Despite what you might have heard, God loves gay people. That’s coming straight from gay preacher Ann Kansfield, the imitable spiritual leader of the Greenpoint Reformed Church. Frustrated with right-wing rhetoric that suggests that the Heavenly Father has a special place in hell for same-sex couples, and appalled by the recent spike in gay teen suicides, Kansfield created a new group called “Somewhere” to help queer teens get through the toughest years of their lives. With the group about to have its first meeting on Nov. 5, we sent our saintly reporter, Aaron Short, to check in with Pastor Ann.
AS: What led to the formation of this group?
AK: It was a combination of Bronx assaults, the suicide of Rutgers, and other kids who killed themselves the same week that brought about a conversation — what can we do to be a service, deliver a love that God has for the whole world to people who are really hurting? The recent rash of LGBT teen suicides is a result of society’s homophobia. Many of those kids didn’t feel included by their churches. It’s really important for their churches that are affirming of LGBT people to be more proactive in supporting young people as they transition into adults.
AS: Which churches have had the most difficulty relating to gay teens?
AK: I can speak personally. I was raised in a loving congregation growing up, but I was terrified about anyone in my church finding out that I was gay. The entire cultural system of the United States, especially the loud voice of the religious right, is that gay teens are not welcome in the church. It’s broadcast very loudly.
AS: What do you hope to accomplish with this group?
AK: If only one kid hears the message that God loves them and they don’t have to change. Look at the story of Jesus and the Bible — it was clear that he was bullied throughout his ministry. His crucifixion was because he was different and was not liked by popular people.
AS: Other LGBT-groups in the city have had a political focus to them. Will yours?
AK: When you come out, it’s an issue of emotional and spiritual care. You need to feel good about yourselves before doing political work. We’re addressing a very particular need — of people who need spiritual and emotional care. It’s painful to be shut out by your family and people who turn their backs on you.
AS: But doesn’t God hate homosexuals? That’s all I ever hear.
AK: It’s especially painful to have your church tell you that being gay is a sin. And that’s a lie. And we need to do a better job of saying, “That’s a lie.” It’s a horrible game the religious right plays telling gay people that they are less than loved by God. When you don’t feel a part of God’s love and God’s community, all sorts of horrible, dysfunctional things can happen to you. It’s a horrible trick and it’s sinful and wrong. Being gay is not a sin.
Somewhere group meetings at Greenpoint Reformed Church [136 Milton St. at Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, (718) 383-5941], Fridays beginning Nov. 5 at 7 pm. For info, visit www.greenpointchurch.org.