Reparative therapy flashback, a staff reflection from Churchwide Assembly

Over the past three years I have had the privilege of working for welcome, inclusion, and celebration of LGBTQ people in our Lutheran church as a ReconcilingWorks staff person. So I was understandably excited to attend the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in New Orleans this August.

It felt affirming to gather with over a thousand Lutherans from across the map–many of which wore ReconcilingWorks rainbow heart buttons to signify their support for LGBTQ people.

zac preaching

Me preaching on a mission trip to Costa Rica during the time I was undergoing reparative therapy in high school.

It was encouraging to hear ReconcilingWorks event details given during the announcement time. But nothing could prepare me for what happened next.

I was completely blindsided when the secretary announced the event details of Lutheran CORE, an organization which advocates for reparative therapy, a practice outlawed for minors in Illinois, New Jersey, Vermont, Oregon, California, Washington D.C., and three other U.S. cities.

As someone who underwent reparative therapy because of my Southern Baptist theology in high school, my heart was not ready to hear this organization named directly after ReconcilingWorks from the assembly floor. The Churchwide Assembly space instantly morphed from welcoming to unsafe for me.

In college I was fortunate to run into the radical hospitality of Lutheran Campus Ministry at the University of South Carolina. It was freeing to discover the gift of grace. The campus pastor had literal life-saving gospel news for me when he said it is possible to be both Christian and gay!

As I sat in Holy Communion at Churchwide Assembly following the announcement, I felt physically sick. Was this the same church I met college? Why was it carving out space for an organization which thinks my marriage of two years is sinful?

zac wedding

One of the most meaningful moments of my life: my husband reads his vows to me at our wedding.

This moment at Churchwide Assembly leaves me with these questions:

  • What about the queer and trans youth who don’t happen to live in a community which is equipped with this good news and welcome?
  • What about the LGBTQ Lutherans whose only faith community option is one which ministers to them by teaching that their identities are contrary to biblical teaching?
  • What about the LGBTQ people who remain closeted because they are afraid of how they may be treated by their clergy and congregation?

As ReconcilingWorks starts to create strategic vision for 2019 Churchwide Assembly (the 10 year anniversary of policy change) and the years to come, I invite you to stay committed to this work. Together you and I can help our church unequivocally state that reparative therapy is against who we are as Lutherans because we believe that God’s LGBTQ children aren’t broken and definitely do not need to be repaired.