In employment law there is an idea of ‘constructive dismissal’. This is where someone is not actually fired, but their working life is made so intolerably bad that they are forced to leave their job. This can be bullying in the workplace, changes in working hours or increased workload or constant criticism and undermining or many other causes that make a job unbearable.
Under employment law there are remedies available to anyone in the situation, usually a compensation payment. However an employment tribunal may make orders about changes in practice in an organisation or order someone to be reinstated to their job or other remedies. You can’t just force someone out of their job – we have laws to protect people from that sort of behaviour. Except in our places of worship.
Somehow the very places that proclaim on the door that ‘All are welcome’ often prove to be the least welcoming places. Indeed they often prove to be the most judgemental and condemnatory places. Somehow people may be welcome to walk through the front door and listen to the preaching and donate money, but if they want to be part of the family of faith then they have to somehow become just like everyone else, part of the collective mindset. God help you if you are different.
This means when we are at our place of worship that we have to hide who we are and cannot bring our whole authentic self to our relationship with God. We know what will happen if we do. God will not reject us, but the faith family almost certainly will.
Sometimes, it is explicit – being told to go back to being straight or leave, but most of the time it is more subtle. The words are not spoken, but we are told that our lifestyle means that we are not allowed to work with children or young people, or told that we have to give up our role in leadership or told that we have abandoned God and forsaken our sacred Scriptures. Once the faith leadership have made up their mind that we are no longer one of the ‘in crowd’ then somehow those we had thought to be our friends can remarkably disappear. Nobody will stand with us when we are seen to be marginalised.
Why should we stay where we are not wanted? Where the ‘welcome’ we received at first is shown to be hollow, if we want to stay we have to change and conform.
But it is never God who makes us feel unwelcome and rejected. God never wants us to leave, but we do anyway. How can we fight the injustice of those who claim God is on their side? We have no protection in law.
We suffer ‘constructive dismissal’ from our places of worship with no redress available. We can whistle blow and tell our side of the story, but the other side of the story is that they never actually said the words telling us to go, just criticised, demoted, excluded and marginalised.
No wonder LGBTQ+ people of faith are under represented in faith communities. We can read our Scriptures and say our prayers and find our own faith groups in our own community. God is everywhere but sometimes we have to leave our place of worship to find God for ourselves.