LCA Adds To Youth Suicide. Part 1. Dear Lord Forgive Us!

A post by Neil Hart on homosexuality, LGBT, lesbian and gay stuff and the Lutheran Church of Australia.

Reader, I have had some people say that the provocative titles I add to my posts and the links that I draw between real issues for the LBGT community and the LCA are unwarranted and unfair. I have been told that “Middle LCA” will disengage from the discussion with this kind of unnecessary provocation and I will therefore do the cause more harm than good. So, over the last week, I have thought long and hard about  changing the style of my posts.

My decision: They stay as they are. More than that, I will take the discussion and the in-your-face challenge of the blog right to the doorstep of “Middle LCA” with an Australia wide email sent to every pastor in our Church, active and retired.  Maybe it will go something like this…

Dear Middle LCA.

Some of you may be aware that I publish a blog discussing LGBT issues in the LCA. Anyone who reads the blog will know that my style is provocative, confrontational, and kinda “in-your-face”. I have been challenged to tone it down a little or risk having the vast majority of  “Middle LCA” disengage from the discussion.  I write to explain the purpose of my blog, the reason for my provocative style and to issue you with a challenge.

Our church has many very loud and provocative pastors and theologians who are decidedly anti-gay. They are very well represented in the theological forums of the church and if one were to judge by the statements and submissions the church has made and are still making about homosexuality the views of the anti-gay people are determining present policy.

“Middle LCA” is probably made up of mainly undecided people who are a part of a changing society and are looking for more information. Middle LCA also includes pastors and theologians who are both in support of a change in the church and in support of the status quo. Some of them engage in discussion on the issue in measured and polite terms.

In the whole equation there did not appear to be anyone loud or provocative in support of the LGBT people of the Church to bring a bit of balance to the see-saw of debate.  I decided to fill that gap. Because it appeared that I was a bit of a lone voice, I decided to be particularly loud and provocative in order to be heard above the noise. While I appreciate that my style does not suit everyone I would defend it as a valid, reasonable and even necessary part of the debate.

I have sometimes wondered what I would have done if I lived in slave owning Southern USA in the mid 19th century. Would I have spoken out on behalf of the voiceless and the oppressed? Or, like the Missouri Synod of that time, would my confusion about the Bible’s support of the practice have caused me to be silent. What if I lived in Germany in a town next to a Nazi death camp.  Would I have spoken out? How would I have spoken out? How loudly? In what form? Placards? Protest marches? What would I have done if I was a voting adult member of White Australia in the 50’s and 60’s when our indigenous brothers and sister where not considered fully citizens and were not allowed to vote. Would I have spoken out?

What if I was an adult voting member of a country that imprisoned some of the most vulnerable people on earth (refugees) and left them languishing in detention until they self harm, suicide, and sew their lips together in frustration at their lack of power and lack of voice. What would I do?

Right now, in the history of our church, is one of those defining moments. Measured speech, careful analysis, and polite two-sided debate has its place. But sometimes it is necessary to do more. Sometimes the wrong is so wrong and the damage is so great that is time for arrogant, in-you-face, loud and consolidated protest.

I guess that’s the point of my blog.

So, Middle LCA! Disengage disengage if you must. But, before you do check out my blog. Hear my challenge to you. Show me where my facts are incorrect or where  I have made unreasonable links between the LCA and the issues involved. Show me and I will apologise, repent and seek forgiveness from the LCA, any people I have mentioned and God and remove the offending piece. That is the Godly and right thing to do. If not, then surely it is time for the LCA to begin to listen to the call to change. Perhaps it is time for the LCA  to do some honest self reflection and repentance of its own for the continual hurt its policies and rhetoric cause to the LGBT people in our church and community.

Allow me to share a You Tube Clip to introduce what is, for me, of critical importance to our church right now. It is the issue of gay teenage suicide.

Ellen is Gay. she knows the pain. She said…”There is help out there and you can find support in your community…”

But, dear God, young people…please don’t go to your Church, especially not your local Lutheran Church because you will almost certainly face the same ignorance, judgement and guilt creating language that has forced you into this position of hurt in the first place.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has made this statement.

Confusion about sexual orientation is not unusual during adolescence. Counseling may be helpful for young people who are uncertain about their sexual orientation or for those who are uncertain about how to express their sexuality and might profit from an attempt at clarification through a counseling or psychotherapeutic initiative. Therapy directed specifically at changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.

Paediatricians should be aware that some of the youths in their care may be homosexual or have concerns about sexual orientation. Care givers should provide factual, current,  non-judgmental information in a confidential manner. The psychosocial problems of gay and lesbian adolescents are primarily the result of societal stigma, hostility, hatred and isolation.

