This post was shared with the Rocky Mountain USA Mission Center on Saturday, April 8, 2023.
“God, the Eternal Creator, weeps for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world because of their unnecessary suffering. Such conditions are not God’s will. Open your ears to hear the pleading of mothers and fathers in all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children. Do not turn away from them. For in their welfare resides your welfare.“
– Doctrine & Covenants 163:4a –
Does Love Win? It Did For Community of Christ
In April 2013, delegates from around the USA gathered in the Auditorium in Independence, MO, for the USA National Conference. Our objective was to consider whether or not we would recommend changes regarding same-gender marriages and ordination for those in same-gender relationships. We spent a few days in sacred community as we listened to diverse stories and perspectives. At the conclusion of our time together, we did recommend inclusive changes. That was 10 years ago this month that those changes were recommended. As soon as the final session was over, I joined many others in going outside in front of the Auditorium to let friends and family back home know the results. While out there, I made this post on Facebook: “The Love of God is broad like beach and meadow…And so is the love of Community of Christ. This morning the Delegates to the USA National Conference voted to make a recommendation to offer full inclusion of our LGBT brothers and sisters in the USA. We joined the Community of Christ in Canada and Australia who have already made similar decisions. We voted in favor of performing marriages where legally allowed, covenant ceremonies where they aren’t, and ordination for all. This is truly a historic day. I celebrate for this moment of equality. I lift up those who have been left out for too long and invite you to come home. I also uphold and reach out to those who don’t agree with this decision. I pray we can continue together on this faith journey in love and respect. That we continue to share with and learn from each other. You are loved. All are loved.” This sentiment still rings true for me today.
After years of operating under an “interim’ policy, the policy that came as a result of the USA National Conference was updated, finalized, and released in December 2022. To read the updated policy, click here.
Does Love Win? It Did For Community of Christ… But There Is Still Work To Do
It’s important to understand that transformation doesn’t just happen with a policy change. There is deep bias within any system that has a history of marginalizing groups of people. And though we may not be comfortable admitting it, this is even true for this faith community that we love so deeply. This kind of bias doesn’t disappear just because there is some change. It takes great intention to work inward so that we can more inclusively move outward. Many congregations would still not be safe spaces for the LGBTQIA+ community. Even ones who might see themselves as loving. That is the reality for folks like me. This doesn’t mean that these congregations aren’t full of good people though. They are filled with good people and often times, well intentioned people. But again, change can be quick but transformation is a journey that takes time. And the transformation needed to let go of bias is often a long one of deconstructing and then creating something new. On Sunday, April 2, Jerry Dale of the Casper, Wyoming, Congregation preached for Beyond the Walls live from the Casper Congregation. With his permission, I would like to share part of what they shared in their sermon. Jerry proclaimed, “Harmony (www.harmony.lgbt) is providing advocacy, education, resources and statements that condemn the over 428 anti-LGBT bills before some 40 states in the United States. The LGBTQIA2S+ communities are under attack. Our most vulnerable… the transgender community needs allies to take a stand. It takes courage to be Queer in Community of Christ because we are not as welcoming and affirming as we profess. The vulnerable and marginalized need allies, allies that will stand up and be counted. Allies that are willing to be socially executed in order to raise up the most vulnerable and marginalized. If you are not being hit by the attacks on the vulnerable, you are not standing close enough to them as an ally. What would it have looked like for Jesus if his allies had been louder than the mob?” I would invite all of our congregations to go to the Harmony website referenced by Jerry and learn more about the journey to become a Welcoming & Affirming Congregation. Is this a journey your congregation might be willing to take?
I have become increasingly aware of how our youth and young adults need us to be the inclusive church that we claim to be. In this spirit, I made a video a few years back for our Community Connections worship titled, “Words Matter: An Invitation to Love and Support our LGBTQIA+ Youth”. To watch that video, click here. To watch “Tony” by Sugarland, the song referenced in the my video, click here.
To our Allies and those who identify as LGBTQIA+, you are invited to consider becoming members of Harmony. To do so, click here.
