Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Theology (MTh)

Department

Theology

Faculty/School

Seminary

First Advisor

Robert Kelly

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor

Abstract

This research project examines the church experiences of seventeen lesbian women who were participants in at least one of the following groups: Christian Lesbians Out (CLOUT), the Brethren and Mennonite Council for Gay and Lesbian Concerns (BMC), and Olive Branch Mennonite Church. This paper noted the existence of some literature about the experience of gay men, but little was found about the experiences of lesbian women. The paper focused on the ethic of radical inclusion and avoided discussions about sexual ethics. A primary premise of the paper is that a general consensus about a sexual ethnic about homosexuality is unlikely in the immediate future. Given this fact, the church needs to ponder how it will include gays and lesbians during this time of conflict. The paper examined the impact of the Welcoming Congregations Movement and Christian support groups for homosexuals, on the lives of lesbian women. The paper found that women who attended publicly affirming churches, which were part of the Welcoming Church Movement, had much more positive church experiences than those who attended churches where no stand had been taken. Women tended to gravitate towards welcoming congregations regardless of their denominational history. A congregation’s decision to make a public statement about including gays and lesbians was more important than religious roots in determining church attendance for the research participants. The affirming stand of a local congregation was more important than the national stand of the church. Groups like Leaven, Clout, and BMC were found to be extremely important in the lives of many lesbian women and were places of support and healing. Many women in the project could not discuss their experiences of exclusion as lesbians without first discussing their experiences of exclusion as women. This highlights the fact that there are significant differences in the experiences of homosexual men and women in the church. There were many stories of trauma in the research where people risked disclosing their orientation in the church and experienced rejection and marginalization. The test case phenomena where a person risks attending a congregation to see if they will be welcomed was considered. The research shows that this process places a marginalized person in the position of changing a congregational stand on inclusion of gays and lesbians. The paper also noted factors which supported women as they accepted their sexual orientation. Many women described a process of significant spiritual growth as they accepted their homosexuality. The ordinary as extraordinary was also considered. For lesbian women being allowed to participate in ordinary ways in the church is uncommon. The impact of lives in the margins of lesbian women is examined in the paper.

Convocation Year

2002

Convocation Season

Spring

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