SOULE has previously talked about the importance of having LGBTQ religious leaders and spaces in the queer community, however, I believe that our real power and influence will come from within our community.
With that as the premise, we interviewed the Reverend Jamie Frazier who pastors the Lighthouse Church of Chicago. He studied at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago and received his undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University. Reverend Frazier is doing the work in the community to create a rich, welcoming, affirming church for all genders, ethnicities, and sexual orientations.
SOULE spoke with him this week about his work and his vision for a more inclusive future Christianity.
SOULE: When did you first feel compelled to preach?
Reverend Frazier: I grew up in an AME church. The Black church is in my bones. The Black church was the first place that affirmed and welcomed me. When I say this, I mean that as a Black gap-toothed kid who had been given up for adoption, I was given an opportunity to display my gifts, one of which was public speaking. My church helped me discern and refine my call to preach.
What issues have you faced in growing this ministry?
Challenge #1: Harriet Tubman once said, “I could have freed more slaves if they had known they were slaves.” There are so many Black queer people who are in chains who don’t know they are in chains. How do you set people free who don’t even know they are oppressed? When I talk to people who are not in affirming church spaces they don’t know they are in oppressive spaces. They want to go to church they just want to be with Black people and their families and ignore the anti-queer rhetoric. They prioritize Black respectability more than we prioritize their own liberation and affirmation.
Challenge #2: People come to lighthouse VERY broken and traumatized and we have to do the hard work of healing. When you come in with issues that haven’t been addressed even the smallest stressor will cause you to abandon worship.
Challenge #3: There is a drastic and dramatic decline in church attendance. People are still asking questions about purpose and people are still seeking community, but they aren’t looking to the church for those answers. To be planting a church at a time when churches are closing is a bold and counter cultural thing.
How do you feel you are changing the Christian landscape of Chicago?
If our church can grow to 200-300 people that will send a message to unaffirming churches that you will lose members if you continue in your hateful positions. We aren’t going to out argue or shame unaffirming pastors. The only thing that will change their minds is taking money out of their offering plates. I’m passionate about bringing people in. I want to send a message to Black church pastors that your continued position will cost you members. I want to show Black queer pastors that you can be out and still have a church. Because I don’t see Lighthouse as an exclusively queer church but as a church that is welcoming of all people including queer people. I want us to be distinguished by the fact that our Christianity binds us, and our love keeps us connected.
Who/What did you look to for inspiration?
Jesus **laughter**when I was in college I wanted to be a lawyer or a politician. I eventually realized I liked politics and the law because I was invested in my own name. Jesus has inspired me, to keep my ego in check and he offers me an example of what it means to liberate, to include, and to love. Jesus inspires me because he constrains my ego, he gives me something bigger than myself to be a part of, he invites me into a greater community, and that’s why I keep going. When I look at American civil rights movements they were often birthed in the Black church.
When I look at Black Lives Matter movement today, the foundation is not the Black church and that saddens me. My concern is that when we do justice work without something bigger than us, without something that pulls us together and/or gives us hope I don’t know how we can last. I’m serious about integrating Jesus and the church into justice work because I think it can sustain us in transforming the world. Black Lives Matter and other movements should be critical of the church because the church has been patriarchal, and misogynistic, and it has to earn the right to be the center of justice work again. I want to have a church that does that kind of work and uplifts people in their fight for justice.
To learn more about the Lighthouse Church of Chicago, visit: https://www.lighthousechicago.org/about
Also follow the church on Instagram