Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Theology Not Apology

Theology Not Apology

Date May 14, 2008

It’s not at all surprising one of the recurring messages for GLBTQ Christians is that in being gay we’re creating a problem since something happens nearly everyday that gives that snarly little message another minute of air play.

In our families we hesitate in coming out to the people we love because we don’t want them to be upset. We worry about the burden it will be to them, the pain it will put them through, the conflicts it will create, and when we finally tell them we’re gay, we feel guilty at having been responsible in some way for their tears or anger; after all, if we’d never said anything, they would have been spared from it all. In our ongoing relationships with family and less than affirming Christian friends, we avoid revealing anything about our lives so as to not upset them further. While they talk easily about what’s going on in their lives, when it comes time for us to share what’s happening with us, we answer with a superficially-safe, “Oh no much, just more of the same-o same-o.”

We see what the issue of homosexuality is doing to the church. Christians on both sides are engaged in heated debates on the bible and homosexuality in their congregations, denominations, and right here on the internet. Mainstream denominations are threatening to splinter over the inclusion of GLBTQ people in the life and ministry of the church and the ordination of gays and lesbians. Straight pastors have been removed from their pastorates because they dared to preside at a gay wedding and other well-known personalities in the church world have been ostracized and ridiculed for voluntarily standing as GLBTQ allies and advocates in the church and society. As we celebrate those congregations that have declared themselves GLBTQ-welcoming and are grateful to our straight friends and allies who’ve paid a personal price, at the same time we carry a lingering sense of indebtedness to them and grief for all the fuss and bother our sexual orientation has brought to the church of Christ. We wonder whether we’re trying to push change too quickly and so we hesitate pursuing church leadership and avoid any physical contact with our partner within eye shot of the church building because it might be easier for everyone if we’re just a little less visible and vocal.

In these ways and others the message is reinforced that our sexual orientation is a major problem, responsible for division and tension in the church and stirring up pain and conflict in our families. We carry that voice inside ourselves and for some it becomes internalized and generalized to such an extent so that the problem is now no longer my sexual orientation but the problem is me. I’m a problem. I’m a problem to my family. I’m a problem to the church. I’m a problem to God. When we internalize the problem as ourselves then it’s understandable we find ourselves at times living as though we need to apologize for our very lives. “I’m here, I’m queer, I’m sorry.”

You are not a problem. That you are gay is not a problem. That you are gay does not even cause the problem. The problem does not belong to you. The problem is how others respond to us. The problem isn’t us but it belongs to those who respond to our full humanity as though it were a problem. No. That’s not even it. The real problem lies in all the erroneous teaching concerning the bible and homosexuality and the ignorant misinformation that’s been perpetuated about GLBTQ people over the decades. The problem resides in the church that already had a huge problem with the issue of sexuality long before we ever raised our gay voice. The problem lives outside us. The problem is not us. The problem is not you. I’m being repetitive here for a reason dear friend.

That the problem isn’t me or about me doesn’t mean I feel nothing in seeing the pain of those I love in my coming out to them, but rather than guilt or anger I feel compassion, recognizing that their pain comes from a lifetime of Christian teaching where exclusivity hides in the shadows of its doctrine and from those within Christianity who’ve used their public platform to promote fear and misinformation about gays and lesbians as a fund raising campaign and to seek conservative acclaim.

That the problem isn’t me or about me doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the price that’s been paid by straight allies and friends. I’m deeply grateful and moved by the sacrifices I know have been made by so many but I hold that with knowing what they’ve chosen to do has nothing to do with me. In Micah 6:8 we’re called to be a justice people and so each time someone stands up for GLBTQ people that’s not something they’re doing for the sake of you or I, but something they’re doing for the sake of the Gospel. Just as you and I, as GLBTQ people are equally called to advocate for justice, not only for ourselves but for any and all who are marginalized and oppressed.

When talking one day about Christian ethics, a man I greatly admire said that “Everything we say and do says exactly what it is we believe about God. We live our theology.” Those words changed how I approach life. It’s the touchstone I constantly return to through the day, at least those days when I’m being intentional in life rather than moving through in a fog and a flurry. “What am I saying about God in the action I’m about to take or in the words I’m about to speak? What do I believe about God by this thing I’m holding in my heart; by this thought that I’m giving my attention?”

In claiming the wholeness of our lives as GLBTQ people and in particular GLBTQ people of faith we have nothing to apologize for, but rather we are declaring the theology of our hearts; that God is a creative God, a God of surprises, a God of radically ridiculous and extravagant love, a God who on occasion just can’t resist doing the most unpredictable things while working through the most unexpected people. A God of love, grace, and compassion. A God of those who are gay and straight and bi and trans and anyone that falls anywhere in the wildly creative spectrum of humanity.

In Gifted by Otherness, M.R. Riley recalls of her own spiritual journey toward reconciliation,

I was not convinced that I either had a problem or was a problem. I saw clearly that others had a problem with me, but their view seemed merely quaint and ignorant. To judge by the richness of my spiritual life, God did not have a problem with me. I believed then and believe now that I was born gay by the grace of God, and that God found this good, as God found all creation good.

