“How do we offer pastoral accompaniment to LGBT persons and their families in a way that truly welcomes and embraces them while faithfully teaching the truth about human sexuality that God has revealed in creation, Scripture, and tradition?” he asked. “How can such accompaniment lead LGBT persons into a deeper relationship with the person of Jesus Christ and his body, the Church?”
Accompaniment of LGBT persons means holding “a life-giving tension” of two elements: the desire to “welcome every person into relationship with Christ and his body, the Church” and also the desire “to lead people to the fullness of life that flows from knowing the liberating truth about the human person” revealed through Jesus Christ.
While people experience tension and difficulty in balancing charity and truth, in Jesus these are united, Lori said.
“The response of the Church must also always be one of truth,” he added. This includes questions about the destiny of human beings, the meaning of the human person, and the meaning of human sexuality and embodied human nature.
Any LGBT ministry exists “to help people on the lifelong path of discipleship,” starting with “an awareness of our need for the Lord,” Lori said. This ministry should be seen as “pastoral care rather than social justice.” He criticized any “ideology” that “proposes an incomplete answer to the desires of the human heart.” Ultimately, people all need “an openness to a relationship with Christ that fills the infinite hunger of our hearts.”
“We recognize the struggles of LGBT persons, and the feelings of pain and rejection that they may have, even with the Church and her ministers,” Lori said. “These ministries must be a safe place where people are free to share their stories and know that they will be welcomed and listened to without condemnation.”
These people have diverse experiences and ministries must not make assumptions about individuals, the guidance continued. Self-identified LGBT people themselves have “a variety of views on the nature of same-sex attraction or gender” and they, their friends, or family members may be “at different places in their own journey of faith,” so ministries must “respect the unique gifts and experience of each person.”
Lori’s guidance focuses on six different “essential characteristics of pastoral accompaniment.” These are: recognizing the reality of our need; showing compassion, respect, and sensitivity; journeying together in light of our calling; having a different kind of conversation; living “rooted in the Church”; and a willingness to “make the long journey.”
While he said no set of guidelines “will say all that needs to be said or say it in the best way,” Lori emphasized the need to build relationships and for ongoing dialogue. Any parish with any kind of ministry to LGBT persons and their families must have Lori’s approval. Pastors and leaders of these ministries must have “ongoing” conversations with their regional vicar, Emmaus team members, and the archdiocese’s coordinator of LGBT outreach.
The archbishop also considered the characteristics of LGBT ministry leaders. They must be “disciples” aware of their own need for Christ and “his call to follow more closely each day.” They should be “people of prayer who are attentive to the voice of the Spirit and faithful to Christ and his Church.” They must also “possess the capacity to facilitate a different kind of conversation which holds in tension both openness and fidelity, charity and truth.”
Such leaders should have a “solid foundation” in Church teaching, must “truly embrace it” and have “an ability to convey it clearly and charitably.” They must be willing “to put in the long and hard work of walking with others on this long journey.” They should mirror the “patient mercy” of God the Father. The path to Jesus Christ is “often slow and winding” and there will be “missteps” as their work of accompaniment moves toward a greater fidelity to Christ.
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“None of us, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, is perfect just the way we are,” Lori wrote. “But our desire for God is more than merely a remedy for sin. … The essential disposition we need is an openness to receive the love of God, to hear his word and to respond to his love.”