On 26 May 2020, South African President Ramaphosa called for churches and places of worship to reopen, citing “the great impact that the closure of places of worship had on members of the faith community, and that this has worsened the distress of communities who are unable to worship in congregation.” Members of Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference welcomed this news, saying that the reopening of churches will help many people who have experienced emotional and spiritual distress during the lockdown. “People have felt abandoned by the church community in their moment of grave need. The stress of feeling isolated leaves the individual with a weakened immunity… A sense of deep depression due to spiritual longing is also a suffering and a disease.”
But what of the countless numbers of LGBTIQ+ people who have been effectively locked out of their places of worship for years? What of their anguish and distress, their sense of abandonment by their spiritual communities?
IAM’s Ecclesia de Lange reflects on the “reopening” of places of worship, and how this new-found awareness that spiritual leaders have of the pain of being isolated and unable to seek solace in their churches might translate into a deeper understanding of the pain experienced by the LGBTIQ+ people of faith.