A Little Glimpse at a Lesbian Church

Carmen’s Team Pick:

In 2011 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, this amazing thing happened: two lesbians founded a church. And Buzzfeed has 15 photos of it.

The Cidade de Refugio has a specific mission: to bring people closer to God without excluding any of His/Her people.

The church’s NGO, “Hands in Action,” is specifically focused around ending homophobia:

“About 4 years ago, I began to understand a principal that changed my vision of the role of the church, and I know that that vision can be applied to any kind of society; “extending hands towards the needs of those around us leads to healthy progress.”

With the creation of the church, there also came the understanding that it’s important to reach out to all who have suffered any type of trauma, whether it be psychic, physical or mental, and that we need to pay attention to the emotional consequences of maltreatment and rejection, verbal and physical aggression, and homophobic actions that can lead to death. 

Imbued with this sentiment and vision, we decided to create NGO: HANDS IN ACTION from the point of view that, as a heterogenous society, created from many different citizens, we needed to help encourage diversity, understanding that a lack of education about what is misunderstood only serves to promote solutions that are impossible and detrimental and which generate more division and unity. We wanted to eliminate this type of action.”

The church’s site is full of LGBT resources, information, and blog posts, all of which make it easier to navigate our sometimes hopeless world — together.

From their mission:

“Your lesson begins in Jesus’ selection of his disciples, which makes it clear that the kingdom of God is not interested in appearances. The call to God is not based on stereotypes, but goes beyond into the heart of being. Jesus proved that rougher men can be molded into apostles. He taught us to be patient during the process of improvement and proved that our weaknesses can be direct channels though which God shows his grace.”

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Carmen spent six years at Autostraddle, ultimately serving as Straddleverse Director, Feminism Editor and Social Media Co-Director. She is now the Consulting Digital Editor at Ms. and writes regularly for DAME, the Women’s Media Center, the National Women’s History Museum and other prominent feminist platforms; her work has also been published in print and online by outlets like BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic and SIGNS, and she is a co-founder of Argot Magazine. You can find Carmen on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr or in the drive-thru line at the nearest In-N-Out.

Carmen has written 919 articles for us.


  1. Preach! I’m not a practicing of any faith, but I’d like to point out that the Metropolitan Community Church, which has locations across the country, is completely open and welcoming of LGBT people. A majority of their congregation is queer. There’s also the Unitarian Universalist Church, which has traditionally been open to LGBT people and is politically involved.

    • Well first of all, wonderful article, Carmen!

      I just joined MCC in DC and I strongly recommend it to anyone in DC looking for community.

      Sometimes it seems like I’m either coming out to my christian friends as *gasp* queer or coming out to my queer friends as a *gasp* christian. At MCC all my *gasp* identities are not in question by the community and it is lovely.

      • MCC (as mentioned above) has churches worldwide including several in the UK [http://mccchurch.org/ourchurches/find-a-church/] but there are other inclusive faith communities available e.g. http://inclusive-church.org.uk/. I’m less clued up about other religions I’m afraid but there are groups out there. Keep your ear to the ground. I found out about my local MCC through a leaflet about LGBTQ groups/activities in my area.

  2. There’s a great church in Greenpoint Brooklyn run by a lesbian couple. They have a booming food pantry and one of their elders (a non-ordained leader in the church, who in this case is a straight white guy) likes to refer to the place as “My lesbian church”. Full disclosure, I’m friends with the minister there, but if you’re in the Brooklyn area and a queer person of faith, you should check it out: Greenpoint Reformed Church. It’s a little closer for some of us then Brazil.
    ALSO and huge second on the United Church of Christ (UCC). They are an amazing bunch of folk.

  3. I’m in San Antonio. My girl is religious, but I am not. Besides that I go to church with her, and we’ve been hopscotching all over the place to find a gay friendly church. If anyone has any recommendations, please share?

    • Jessica, I’m in S.A also. I go to a Catholic Church. I don’t know of any other churches but I’ve never had any problems with the one I go to… But, that’s just me. If I learn of any I’ll let you know.

    • You might want to try a United church, in Canada they were one of the first religious groups to perform and bless same-sex marriages. The few times that I’ve been to a United service I had the impression that they’re a lot like very relaxed Lutherans

    • Unitarian Universalists! I think at least one of the congregations in San Antonio is a Welcoming Congregation, which is a program for congregations that see a need to become more inclusive towards bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, queer, and questioning people and their families. (This is also the religion I grew up in, where my sister didn’t believe me when I came out to her because she thought I was faking it to be cool/fit in with all of the other youth group kids).

  4. This seems way too fitting after our talent show (21 HUMP STREET!). I’m absolutely stoked that these safe-faith-spaces are emerging for those who need them.

