcoming and inclusive space for everyone. Here at LCM, we believe and live out the phrase “you belong.” This is what everyone should be doing. Just by simply including everyone, you are loving your neighbor as yourself. We love everyone just as they are, period. We welcome everyone who comes into our space. Regardless of how they use the space–whether it’s for studying, grabbing some coffee and perhaps a snack, or just simply taking a break and rest during their day, we love and accept every person who walks through our doors. When I came out to the Campus Pastor and fellow leaders and interns here at LCM, nothing changed. They still loved me for who I am, and my coming out didn’t change the way they saw me. As Christians, we need to embody this.

We also always need to keep this month and October 11 in the back of our minds. Doing so allows us to recognize that lgbtq+ people are still not treated equally, even in the church, and think of ways that we can include lgbtq+ people. Simple messaging like “you belong,” a pride flag or symbol, or the phrase “all are welcome here” signifies that a congregation, church, or student center like Lutheran Campus Ministry accepts and loves everyone. This has become more and more important in today’s world. LCM is a beacon of hope, love, and inclusivity for the future because of the work we do here. Inclusivity is love because when you include everyone, no matter who they are, you send the message that they are loved for exactly who they are. And that is what we need more of in this world.