BUFFALO, N.Y. — Pride Month sparks many conversations each year, and one of the more controversial ones focuses on the strained relationship between the LGBTQ+ community and religion.
One local church is working to help cure that strain by proving its doors are open to everyone.
Heading east from Linden Avenue in Buffalo, you’re immediately greeted by a rainbow display. It’s not until you get a bit closer that you’ll see the message and realize, the show of Pride solidarity actually belongs to a church.
“We had some doors lying around, and so we wanted to make a very public witness so that all of the community would know that folks are truly welcomed here,” said Jeremiah Smith, Parkside Lutheran Church pastor.
This isn’t new to Parkside, as the church has been putting up the rainbow doors for the past three years and has even participated in Pride parades. The importance, Pastor Smith explains, is to help uplift those who have been persecuted, especially by those who use scripture referred to as “clobber texts” to condemn homosexuality.
“As Lutherans, we say that scripture should be interpreted through the Word made flesh, that scripture should be read through the lens of Jesus, and Jesus Himself was all about love; and that it was written in a certain time and place, but in today’s day and age, it’s never acceptable to use it as a reason to hate,” said Pastor Smith.
LGBTQ members aren’t just supported by the church, they’re part of it.
Magan Russ is Parkside’s council president and she is also bisexual. Having a supportive community is the reason she has never been conflicted to choose between her faith and her identity.
“I grew up in this church and I’ve been coming here since I was 5 years old and I have a 2-year-old son of my own, and being a leader to this church and this community is especially important to me because I can lead by example and show him how to care and love, and not just tell him how to do it,” Russ said.
At Parkside, the doors of the church truly are open, and to all.
"God is love, and unfortunately, often times, people get in the way of God’s love," said Pastor Smith. "So tune out the haters and just listen to that message of love and know that you are beautifully and wonderfully made by God and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise."
Pastor Smith says having been part of the community for more than 100 years, Parkside Lutheran Church is continuing to expand its ministry outward to let everyone know they are truly accepted.