  5. Carmen, since you’re the one who wrote this article I was hoping this would be in DC! Know of any super gay churches in the area? I was raised Greek Orthodox but that church is more about Greek community than gay community, I guess… though um I haven’t exactly been to a service there in a while, my family goes to a United Church of Christ one for Christmas nowadays and based on my experience there it seems pretty cool, has a rainbow flag on the sign… oh and in the book “She Looks Just Like You” (about lesbian motherhood) the mothers belonged to a UCC church.

    • Dignity of Washington has mass at 6pm Sundays in Dupont. Catholic is closeish to Greek Orthodox? It is mostly older gay men, but is super welcoming.

    • Really, that was just unnecessary. It sounds really condescending when people bring up science in discussions about religion. It’s impossible to deny that religion can impact people’s lives in a positive way and that religion and science aren’t mutually exclusive but simply different things. I know plenty of people in the field who are religious or at least spiritual, usually because they feel like studying the fascinating and complex universe we live in has brought them closer to their spiritual side or because religion can give them emotional solace in some situations that science cannot.

      • I completely fail to see how that was condescending. All that was said is that science accepts everyone. Whether there are scientists who are also religious is completely beside the point. Skeptic and atheist visibility on this website has a pretty poor track record. Check your privilege. Also, I will deny that religion and science are compatible, but that’s for another debate entirely.

        • I actually fail to see how “Check your privilege” applies to A’s comment. She’s just of the opinion that the snarky “science trumps religion” sort of comment isn’t the most appropriate/relevant/constructive on an article about an inclusive church.

          • You’re not automatically entitled to having your beliefs go without objection or questioning, especially if you belong to a privileged social group. Religious people are immensely privileged. The article is about an inclusive church which underscores how the majority of churches aren’t inclusive. Making a comment about the inclusiveness of science doesn’t seem inappropriate or irrelevant to me. This is not a religious website and the articles about religion on here are open for debate by everyone. Excluding minority viewpoints because they do not agree with your own constitutes assertion of privilege.

        • To quote W. Kamau Bell:

          “On the list of oppressed groups, Atheists are between ‘People with Peanut Allergies’, and ‘Rich white guys who are too tall and too good looking.'”

      • i can’t really understand why you’re so bothered. i think if people are looking for answers, science makes a lot more sense than religion, and it’s not exclusive.

        i wasn’t disrespectful on any level, and i think a post about church is the perfect opportunity to suggest an alternative. am i not entitled to my opinion because it’s not the same as yours?

      • insofar as science attempts to explain our origins and requires a measure of “faith,” it kind of is a religion. but strictly speaking, you win.

    • Oh FFS, not that “debate” again. I’m an atheist myself and I’m freaking tired of it.

      First, I’d like to point out that denying scientifically proven facts or theories in the name of religion is something only extremists do, and not all religious people are extremists.
      I’ve been raised in a catholic family, went to a catholic school, and never ever met anyone who didn’t believe in evolution or dinosaurs or things like that. I know that AS is an US-centric website, but just because you have whackos over there doesn’t mean the whole world agrees with them. You’d have a hard time finding a single religious person in Europe who throws their Bible in the face of science. I wish some Americans would stop believing that the world revolves around the United States of America and that everything in their country is an accurate representation of the whole planet or sets a standard everyone follows. It doesn’t.

      Believing in God doesn’t mean believing everything written in the Bible/Coran/Torah/whichever book (or everything the religious authorities pretend is written in them) in a literal way, it just means believing in the existence of the God talked about in your book of choice. Period. It doesn’t mean you don’t believe in science findings, it just means you believe something or someone created those things science proves and studies in the first place.

      Science is about the HOW, religion is about the WHY. They’re not incompatible, because they’re about two entirely different (and some might say complementary) things.

      Oh and, shitting on religious people and their beliefs on an article about religion is not exercising your “atheist visibility”. It’s being an asshole.

      • Based on your last sentence, I’m going to assume your post was directed at me. If not, oh well!

        First off, don’t assume I’m American. Second, if denying scientific theories is something only “extremists” do, then there are a lot more extremists than you think. A simple google search on the acceptance of creationism will tell you that. Being from one of the supposedly most atheistic countries in the world, I find your assertion that “you’d have a hard time finding a single religious person in Europe who throws their Bible in the face of science” completely laughable. What absolute bullshit. The millions of creationists here hold the same beliefs as American creationists do and I’d be happy to supply evidence. Get off your euro-supremacy horse.

        Further, who are you to say that believing in God doesn’t entail a literal interpretation of a holy book? That -is- the belief of literally hundreds of millions of people, so if you’re going to carry the religious banner, don’t bloody trivialize that. You’re invalidating their belief in favour of asserting your own opinion of what such a belief should entail.