The gravity of these stresses is under-scored by current data that document that gay youths account for up to 30 percent of all completed adolescent suicides. Approximately 30 percent of a surveyed group of gay and bisexual males have attempted suicide at least once. Adolescents struggling with issues of sexual preference should be reassured that they will gradually form their own identity and that there is no need for premature labeling of one’s sexual orientation.

American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement, “Homosexuality and Adolescence,” Pediatrics, October 1993.

As early as 1993 the US Academy of Pediatrics understood the real issues.  The psychological problems are a result of societal stigma, hostility, hatred and isolation. Care givers (Churches) should provide factual, current and non judgemental information to young gay people. For those who are uncertain about how to express their sexuality, “therapies” that provoke guilt and anxiety are problematic.

Following are public statements made by our church and by prominent members of our church in regard the young, gay members of the LCA.

  • Our Church’s official statement speaks of “treatment” for those under 35.
  • Our Church’s statement  speaks of counselling for “those who may have doubts about their sexual identity, because of passing homosexual feelings.”.
  • Our Church’s statement also says that “Punishment does not result in change of propensity, although it may restrict overt behaviour.”
  • Our Church’s statement describes homosexuality as a “distortion”, “unnatural”, a “disease” and a “perversion”. The intermittent sections that speak of the need for compassion for these diseased, distorted, unnatural perversions seem a little disingenuous to say the least. These statements are currently under review, a process that has taken some years and will take further time. In spite of the acknowledgement that the statements are outdated they continue to be available on the church’s website and continue to do harm.
  • A public letter by the CSBQ presented in the form of an article in The Lutheran Magazine indicated that Gay people should seek help to change through agencies such as Exodus International. The idea of “reparative therapies” and the organisations that facilitate this process  (including Exodus International) have been discredited as harmful by every reputable Australian and US health and mental health organisation over the last 2 decades.
  • In his recent submission to Federal Parliament opposing marriage equality the President of our church likened homosexuality to perversions such as  to group sex, Incest and bestiality.
  • Young people are being counselled in our church that a life of abstinence is the only Godly alternative to trying to be change their sexuality. The burden this places on young people and the psychological damage of such ill-informed advice is enormous.
  • Pastors on the LCA email discussion forum continually condemned “homosexual sex”, “homosexual practice” and “homosexual lifestyle choices”, all terms which deny the essential humanity of the people involved and reducing them to and define them by certain activities. This is alienating rhetoric.
  • Recently, Pastors of our Church participating in a private email forum called “Confessional Lutherans Doing Theology” were voicing their support for calls to sanction a  year 12 Lutheran College student who had mentioned on a radio program that he saw nothing wrong with gay marriage. This out-of-proportion response  adds to the climate of fear that exists for the gay young people in our church.
  • An estimated 80 gay employees of our Church and Colleges are forced into hiding because the Church and Colleges presently operate under exemptions from the governments anti-discrimination laws. The Church and Colleges actively campaign to retain these exemptions. If the employees were to “come out” their careers would be severely detrimented.

I remind you of the clear statements of the Pediatric society. I also remind you that we are dealing with the most vulnerable people in our church. They are our gay young people, teenagers, who, more than anyone, need accurate information in a non judgemental environment and effective emotional support in the struggles they face.  Yet, our church continues in its abusive behaviours and adds to the societal stigma, hostility, hatred and isolation young gay people in our church continue to feel. The information we provide them is not factual and is harmful.

Ellen Degeneres said, “There are messages out there everywhere that validate this kind of bullying behaviour”. Our church, albeit not intentionally, add to these messages.  When we speak of homosexuality in terms of sin and repentance, we provoke the problematic unnecessary guilt and anxiety spoken of by the Academy Of Pediatrics . We indicate to these young people that they should change and we set them on a lifelong destructive and psychologically damaging path of denial.

We do harm!  We need to stop!

Join the conversation @ https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/lcaie This is a new unofficial list called the LCAiE (Lutheran Church of Australia, list in exile)  This was set up when the official list was closed down after some particularly robust debate on the question of homosexuality.

Read My blog. @ lcamyopinion.wordpress.com and say something in the comments section.

Please write to…

  • The LCA President. Rev Dr Mike Semmler. president@lca.org.au
  • Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relations. cticr@lca.org.au
  • Commission on Social and Bioethical Question. csbq@lca.org.au

Tell them what you think. These people are supposed to be representing you.

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OK. Reader, there is the suggested letter. What do you think? Should I send it? Should it change? Let me know…yeh?