Reverend Ed Hansen has been a Methodist minister for 55 years. Most recently he served at the Hollywood United Methodist Church. He was a co-founder and steward for 32 consecutive years of Strength for the Journey, a critically needed retreat for people living with HIV/AIDS.
"The greatest threat to people in our community entering spirituality through organized religion is the judgmental attitudes that so many ignorant and uninformed people have adopted from the particular teachings of their religions that condemn LGBTQ people and then those people accepting them in a dogmatic way. These teachings set up a black and white perspective and see the wonderful diversity that's all around us as bad. They try to get everyone to conform to a particular religious life that just doesn't fit with LGBTQ people who reflect the wonderful diversity of human expressions.
It is interesting how many people who are oppressed cling onto the lifelines of their religious practice to sustain them in the face of whatever oppression they deal with. They almost don't dare to deeply reflect on their religious teachings because they use their teachings to sustain themselves day-to-day in the face of their challenges. I think these people feel all the more compelled to stay in the community with their particular oppressed group for mutual support. By doing that, it keeps them from becoming more aware of the diversity of thought that surrounds them, and it mutually reinforces the perspectives that they have adopted.
There are few voices that are really challenging them. You'd think there would be more empathy for other oppressed groups, but it takes a deeper awareness and insight to develop that empathy. That's one of the gifts that LGBTQ people can offer: we ourselves recognize the oppression we've faced and then can have empathy for different ethnicities, religious groups and political groups. If we can have a heart for people like that, based on our own experiences of being judged and pushed aside, that would be one of the gifts we can offer. Of course, we also can be guilty of oppressing. We can’t only talk to other gay people and have conversations with ourselves because then we start judging people who are different."