I received an email recently about an upcoming Men’s Fellowship meeting at the church that I attended when I was on the east coast. The church has flown a rainbow flag year round for as long as I can remember – a symbol of its welcoming inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. I have a picture of that flag hanging in my office. The topic of conversation for the upcoming Men’s Fellowship meeting (which has a history of fascinating, vigorous and faith-filled discussions) is whether continuing to fly the rainbow flag is necessary, since everyone already knows that the church is very welcoming. “Yikes !”, I thought.
A reality of being a part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is that the “coming out” process is ongoing. Every day, I make decisions of what things that reveal information about my identity I will share with whom. The person sitting next to me on the airplane who asks what I do for a living. The stranger in front of me at the grocery store who thinks my wife is lucky that I do the shopping. The visitor at church.
I speak regularly on the importance of being visible about who you are and what you believe. Not just for people who identify as LGBT, but for our friends, our family members, and our employers who support LGBT inclusion. The point of VISIBLE support of the LGBT community is more than a reminder to ourselves and those who know us that we are inclusive. It is a broadcast message to those who do not know us.
I recall very clearly the stories of parishioners who found their way to my old church because of that flag. I remember fondly (and proudly) the impact of the church’s hospitality on the LGBT high school students that we hosted at our LGBT youth dances. I cannot know the impact that seeing the flag and its affirmation of support for the LGBT community has on others who see it flying in front of our church, but I do believe it matters. Flying that flag makes a difference.
I encouraged my friends preparing to discuss the topic to argue for keeping the flag as a visible part of the church’s message to the world (or at least that part that passes by it). In fact, I encouraged that rather than removing the rainbow flag, they find more flags (or other visible symbols) to reflect the many things for which that church stands, like equal participation and value of women in the church, giving generously in outreach to the less fortunate, stewardship of creation, etc.
And I encourage all allies – especially our corporate partners – to be visible in their support of their LGBT friends and employees. Fly the flag. Just like the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.