As more religious communities develop digital presences it becomes possible to track emerging patterns in attitudes towards LGBTQA Christians. Despite the assumption that savvy use of digital media is a sign of “hip” or “progressive” theological beliefs, in the case studies we explored there is no correlation between digital use and progressive views on sexuality. However, some of these digital spaces function to create community despite hypocrisy or rejection by Christian churches that hold conservative views on human sexuality.
Throughout our research it has become clear that prominent use of online platforms and advanced technology does not necessarily correlate to affirmative stances towards the LGBTQA community. Digital presence does, however, make hypocrisy and contradictory standpoints related to LGBTQA inclusion more obvious to anyone who is looking for it. Take Hillsong church for example. They are one of the world's largest and most popular Christian churches, but they still hold a non-affirming stance towards gay marriage (which is easy to discern on their website). Despite this, their choir - which is an enormous contributor to their profitable music campaign - is led by an engaged-to-be-married homosexual couple. This strikes us as paradoxical if not hypocritical.
Bellevue Presbyterian Church recently changed their stance to condone same-sex marriage, although the diction of their official statement allows for pastors to refuse performing the sacrament if they choose. This clearly was written to leave grounds for discrimination. Officially, the church states that their recent approval of same-sex marriage is strictly a formality, and “does not change how our pastors and session understand the Bible’s teaching on sexuality and marriage.” It seems as though the church changed its beliefs due to legal advancement in the country, while claiming that their doctrinal philosophies remain the same. Similarly to Hillsong church's stance on the issue, this claim is paradoxical.
Another church that shows seemingly contradictory attitudes towards LGBTQA Christians is Blue Print Church. According to their website, they hold a non-affirming stance toward same-sex relationships based on Biblical evidence. However, they also have a letter published on their site that says they accept LGBTQA persons into their church. While it is clear that they are trying to adhere to their understanding of biblical authority, these two contradictory stances appear confusing at best, and hypocritical at worst. It is hard for a digital visitor to really believe that LGBTQA Christians would be welcomed as full, active members based on the non-affirming stance toward same-sex relationships.
An example of a queer-affirming, modern, Christian Church is St. Lydia's in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Emily Scott, cofounder and Pastor at St. Lydia’s Church, developed her ministry with the hope that the congregation felt comfortable entering under her roof and unashamedly questioning their faith. In fact, Pastor Scott, as well as the coordinators who develop the various services St. Lydia’s provides, encourage questioning in faith. The St. Lydia’s homepage promotes the church as an open-door institution that validates the unique spiritual journey of each individual, while simultaneously recognizing the LGBTQA community specifically is in need of a safe space to develop their beliefs.
Due to the fact that the LGBTQ Christian community has faced so much contradiction, rejection, and hypocrisy, digital spaces have become one place to find safe spaces for LGBTQ-identified Christians. Various Pastors have pursued different means in order to help promote the presence and validity of the LGBTQA Christian community. In our research, some of the most fascinating experiments to promote LGBTQ Christian community online are found on Tumblr. “Pastor in Process” has a dual approach when affirming the legitimacy of the LGBTQA Christian community. It includes Biblical analysis which is geared toward the ideals of self-acceptance and love for all humankind, as well as personal stories of LGBTQA Christians who have struggled with finding a place for themselves within traditional Christian theology and culture. “The Naked Pastor” takes a stronger approach in this regard by actively criticizing the lack of acceptance within the Christian community. Through the use of cartoons to both highlight the shortcomings of traditional Christian denominations while also providing posts regarding literature that could help LGBTQA Christians find answers to their spiritual questions, the Tumblr page creates a positive and affirmative environment. “Everyday I’m Pastoring” and “LeighDev” both create a dialogue which demonstrates that many new Pastors and seminary students actively support the LGBTQA Christian community. Through satirical and humorous posts – often employing a popular medium on Tumblr, the .gif – both of these pages address LGBTQA's grievances and offer hope.