You’ll notice during the month of June, and again in August, that St. Paul’s will be flying the Pride flag alongside the United States flag outside the church. I know that for some people there is concern about this stating something politically about St. Paul’s, but I think that viewpoint is incorrect, and the misconception is outweighed by the good that it does. This is a topic very near and dear to my heart. Two of my best friends in college came out during our undergraduate time together. One of the bridesmaids in my wedding, who I’ve been friends with since second grade, is married to another woman and they have two children together. There are people at St. Paul’s who are part of the LGBTQ+ community and many of us have similar stories of friends or loved ones and we know the difficulties they’ve faced. This is a time to show God’s love and support of all people.

This past February at the annual meeting we voted on and approved a welcoming statement that is now included on our website. It states:

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, in accordance with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, celebrates the presence of all our members, visitors, and neighbors of every race, ethnicity, spirituality, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, ability, and background.

This came to be through discussions the Outreach Committee was having on how to show our neighbors that we are a welcoming church; a loving community, united in Christ, and that everyone is welcome here. What we liked about the statement we crafted was that it starts out by saying that this comes from the teachings of Jesus. It is scripture-based. We also wanted the statement to apply to both members and visitors. And we liked that through having this welcoming statement we’ve created a directive to our congregants and a reassurance to our neighbors of God’s all-encompassing love. We’ve declared, in writing, a concise, scripture-based statement on how we should be practicing God’s love in our daily lives, both inside and outside St. Paul’s. We didn’t invent anything; we took God’s mission of loving our neighbors and put it in an applicable format for our congregants.

So why fly the flag in June and August? June is celebrated as Pride Month in the United States and other parts of the world to commemorate the years of struggle for civil rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community, as well as a celebration of their accomplishments. Then in the middle of August the 3-day Toledo Pride festival is always celebrated. The Episcopal Church took a stance on LGBTQ+ issues as far back as the General Convention of 1976 when we adopted resolutions stating that “homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love, acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church”, and that they “are entitled to equal protection of the laws with all other citizens”. At General Convention in 1994, the church’s canons were amended to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and allowing for ordination. In 2003 the first openly-gay bishop was elected in the Diocese of New Hampshire. In 2009, Convention supported laws that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. Five days after the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that same-sex couples had the legal right to marry, General Convention voted to amend the canons permitting any couple the rite of Holy Matrimony. There are many other issues and decisions that the Episcopal Church has made over the years to support the LGBTQ+ community and you can read about them here. Additionally, three weeks ago the Episcopal Church unveiled the new Pride shield shown above in celebration of LGBTQ+ inclusion. Suffice to say, flying a Pride flag at St. Paul’s is something that the Episcopal Church would (and does) support.

Why is our flag not the original rainbow-striped flag? The flag we have is called the Progress Pride Flag, and it fits perfectly with the Welcoming Statement St. Paul’s voted to approve. This flag was developed in 2018 by Daniel Quasar and calls for a more inclusive society. The original rainbow flag was created in 1978 by Gilbert Baker to evoke a symbol of hope and each color has a specific meaning; red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, indigo for serenity and violet for spirit. There have been many different variations since that first flag, but the reason we chose the Progress Pride flag is because it includes those original colors (which highlight values), but also has black and brown stripes to represent marginalized people of color, and pink, light blue and white to represent trans and non-binary individuals. Quasar took these additional stripes and shaped them into an arrow on the left side of the flag to denote that there’s always progress to be made and also to put discriminated minorities at the forefront.

By flying the Pride flag in front of St. Paul’s we’re stating that our church is welcoming to all.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, in accordance with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, celebrates the presence of all our members, visitors, and neighbors of every race, ethnicity, spirituality, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, ability, and background.

“Our commitment to be an inclusive church is not based on a social theory or capitulation to the ways of the culture, but on our belief that the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross are a sign of the very love of God reaching out to us all.”

— The Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop

Respectfully submitted by Jaimie Deye, Chair of the Outreach Committee

If you’re interested in celebrating Pride with us, a group will be marching in the Pride parade on Saturday, August 24th at noon with Better Together: Faith Communities United for Pride. Please contact Jaimie if you’d like to participate!