When we refer to "sexual" minorities, we are referring to an individual's experience of sexual orientation or their experience of gender. Thus, what we have in view here is not one's sexual activity, gender expression, or ethics, but rather, how an individual experiences his or her gender and sexual orientation.
When we refer to sexual "minorities," we are using the term statistically rather than politically. The simple fact is that an overwhelming majority of people do not experience attractions to the same sex and do not experience any significant conflict in regards to their gender identity. Thus, those who do experience these things find themselves, regardless of history or culture, in the minority.
Put together, the term "sexual minority" is a kind of umbrella to describe any individual whose experience of sexual orientation or gender falls outside the majority experience. The descriptor says nothing about an individual's sexual activity, gender expression, or ethics. Instead, it speaks to the complex social experience that LGBT+ / same-sex attracted individuals have as minorities in society, regardless of their beliefs or actions.
"Ministry" is a complicated word. When Christians talk about ministry in the context of sexual minorities or the LGBT+ community, it's often understood as Christians ministering to these individuals--and frequently, these ministries have been harmfully misguided in their attempts to make LGBT people "straight" in order for them to find favor with God.
"Yes, we want gay people who are lonely and hurting to find sheltered spaces where they can receive forgiveness, the binding up of wounds, and the comfort needed to go on hoping. We want them to be ministered to. But we also—and perhaps even more prominently—want gay people who are in Christ to follow their callings, impart their stories, offer their insights, and exercise the full range of their gifts in the church and for the sake of the world. We want them to do the work of ministry."
This is a great description of Sexual Minority Fellowship's mission. Our staff and volunteers want to create an environment where sexual minorities can be ministered to, but we also want to create an environment where sexual minorities are encouraged to minister to each other, and ultimately, equipped and empowered to do the work of ministry themselves in their communities and through their local churches.
So is SMF a "ministry" then? In a sense, yes.
However, we we strongly believe that this kind of ministry environment only arises out of a community of believers that are committed to Christ and committed to one another's growth, sanctification, and flourishing in Christ--in a word, fellowship. We are a Fellowship of sexual minorities in which there is a great deal of ministry taking place.
We are by no means a replacement for the local church--where the Word is preached and the sacraments are administered. A church where we are under godly authority and where we find fellowship with our brothers and sisters who have different experiences than we do.
Rather, we aim to be a place where sexual minorities who are wrestling with big questions at the intersection of faith and sexuality can come, discuss, share...and breathe. There is a time for discussion, and there is a time for study. We believe there must also be time simply to take off the mask and find refreshment amongst a community of individuals who are on a similar journey as sexual minorities in the Church and who understand the complex experience. We think Wesley Hill, again, put it perfectly when he wrote:
"As a gay man myself, albeit a celibate one owing to my Christian ethical convictions, I know my own feeling of relief and calm when I’m with my gay friends. I can breathe more evenly and let go of some of my self-consciousness. In their company, I can assume so much shared history, and I can count on empathy."
At Sexual Minority Fellowship in St. Louis, regardless of your beliefs, regardless of your past-present-future, you have a place to breathe, to let go of your self-consciousness--a place to find rest and friendship and a listening ear.
Would you come join us?