By Bridget Eileen Rivera
Seven Ways LGBTQ Christians Experience Harm in the Church
Foreword INDIES 2021 Finalist for Religion
Religious faith reduces the risk of suicide for virtually every American demographic except one: LGBTQ people. Generations of LGBTQ people have felt alienated or condemned by the church. It’s past time that Christians confronted the ongoing and devastating effects of this legacy.Breaking down the issues both historically and socially, Heavy Burdens (Brazos Press, 2021) provides an honest account of the ways in which LGBTQ people experience discrimination in the church, helping Christians grapple with hard realities and empowering churches to navigate a better path forward.
Praise for Heavy Burdens
“This manifesto rings out in the key of love, the kind that disrupts our judgment, fear, and oppression. Rivera is a prophet for the ages, calling us to the clear-eyed way of Jesus and igniting our shared imagination for the lightness of Christ, alive and at work in all of us.”
– Shannan Martin, author of The Ministry of Ordinary Places
“Rivera has gifted us a thoroughly researched and carefully written account… Regardless of your sexuality, gender identity, or sexual ethics, this book will challenge you to reexamine your assumptions through the lens of the Gospel.”
– Bekah Mason, executive director of Revoice
“Heavy Burdens is the Gospel the church needs to hear. I don’t just recommend that you read it; I dare you to.”
– Kutter Callaway, associate professor, Fuller Theological Seminary
“Every Christian who reads this book will no longer be able to ignore the real harm that has been done in the name of the gospel—or to avoid grappling with the repentance and justice-seeking that the gospel continues to ask of us all.”
– Wesley Hill, associate professor, Western Theological Seminary; author of Spiritual Friendship
“Few people writing at the intersection of faith and identity embody Rivera’s mix of clarity, challenge, and conviction. We would all do well to heed her invitation to a Christianity where LGBTQ+ people can put down the burdens heaped upon them by the church and instead live into the fullnes of the gospel.”
– Matthias Roberts, psychotherapist; author of Beyond Shame
“This is an essential book… I suspect it will be a game changer for the church.”
– Kristyn Komarnicki, director of Oriented to Love, Christians for Social Action
“We’ve needed a book like Heavy Burdens for a long time. Rivera shows us how Christians have wounded the LGBTQ children of our churches. This is a book that can begin to bind up some of those wounds and guide us, in humble love, to build churches in which the next generation of queer Christians can truly flourish.”
– Eve Tushnet, author of Gay and Catholic
“Rivera gently unweaves the tapestry of Scripture, history, and psychology to unveil the ‘heavy burdens’ the body of Christ often lays on its LGBTQ members.”
– Rev. Emmy Kegler, author of One Coin Found
“My heart was gripped by the stories of other LGBTQ+ Christians interwoven throughout the book. Rivera’s grace, commitment to truth, balanced approach, and deep knowledge of Christian history shine through every page.”
– Darren Calhoun, worship leader, church advocate, and vocalist in The Many
“They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.”
Churches Can No Longer Afford To Be Silent
The Time Is Now To Bring Change
Many LGBTQ people face overwhelming challenges in navigating faith, gender, and sexuality. Christian communities that uphold the traditional sexual ethic often unwittingly make the path more difficult through unexamined attitudes and practices. Drawing on her sociological training and her leadership in the Side B/Revoice conversation, Bridget Eileen Rivera, who founded the popular website Meditations of a Traveling Nun, speaks to the pain of LGBTQ Christians and helps churches develop a better pastoral approach.
Rivera calls to mind Jesus’s woe to religious leaders: “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them” (Matt. 23:4). Heavy Burdens provides an honest account of seven ways LGBTQ people experience discrimination in the church, helping Christians grapple with hard realities and empowering churches across the theological spectrum to navigate better paths forward.
Every Christian bears the weight of the yoke of Christ. But to feel the weight of that burden is to feel the weight of God’s mercy and love and grace.
– Bridget Eileen Rivera, Heavy Burdens
Bridget Eileen Rivera
Orthodox Theology for the Liberated Christian
Bridget Eileen Rivera is a sociologist completing her Ph.D. at the City University of New York Graduate Center. She holds an M.Ed. in education administration from Oklahoma University and a B.A. in journalism from Patrick Henry College. A proud homeschool graduate and theologically-traditional Christian, Rivera has become a leading voice on gay celibacy in the church, helping Christians better grapple with gender and sexuality in a divided culture. She has worked with a number of faith-based organizations, including Revoice, Christians for Social Action, and Preston Sprinkle’s Center for Faith, Sexuality, and Gender, where she contributed to the Digital Leaders Forum. You can follow her on social media @travelingnun.
Bridget Eileen Rivera
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