Faith Leaders from Episcopal Church in Illinois Want to Make #EveryoneWelcome – Including Transgender People

By Adam Polaski • July 7, 2017 • 3:19 pm

This month two faith leaders from the All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago, Illinois recorded messages of support for the transgender community. The videos were filmed as part of the #EveryoneWelcome campaign, the ongoing public education campaign dedicated to amplifying support and stories from LGBT.

Bishop Jeffrey D. Lee, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, filmed a video this week. He says, “We promise to love people the way Jesus loved them – indiscriminately. It’s important for Christians, it’s important for me, to say All means All. … Trans people are as much an image of God as any of us are. All means all.” Watch the full video:

Emily Williams Guffey is the associate rector at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, a parish on the north side of Chicago, and has been serving there for two years, following her time in seminary.

For Emily, the way that the Episcopal Church has opened up and affirmed members of the LGBT community in recent years has been a tremendous example for other faith traditions.

She said she filmed her #EveryoneWelcome video for the chance to speak out – and to share her gratitude for working with an affirming institution. Watch her video:

“I found this campaign to be a great opportunity to be able to say something about equality and especially how it intersects with faith. God loves everybody – full stop. God loves us in our bodies and all of the many ways that our bodies are unique and different and perfect as they are. So just to be able to say that to the world is a huge gift.”

She recalls several conversations with transgender members of the parish as particularly impactful. One transgender congregant shared a coffee with Emily after a service, one of their first, and explained that they really enjoyed coming to the church but that they were concerned: “Am I really welcome?”

“One of the coolest things I’ve been able to say to anyone in my ministry so far is, ‘Yes, absolutely, you are completely welcomed and loved right now for who you are, so please come. We want you to be with us,'” Emily recalled. “Personally, I would say that with no equivocation, but then to also be in a church that offers that invitation with no hesitation at all? That’s a huge gift and is so sorely needed.”

Emily is particularly concerned about the growing trend of opponents of LGBT equality seeking to chip away at non-discrimination protections by seeking religious carveouts – exemptions that a majority of people of faith actually oppose and do not ask for.

“In the Episcopal Church we pledge and affirm our faith in respecting the dignity of every human being – and that very clearly means treating someone as you would want to be treated and not doing anything to discriminate against someone because of who they are,” she said. “Our faith, our tradition says that loving your neighbor and respecting every human being is something we ought to do on a daily basis for everyone.”

“God’s love is not just for a few – it is for everyone.”

Special thanks to Matty Zaradich, an apprentice in Freedom for All Americans’ LGBT University program, for introducing Emily and Bishop Lee to the #EveryoneWelcome program.

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