Oasis California is an organization that strives to incorporate the LGBTQ+ community into the Episcopal Church.
Q:What steps does Oasis take to incorporate LGBTQ+ individuals into the Episcopalian community?
Tom Jackson (TJ): Sometimes we do things like go to the general convention of the Episcopal Church, which happens every three years. We create policies that will help integrate the LGBTQ+ community into the life of the church. We work to bring people together from across the globe to the convention so that bishops will have the option of conversing with a live LGBTQ+ person; surprisingly, there are a lot of parts of the Anglican Church where that’s not an option, so we want to give those bishops an opportunity to get to know and learn about the lives of LGBTQ+ folks. We often do things like that.
Q: People often think of religion as a Conservative movement, but your organization emphasizes progressive preaching-can you talk about that?
TJ: The only people who are Conservative Christians are political Conservatives. Jesus himself was a very radical preacher. If you read the words that Jesus spoke in the New Testament, it’s clear he’s advocating progressive values: he spoke of taking care of the poor and the homeless; he talked about protecting the aliens in your own land-both of which are now considered progressive values. Q: How has your work with both the Episcopalian and the LGBTQ+ communities impacted your view of religion and the religious community more generally?
TJ: It’s made clear that there are many, many people outside of the Church who have been hurt by people (often their families) claiming to be Christian. It’s a lot of just reaching out to those people and saying, ’no, God doesn’t hate you. God is about loving people, god is about caring about people, god is about supporting people-not about judging people, not about condemning people. That’s an uphill battle because there are so many instances where the media emphasizes every weird thing someone who claims to be a Christian pastor says. When some adolescent says, ’oh, gay people should be executed,’ that’s all over the internet and the news media. But the work of the preachers like the ones here [at Oasis] who are about love and acceptance rarely makes the news. We’re essentially fighting to validate religion because of the media, because of the political climate, and because of Donald Trump.