Does Love Win? It Has For Me
Those of you who were at the Annual Estes Park Gathering this past Fall have heard my story. Others of you have likely heard it in other spaces or read it on social media. While others may be reading this for the first time. I went to 2013 National Conference with a secret. A secret I had held close to me since coming to a confusing realization at the age of 10 in the 5th grade. You see, in 2013, I was closeted full-time church minister serving in Youth Camping Ministries for the Greater Pacific Northwest USA Mission Center. I wasn’t sure how others would respond, especially parents, and quite honestly, I wasn’t fully aware yet of just who I was. I went into National Conference unsure of what my relationship would be with Community of Christ if the outcome went in a different direction. In March 2016, I came to a fuller understanding of who I was while watching a TV Show. “That’s me! That’s what I am! This is the answer I’ve been searching for.,” I thought. The show was “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and one of the characters had came out as bisexual. Later that year, I too came out publicly as bisexual. I needed people to see and know the real me. I was nervous. Very nervous. Again, I was afraid of how some would respond given my role asa Youth Minister. After coming out, one of the parents I was concerned about reached out to me. His response: “Sean, there is no place for hate in the church. We love you.”. *deep sign of relief* Though, it certainly hasn’t always been easy, and I continue to process the trauma of keeping who I was a secret for so long, I am grateful for a supportive, inclusive space to be who I am. I am now very much an “out” advocate for me and people like me in Community of Christ and beyond. That’s why it’s important for me to share this with you now. As your Mission Center President, I want to make sure that as we continue to enter into relationship with one another, that you know the real me. For I do not hide who I am but I will admit, whenever I’m in a new space, I never know how I will be treated because of who I am. It is for this reason that I have considered sharing this message with you all for over a month now but because it is so personal, I kept putting it off.
I am a son. I am a friend. I am a minister. I am a Swiftie. I am a bisexual male. I am Sean Michael Langdon. But most of all, I am a child of God.
Does Love Win? Yes But The LGBTQIA+ Community Needs Us To Help Make It A Reality
Now to why this has been deeply on my heart again lately. The LGBTQIA+ Community is no stranger to attacks from political and religious institutions but in the past year, those who seek to promote harmful rhetoric and policies to these beloved children of God seem to be increasing again. In many places we are hearing news of enacted or proposed legislation that is harmful to those marginalized for living their authentic truth, especially our transgender and non-binary siblings. So what is a church with an inclusive policy that declares the “Worth of all Persons” to do in times like this? On March 7, Harmony released a statement that shared 10 things you could do in response. To read that statement, click here. In their message this past Sunday, Jerry also shared that Apostle Art Smith hosted a “Teach In” in the Lower Auditorium in Independence, MO. The purpose of this “Teach In” was to“help educate and fight against the biased and discriminatory laws before the legislature of the State of Missouri.” This is a great example of something that we can do to help move the conversation forward.
Does Love Win? Simply, Yes.
So here we are. It’s Holy Saturday. The crowds have already shouted “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” and Jesus was hung on a cross as a result of going up against powerful religious and political leaders of his day. He preached a message of love and hope and it began to turn the world upside down and those who benefited most from the way it always was, tried to make it stop. But the world did turn. Resurrection happened. Jesus overcame hate and fear and showed us that LOVE really does WIN. So how does that inform us today? One of our newer anthems in Community of Christ is “For Everyone Born”. There is a bonus verse though that Shirley Erena Murray, the hymns author, wrote but it didn’t make it into our hymnal. It goes, “For gay and for straight, a place at the table, a covenant shared, a welcoming space, a rainbow of race and gender and colour, for gay and for straight, the chalice of grace, and God will delight when we are creators of justice and joy, compassion and peace, yes, God will delight when we are creators of justice, justice and joy!” To hear the hymn sung in a Community of Christ context with this additional verse, click here listen to this version by the Beyond the Walls Choir. My friends, we have work to do to make this beloved hymn a reality in our world today. If we really mean what we sing, let’s work towards that reality. The resurrected Christ of Easter shows us that Love Wins. We are an Easter people. May it be so.
I just want to conclude by acknowledging that I realize some may not be comfortable with this message. For we are a diverse people and I know that I serve a mission center, like many others, with folks of varying perspectives and life experiences. It is my hope that if we are not in agreement with each other, that we still understand that we are all God’s beloved. We may not always sit on the same side of the table, but we do sit at the same table. In Community of Christ, we listen, we seek to understand, we learn, and we grow because we do. For we uphold that Blessings of Community and Unity in Diversity are foundational to who we are as a people of faith. This is because sacred, healthy relationships are foundational to who we are as followers of Christ. Therefore I want to continue to lift up our Faithful Disagreement Principles. To read them, click here.
May your Easter be filled with joy and resolve to continue your inward and outward path as a Disciple of the Resurrected One. You are loved, my friends.