Episcopalians house homeless gay youth
December 8th, 2009
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Christendom has a well-deserved reputation of behaving abominably towards gay people, particularly gay youth. Every gay person knows someone who during their youth was mocked, tormented, or thrown out of their home, all in the name of Christianity. For some, it was even worse.
We regularly confront those who, like those “family” organizations that testified in opposition to marriage equality yesterday in New Jersey, come bearing the title of minister but blatantly spew hatred and lies. We know that when we hear “the Bible says” that it is almost invariably going to be some quotation of Scripture that is selected to bash, condemn, or demean gay people.
The Catholic Church in D.C. recently went so far as to claim that if gay people received equal marriage treatment under the law, then they would stop providing care for the poor. There is little wonder that for many gay people, all of their experiences tell them that “Christianity = Hate”.
So Carl Siciliano, the founder of the Ali Forney Center, a group that helps homeless gay youth, was hesitant when he was approached by a Christian group. Although they said they wanted to help, gay people are accustomed to “help” that is less charitable than it is an attempt to “save the homosexual from his sinful and destructive lifestyle”. (New York Times)
“For a lot of us, when we hear about Christianity, our stomachs kind of churn,” Mr. Siciliano said in an interview. “Another part of me is very grateful the church is making this kind of gesture.”
But this time the help was genuinely charitable. The Episcopal Community Services of Long Island and the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island contributed $200,000 to create and house a new 16-bed shelter at the Church of St. Andrew’s in Astoria.
But the partnership is less about politics than about simple charity, said Bishop Lawrence C. Provenzano, who represents 146 congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island (which includes Brooklyn and Queens).
“I think it’s an obligation to care for God’s people,” Bishop Provenzano said. “This is basic nuts-and-bolts Christianity.”
There is no small amount of anti-Christian hostility from many readers of our site. And though we try to minimize broad-stroke attacks on people of faith, there is no doubt that public Christianity has earned mistrust and even hatred from gay people many times over.
But perhaps this story – and I do see this as part of a trend – can begin the process of repairing the image of the faith. And I dare say that if all Christians behaved like the Episcopalians on Long Island, far more Americans – including our readers – would see religion as a positive force in the world rather than a vehicle for superstition, bigotry, and control of others.