This past Sunday, Austin Congregational UCC and Spirituality Center in Austin, Minnesota held a Sunday morning service that doubled as a drag show. The church dubbed the event “Drag Me to Church.”
“Roxi” gave the feature performance and expressed excitement about it, both as a drag queen and as someone who grew up in the church. Roxi described the performance as “singing, dancing, performing, and looking great doing it” to a local ABC affiliate.
“It means so much to see such an outpour of love and support from a community that, growing up, I thought would reject me at first and say that ‘you’re not good enough,’” Roxi said.
David Stoeger, who serves as pastor of Austin Congregational, said that an event like “Drag Me to Church” is an important part of the church’s vision to be “open and affirming.”
“There is always a need for solidarity. There is always a need for support,” Stoeger said. “What we wanted this to be was a deliberate, intentional welcome to the LGBTQ+ community.”
While the “Drag Me to Church” event represents a bold approach to LGBTQ inclusion, Austin Congregational is not alone among American Christians in their reimagining of sexual ethics in light of the present cultural moment.
For some, this reimagining has led to considerable fissures. For example, Reformed Church in America recently experienced a denominational split over same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ clergy, and the United Methodist Church is preparing to experience something similar, as many within those denominations are unwilling to change their stance on LGBTQ inclusion.
Still, other groups remain united and unchanged in their views of sexuality and gender identity, despite pressure.
Earlier this month, thousands of pastors in Canada and the United States coordinated to preach about conservative sexual ethics from a biblical perspective in response to recent Canadian legislation banning the promotion and practice of conversion therapy. As the new law defines “conversion therapy” in broad terms, it has raised alarm bells for many evangelical leaders who predict that affirming traditionally held sexual ethics from the pulpit may lead to criminal prosecution and even jail time.
One of the pastors who preached in protest alongside thousands of others was John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Simi Valley, CA. In his sermon, MacArthur outlined the sexual ethic and view of gender that has been held by a majority of Christians for millennia. Notably, YouTube quickly removed the sermon as “hate speech,” though MacArthur made no call for violence against the LGBTQ community but rather emphasized compassion. The sermon’s removal has led to an even greater sense of vigilance among some about the present sea change regarding sexual ethics and identity.
In past decades, many evangelicals considered any movement away from traditional sexual ethics to be a trend on the fringes of Christianity. Nevertheless, as the pressure to evolve on LGBTQ issues continues to mount, both from those outside the church as well as from some inside of it, more evangelicals are moving toward a more “affirming” stance or choosing to remain silent on the issue entirely.