Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Come to the Water: The Queer Congregation as Healing Community

This is a brief description of the doctoral work I did at the Episcopal Divinity School between 2005 and 2008.  I can send the thesis as .pdf on request.


Metropolitan Community Churches, and other queer-affirming congregations, are communities of faith for a population that is at once privileged and oppressed: privileged, because those who self-identify as queer are often from the middle and professional classes, and oppressed because of the social and religious anti-queer stigma that is still a very large part of the dominant culture. Because of this oppression, it is predictable that congregants will, to some extent, experience feelings of grief, shame, and anger: grief because of the loss of relationships, privilege, and social standing that frequently accompany coming out, grief over the losses due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, anger as a result of rejection, and shame as an unconscious response to the anti-queer stigma that surrounds us still. In some cases, it is fair to describe the coming-out process as traumatic. This presents a critical pastoral care issue for queer congregations because the behavioral characteristics of unresolved grief, anger, shame, and trauma are the exact opposites of those found in a thriving congregation.

  A model for the healing process can be developed by combining models for recovery from post-traumatic stress with models of the developmental tasks involved in re-integrating sexual and/or gender identity. Reflection on the model reveals that our usual church activities help a great deal in some stages of healing, but under-emphasize the need to remember, and mourn, our shared losses. We can create opportunities in public worship that facilitate this remembrance and mourning. In so doing, we can present a vision of Jesus that reinforces those in the Christian tradition who, in the words of UFMCC, “seek to serve among those reconciling their sexuality with their spirituality.”

(c) by Joan M. Saniuk, 2008.  All rights reserved.

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