Okay, I’m going to say it one more time. The message telling you that you’re a problem or that your sexuality is causing a problem is wrong. Wrong, so wrong, absolutely wrong. You have nothing to apologize for as a gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans person of God but everything about grace and wholeness to declare to a world that could use a double dose of both. And then some.

Word out.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

This is shared by Anita over at I think it is absolutely amazing.

When I wrote the other day that I believe we are who we are and we love who we love because it’s by God’s design and for God’s purpose that we’re GLBTQ people; when I called being gay a divine calling, a holy vocation and for the sake of the Gospel, I was saying I believe all that today but I haven’t always.

I didn’t believe being gay was a gift when after 15 years of full-time ministry as a children’s pastor the senior pastor called me into his office and said “For your remaining two weeks as the children’s pastor at the church, I need to ask that you not be alone with any of the children; that you do what you can to avoid being with them at all.”

I had no confidence that being queer was a divine calling when the Christian publishing company called to inform me that while they still wanted to purchase my Christian Education program for national distribution it could only be under the condition that my name not appear as the author because they couldn’t risk having their evangelical market discover the material had been written by a homosexual.

I couldn’t have imagined it was God’s plan I was a lesbian when a Christian educator’s organization passed along word to me that despite having been one of their most popular workshop presenters over the previous six years, they were putting me on notice that they knew I was gay and therefore never again would be asked to speak at their annual conference or participate in any manner whatsoever.

I didn’t dare believe my sexuality was for the sake of the Gospel when it came time to receive the annual application to renew my denominational ministerial license in the mail and my mailbox remained empty; when a loved one who had supported my ministry from the beginning coldly said I should never have entered the ministry at all; or when I closed the door for a final time on an emptied church office where I’d counseled with parents and loved on their children through the main part of my adult years.

For all these reasons and for others held too close to my heart to openly share, I know that calling our sexuality a divine gift, a holy calling, God’s plan, and our purpose can be a challenge when the internal messages and external circumstances seem to reflect a different reality. I really do get it which is all the more reason why I admire you for taking on the challenge to believe something different if only for four days or for two.

All that I mentioned above came about in the first two months following my own coming out as a lesbian. While I had already come to peace concerning being a Christian and a lesbian, I understood my sexuality at that time as something more akin to a burden than a blessing, an oops of God rather than a gift of God. After all, it was coming at such a high price and then there was all that had been lost around my ministry. I had loved the ministry and that my greatest responsibility in my call had been to simply love people and tell of God’s even greater love for them. I couldn’t help wonder if the most meaningful and rewarding years of ministry were behind me.

Haman had tricked King Xeres into issuing a decree that would lead to the destruction of all the Jews. When Mordacai learned of Haman’s plot he sent a messenger to Queen Esther his niece, a closeted Jew, that she should petition her husband the king for the salvation of the Jews. When fear caused Esther to resist the idea, the message Mordacai sent back to her was this:

Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

Uncle Mordacai dares to suggest that the reason Esther had ever become queen, gaining privilege and renown might well have been for this very moment by placing her into a position where she could save her people, bringing relief and deliverance to the oppressed.

I read this passage one evening during my personal devotional time and something about it grabbed hold of me. Several weeks later I went to a GLBTQ Christian gathering where Marsha Stevens was the keynote speaker. Marsha told of her early years in Christian music when the Jesus Movement exploded and we (the currently middle-aged we) were all listening to Christian groups like Love Song, Second Chapter of Acts, and Children of the Day. She’d written the song, “For Those Tears I Died” while still in her teens, a song that was part of my own youth, playing it over and over again on my clunky 8-Track, strumming it’s simple chords on my acoustic guitar, and carrying the alto line in the church youth choir. Marsha recounted how after coming out as a lesbian she began to receive packages in the mail from churches around the country, filled with copies of her song torn from church hymnals and song books in angry protest upon learning the song writer was gay. In the midst of what must have been a devastating time in her life, Marsha turned to the story of Esther and the words “For such a time as this” rattled inside her, and rather than grieving the past success in ministry she’s once experienced, Marsha continued on to sing and proclaim the Gospel message as an out lesbian Christian and to establish a ministry that’s taken her around the world, healing and blessing the lives of countless GLBTQ and straight people. Marsha believed that all her past successes and accomplishments had been to prepare her for such a time as this.

For such a time as this. The phrase bounced around in my heart for days and then months and when it came to finally rest the idea that being gay was the purposeful intention of God for my life replaced the sense that my sexual orientation was merely a fluke or a flaw. I could never have imagined doing anything in ministry more rewarding or meaningful than all those years of pastoring children and their families, but then I could have never imagined the utter joy of the opportunities I’ve been given in recent years to proclaim God’s unconditional love to GLBTQ people or to anyone for that matter who needs to hear the message of the love of God, the message of the Gospel.

