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Five radically pro-LGBT worshipping communities aligned with conservative faiths

By Pieta Woolley

In this month’s cover story, “Rainbow Muslims,” Davide Mastracci takes readers through the door — or rather, up the elevator — to Unity Mosque. It’s a Muslim community in downtown Toronto — one that is LGBT-friendly with LGBT leadership. That Unity Mosque exists is surprising. As Mastracci explains in the story, more than half of Canadian Muslims believe that queerness is incompatible with faithfulness. And, last year, one of Canada’s most prominent ethical debates was about the new LGBT-friendly sex-ed curriculum in Toronto. It resulted in headlines, such as “Muslim community taking the lead in latest round of Ontario sex-education protests.”

But Unity Mosque isn’t the only space proving that the call of God and the drive to worship trumps mainstream religious conservatism. Here are five radically pro-LGBT communities aligned with conservative faiths.

1. Sikh

Mainstream idea about queerness: Varies, as Sikhism has no direct teachings about homosexuality.

The Sikh LGBT community: Sarbat is a U.K.-based online community and resource that fosters communities of LGBT Sikhs worldwide. The organization separates traditional Punjabi and Indian culture, which can be anti-LGBT, from true Sikhism, which leaders say is “liberal and all-encompassing.” They also point out that the Sikh marriage ceremony is non-gender specific though it isn’t always available to same-sex couples: “Although marriage is ideal, it may not be possible for a same-sex couple to get married due to the current reluctance of Gurdwaras, and so a monogamous relationship is to be preferred as an alternative.”

2. Mennonite

Mainstream idea about queerness: Contentious and traditionally non-welcoming.

The Mennonite LGBT community:
2015 was a big year for change. In Canada, the first gay Mennonite couple was married at Saskatoon’s Nutana Park Mennonite Church. That was after the Saskatchewan governing body of the church allowed congregations to decide for themselves how to handle welcoming and marriage. Also, Maryland’s Hyattsville Mennonite Church, a long-time LGBT-welcoming congregation, was restored to full membership in the denomination after being disciplined for 10 years.

3. Hindu

Mainstream idea about queerness: Diverse, as some texts feature anti-gay dogma while others celebrate homosexual love. A “third gender” is recognized by some, too.

The Hindu LGBT community: In Melbourne, the Sri Ranga Gopala Puri, a home-based LGBT-friendly Hindu temple, celebrates major festivals, and offers same-sex marriages and other ceremonies. Earlier this year, a gay couple’s elaborate Hindu wedding in Oakville, Ont. also made headlines even in the U.K. It was thrown by one of the groom’s traditional parents and publicized as a way to help LGBT couples gain acceptance. This after Seven Hindu priests refused to marry the couple.

4. Baptist

Mainstream idea about queerness: Diverse, as the designation is an umbrella term for literally hundreds of Baptist denominations. But in headlines, “Baptist” is often associated with the extreme anti-queer activity of Kansas’ Westboro Baptist Church.

The Baptist LGBT community: Halifax’s First Baptist Church is welcoming, with the pastor officiating same-sex marriages since 2011. It was included in "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth," a U.S. study guide for Baptist churches seeking to become welcoming. What’s more, the website for the U.S. Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists features a church-finder of dozens of congregations from Alaska to Florida.

5. Catholic

Mainstream idea about queerness: Pope Francis disappointed many LGBT Catholics in April, when he issued The Joy of Love, which said same-sex relationships do not hold the same status as heterosexual marriages do.

The Catholic LGBT community: Well established in North America and Europe, it features congregations, such as Toronto’s All Inclusive Ministries. Elsewhere, there is movement, too, such as this interaction with Singapore’s Archbishop William Goh in 2014.

Author's photo
Pieta Woolley is a writer in Powell River, B.C.
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