        Science isn’t only about “how”, it’s about the “why” as well, and I’d like to know how and why this fact has totally escaped you, as an atheist? Science asks and answers the question ‘why’ all the time, and mostly has the answer “We don’t know” which is the only -factually based- opinion you can hold in the majority of instances with regard to these questions.

        In fact, religion also takes a stab at explaining “how” and every single traditional religious explanation of “how” is completely and utterly incompatible with our scientific understanding of the universe. You either accept scientific fact and reconcile the creation story of your holy book as poetic and/or allegorical or you reject science. The end.

        Also, cry me a river. Nobody here came in with guns blazing and took a big dump on religion. I have every right to engage with people’s beliefs regarding this issue and doing so on the ‘atheist articles’ would be an impossibility since there aren’t any. Religious people enjoy a huge amount of privilege and if atheists like you could stop with the white knight apologist spiel, it wouldn’t be a moment too soon.

        • thanks for coming to my defense! i especially like “Nobody here came in with guns blazing and took a big dump on religion.”

          i feel like folks are over-reacting to my “science is a religion that accepts everyone” comment based on their own insecurities. you believe what you want, and i’ll believe what i want. if i suggest science is a better answer than religion, why is that so offensive? i understand “church” offers social experiences and emotional support you may not otherwise get from studying science, but i personally see a lot more value in seeking answers not based on out-dated religious texts that are misogynistic and homophobic.

          and, agreed – science and religion are incompatible. if we want to talk moral philosophy, there aren’t many better examples of how to be a good person than jesus. but if your beliefs are not compatible with the bible (or whatever religious texts) i.e. you believe in evolution, then why do you still claim to be christian? you’re not, sorry; and that’s ok. but power to you if you want to be like jesus…stories about him make him out to be a real stand up guy.

          • I think why people are overreacting so much is that they feel, as I do, like a minority within a minority. Queers, on a whole, are a group that traditionally does not look kindly upon people of faith (with good reason). Being LGBT* with a strong faith in whatever you subscribe to can feel like a war is being waged inside of you. So, I think that your comment may have just hit a nerve with some. While I may disagree with your assessment of religion in general, your points disparaging mainstream religion definitely do hold ground. However, keep in mind that not all those with a religious faith identify with the the most stringent of streams of that religion!
            an observant, queer Jew who also believes in science

      • “believing in god” doesn’t mean you believe everything in the bible; but going to the church of an organized religion (which this article is about) leaves you susceptible to the kind of indoctrination that breeds bigotry.

        i never said anything about believing or not believing in god. i suggested science as an alternative to the exclusionary model that is catholicism/christianity/judaism/islam.

        • I live fairly close to an Ivy League university (one of the big ones) and our congregation includes professors and teachers of science, as well as folks who are running or working in research facilities and labs, whether as part of the university or independently. So, even folks who are “doing science” all day, every day, don’t necessarily see being a scientist and being a Christian as mutually exclusive.

      • About the Catholics… I went to Catholic school through the 1990s. (I escaped for high school.) A cool priest came in and explained that the Church accepts evolution as a valid theory, and the kids exploded in disbelief and mockery. Made me feel really alone. There’s all kinds of Catholicism, of course. And this was in a Republican stronghold.

        We had a lot of religion classes. There’s nothing about evolution in the Bible or usually-covered Church dogma, so these adolescents thought it was ridiculous.

        My whole family on one side is Catholic. Except for my immediate family and my grandparents, they’re all Republican. College-educated, relatively wealthy, voting–and donating money–against the interests of a lot of oppressed people. Of most of the people, in fact.

        The people who lived behind us banned me from babysitting after I mentioned to their children, looking at a book of animal pictures with glow-in-the-dark skeletons inside them, that the hip bone (pelvic bone? I don’t know) in the whale, not attached to anything, was a remnant from when they were land-dwelling mammals. They laughed at me, too, and repeated things they learned every week in Sunday school. So I shut up about it; that was their parents’ deal. Turns out the family were fundamentalist Christians.

        I mean… just… I don’t see benefit in religious dogma of any kind, really. I don’t think that’s what makes people good, and it often makes them act badly. It’s not organized religion that’s helpful, per se, but the community people create under its aegis, and the values those people work on their own and together to discover and live. But then when someone who actually believes in progressive action and ideas calls themselves, say, a Catholic, and gives money to them, they’re supporting all that evil stuff that comes out of Church dogma too, and it’s a waste of the good energy. It baffles me.

