The Church of Denver hopes to provide space for the LGBTQIA community to rediscover belonging

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DENVER – This month of Pride, Ashley Hope celebrates not only her identity, but also her freedom to serve in Christian leadership as a member of the LGBTQIA community.

“I had just come back from work and was actually fired for my decision to marry my wife,” said Ashley Hope, community ministry program coordinator for Denver Community Church (DCC).

Hope first attended Church almost three years after hearing a recommendation from a friend.

“I’m aware of every moment I’m here … the pain it took to get here – the locked doors it took literally and metaphorically to get to this place. But I think seeing is only the first step, but I think the knowing element is what comes next, “she said.

Hope said she believed the Denver Community Church would strive to do both.

In 2017, church leadership posted a message on social media actively inviting members of the LGBTQIA community to participate.

“As the senior Denver Community Church team, we tell our LGBT brothers and sisters that we officially encourage, invite, and support you.” said the video message in part.

Almost two years before this message was published, Senior Pastor Michael Hidalgo and other elders held discussions on theology and inclusion.

“It was much less about theology than we went on,” said Hidalgo. “We invited friends from the LGTBQ community and said,“ We ​​have no other intention than asking you to spend two hours with us, you can tell us what you want and we will listen, we will not challenge you . … We will ask clarifying questions and try to understand. ‘”

Hidalgo said the more stories they heard, the more they felt called to ask for forgiveness.

“We learned through listening that we were not a healing presence with and for the LGBTQ community, but actually a hurtful presence,” he said.

According to a study Published in 2018 by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, religious beliefs were linked to an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and acts for respondents who identified themselves as LGBTQIA.

“It shows that you can’t be both gay and Christian, that you can’t be both trans and Christian,” said Hope. “It has been said so many times in so many ways, ‘You cannot be both.’ And the reality is that you absolutely can and that is such a small part of the brilliant person that you are. “

“We have done wrong and we must acknowledge this, and we must move to open our doors wider – and recognize that God embraced this community long before us.” Hidalgo said.

In the four years since the Church’s first call for inclusivity, the LGBTQIA community has grown in the ward and the Church has increased its visibility within the gay community.

“I worked down there [at Denver Pride festival] and I did volunteer work. I saw a mom and a dad holding their son, who was probably no more than 13 years old, in their arms … and he was wearing a rainbow flag shirt. His parents’ shirts said, “I love my son,” and I thought about what this family went through. It is overwhelming to have families like this come to Denver Community Church and say, ‘We have been kicked out, but we will trust you,’ it is overwhelming, ”said Hidalgo tearfully.

The church also has an LGBTQIA community that meets weekly.

However, both Hidalgo and Hope recognize that their church and others still have wounds to heal.

“Now we see through stories and a pair of eyes and hear through a pair of ears that we’ve never heard of,” said Hidalgo.

“The LGBTQIA community is one that has been marginalized, but there are many more where that comes from,” Hope said. “I think inclusion is too small a word. I think we have to start with belonging. We” I am told that we exist to belong when in reality because of our existence … we belong, we are loved , we are seen, we are known. I think pride really does, for me it depends. It will be said, appear as whoever you are the way you can, and we will celebrate it. And that’s what DCC hopefully says, and that’s what I’ve seen. “



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