I don’t know what Vanessa Collier’s family went through when planning her memorial service after her tragic December death. As they searched for a church for her service, I wonder if they were afraid of and prepared for the homophobia that so often greets us gays at the doors of the Christian church.
Maybe they searched through the pages of the Lakewood, Colorado, church’s website looking for any reason that this church wouldn’t be a good fit to celebrate Collier’s life. I know I did. I searched through each page like I have for the churches in my own area when I was trying to find a church that would be safe for my own family to attend. There’s nothing there. There’s nothing to indicate that this church would reject a person based on their sexuality alone. But that’s exactly what they did.
Though the church had the memorial video for days before the service to review, the pastor told the family just moments before the service that they couldn’t show a video of Collier’s life that included a photo of her proposing to her wife. They agreed to perform the service, but only if the video was edited first. “There could be no indication that Collier was gay,” according to The Denver Post.
But Collier was gay. She was married. She and her wife were raising two children together. Most of those in attendance were also members of the gay community. Her family and friends refused to edit the video. They refused to edit Collier’s life because of a pastor. Because of a church. They refused to not show it. So they, too, were rejected. The service was moved, just moments before its start, across the street to a much smaller space, a mortuary.
Is this how far we’ve come? Gays can get married, but when they die, it’s OK to close down the funeral moments before it starts because the celebration of the person’s life was too gay? I can’t accept that.
Gays are tolerated to sit in services, but can’t get married in the churches. Gays can place their money in the offering plates, but can’t be in leadership, and don’t deserve the same respect in their death as their straight allies and enemies do.
It could maybe be one thing if the non-denominational Christian church believed in some kind of ritual at death to provide salvation. Maybe. But they don’t. The non-denominational Christian church believes in grace.
This goes beyond love the sinner, hate the sin. This isn’t love at all.