  6. Thank you! I have been so frustrated with feeling alienated from BOTH communities that I identify with! As a girl who identifies as a Gay Christian, it can be frustrating to feel like everyone else sees those two things as mutually exclusive. In most circles, I’m too gay for the Christians and too Christian for the gays. Thanks, Carmen, for speaking to the lesser known communities which encourage both!

    For anyone looking for a church that is accepting of us queers: Most (if not all) Episcopal churches will be queer friendly! If anyone is in or around Santa Barbara, Trinity Episcopal church is an incredibly accepting place (where the motto is “open hearts, open minds”). My girlfriend and I go there and I mentor for the youth group. Our rector is a gay man, and our associate rector is a lesbian. Come on by!!

    • @Babz that is SO cool! I grew up in that area and would have LOVED to have lesbians practicing faith as role models! I grew up in a Presbyterian church and ended up leaving, in part because i couldn’t reconcile that the people i looked up to growing up turned out to be bigoted and closed-minded at the same time. I have always found Episcopalian churches to be queer-friendly, and I love that you’re involved in the youth group as well. Go you!

      • Another vote/voice here for the Episcopal church. For the most part, the congregations that are in the Episcopal Church U.S.A. are out there fighting the good fight. Our own parish has gone, in 20 years, from hosting an “ex-gay conference” to hiring an out gay priest! How cool is that?

        I also wish that the anti-religion people (especially some of the prominent gay bloggers) could keep their anti-religion views separate from the pro-gay ones. There is a ton of really good work being done in the liberal churches right now to increase acceptance and tolerance towards GLBT people. And, it seems silly to me to intentionally alienate big blocks of folks who “could” be your natural allies!

        • Right?! Even putting personal opinion/faith/lack of faith aside, it seems to me that it would be numerically sound not to alientate potential allies in a socio-politcal debate as hot as GLBT rights is right now!

          Frankly, it also seems pretty hypocritical from both sides…I have heard so much from both the church community and the GLBT community about “acceptance” and “loving others” and “you do you” (okay, maybe that last one doesnt apply to both communities). But when it comes down to it, neither group tends to follow through with those sentiments. So much effort is thrown into showing how the “opposition” is corrupt/sinful/bigoted/full of assholery that each group forgets to follow their own ideals.

    • I am also a queer Christian and know how it feels to feel ‘stuck in the middle’ in just the manner that you mentioned, babz. It’s always great to find that there are others around too though. *waves* :)

  7. “For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command nor faith a dictum. I am my own god. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”
    ― Charles Bukowski

    I’m of course partial to the “drink beer” part of it all.

  8. Thanks a bunch for posting this article Carmen. There are still few truly understanding and safe spaces out there for queer Christians to be told ‘you do you’, so hearing about this warms my heart.

    I and other queer spiritual youngins have countered the lack of safe spaces for us by essentially starting a self-run Queer Straight Alliance Youth Group. This was sparked by a young homogay getting kicked from her youth group leadership position for her lady-persuasions (she since left that church) and a gay minister I know writing about all this on her own Facey B page, and myself making the QSA Youth Group suggestion … which turned out to be popular and one that had been on a few people’s minds.

    We now have a group of friendly and awesome queer youth (of various faith persuasions) meeting in a church in our city every fortnight. The group functions in a secular fashion (we don’t evangelise and this isn’t our focus), but the sense of community is there for those who are Christian.

    We ran a zine-making night the other day, and the pages produced ranged from the political (poems commenting on the willingness to die for one’s country) to sexy (lots of pictures of variously undressed ladies with words like ‘moist’ attached) to hilarious also (eg. via an ongoing coloured collage of The Kraken). We and made blanket-and-sheet forts filled with fairy lights and lay inside them and answered deep questions about ourselves, after running maniacally around the church building pelting each other with foam bullets from terrifying NERF guns. We ran a stencilling workshop and then sprayed pro-queer political statements onto our city’s legal graffiti wall. We’ve talked about mental health and have touched base with another queer youth collective in our city so that we can form a greater sense of community and support each other in supporting each other. So it’s all really positive stuff.

    We also had a gay old bake sale to raise money for resources and to pay for upcoming shenigans- a long term goal of which now involves coming all the way to the USA for A-Camp, thanks to my constant discussion of/raving about Autostraddle basically every single time QSA meets (I have personally recruited four fresh faced new readers to your audience, even if they’re sometimes convinced that you pay me to talk you up, heh). So that’s that.

    In conclusion though- the value of queer-friendly Christian spaces can’t be overlooked. Our group is small but the connection and understanding and acceptance is palpable. We can only hope and trust that the wider Christian community will continue to develop positively in their acceptance of queer Christians, but in the meantime, I’m happy to be part of a group that is better able to say You Do You.. because as always, that means the world.

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