So many doors closed years ago but so many have been opening ever since. I’m an ordained clergywoman. I officiate at the table. There have been opportunities to preach in church and lead workshops designed for GLBTQ Christians. Every Sunday morning, I sit pretzel-style on a small carpet circle in the front of the church and gather the children around me to tell them how precious they are to God and how great is God’s love for them. And then there’s this online ministry and the countless emails I’ve received over the years that say in one way or another, “Thank you for reminding me that God wants to be in relationship with me. Thank you for helping me see God is with me and loves me.” I could never have imagined or thought to ask to be part of anything like this.

In the end I lost nothing in coming out that wasn’t given back to me in extravagant abundance. Everyone is called by God and we spend our lives seeking to live into that calling; to discover our way of being the presence of Christ in the world. The calling doesn’t stop the day we come out. The voice of God isn’t silenced even in the closet. God’s hand is on you. God’s spirit within you. God’s anointing upon you. Who you are is the very person God needs for you to be in this world. You have a way of speaking and living God’s love that will touch someone in a way that my life and others lives simply couldn’t do. Your life reflects a particular angle of God’s character and being that’s the exact angle someone else needs desperately to see. These might sound like sentimental words and sentimental they might be but they’re also very real. Nothing in your life is unusable to God. Nothing is less than a gift when devoted to God’s glory.

Whatever you’ve done in the past, wherever the present finds you, God has called you…for such a time as this.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


With everything that went on in the UMC this week, and the PCUSA coming up soon, it seems fitting to discuss LGBT inclusion in denominations that are not all that inclusive.

How do you feel about staying in a denomination that is not inclusive to LGBT people? People who leave because of it (like going to the UCC)? Is all this fighting actually accomplishing anything? Should people stay and fight or go to another denomination? Is there a difference for people who want to be ordained and laypeople?

From Tracy

Got this from Tracy's blog

i received this message from a friend of mine the other day. please read and reflect… this situation is not ok.

… As you may know, last Friday was the Day of Silence, a day that was created to make people aware that gay individuals have been silenced in our society.

Well, I had a full-time job a supplemental instructor in a local high school, tutoring individuals who needed support in their classes. One day, some students asked me if I am gay, and I informed them that I indeed am gay.

Now, my orientation was no choice of my own, but I am now thankful that for it. I am not ashamed of this.

However, the principal told me that I should not have told anyone because my orientation is no one’s business. Normally, that would be the case. However, in a society where my people are publicly persecuted and oppressed, my personal life immediately becomes relevant to the public. For example, how could Martin Luther King’s message have had the same power if he couldn’t let anyone know that he was black himself? How could Esther plead for her people if she could not tell her husband that she, too, was an Israelite?

Secondly, I wanted to show students by my example that gay people are cool and respectable, and not abnormal, depraved, or predatory, etc. Many of them had never met someone who was gay. I was in a unique place to destroy ignorance.

Unfortunately, the principal fired me because of the truth. My witness at that school was silenced.

Do not feel sorry for me, but pray for my students who wander lost without their mentor, and pray for the man who perjures himself every morning when he affirms his commitment, before God, to the idea of “justice for all.”

discrimination like this is never ok. it is this type of behavior that encourages the undeserved violence and hatred towards LGBT individuals in schools, workplaces and in society.

i say it again…


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Whose your candidate

I am reposting this discussion. Who is your presidential candidate? Mccain? Obama? Clinton?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Coming Out By Sauce

My first memory of reflecting on my own sexuality and gender expression is at the age of 6. I clearly remember first grade like it was yesterday. I had a little bit of a mullet and a sweater dress; I looked like a “normal girl” in 1991. I went to a small school and during lunch we played this game: girls chase boys. Ever heard of it? The girls chase the boys around the playground, I guess to catch them or something…I am not sure why. That was exactly it, I never understood the game very much at all. I tried to participate but there was something about chasing boys that never kept my interest.

Flash to age 12. By this time, I was not the “normal girl” anymore. In fact, I was quite the opposite. It was 1997 and I was in a total grunge fad. Seventh grade was so painful. Not only was it normal awkward like middle school is for everyone, but I was a total dyke. With my buzzcut, baggy boy cammo pants, boy janco t-shirt, Dr. Martin combat boots, and bike chain necklace, I was definitely not the cool kid. My gender expression had always been a little on the masculine side. I always blamed it on my weight, saying that female clothes never fit me right. The truth was, I liked it a lot when people would call me “son” and “he” out in the mall or at a restaurant. There was something about it. At the same time, my body was definitely developing feminine features and despite my hormonal imbalance, my body managed to produce wide hips and one nice breast (the other one was not so nice). I hated my body.

Sexuality was in full bloom at my school. Everyone I knew had a boyfriend or was being invited to sleepovers. As an awkward young lesbian, I was never invited out ever. The girls didn’t want me at their sleepovers because I didn’t talk about boys and the boys didn’t want to date me because I looked like them. I had a few friends, but no one that I really felt I could open up to. One night, I was staying up late, not having any weekend plans, and I caught something on TV that brought me to my realization. I can’t remember whether it was the movie Gia or some horribly scrambled porn that turned me on, but something did it. I quickly realized that this naked woman on the TV was turning me on. It scared me a lot. I couldn’t get my body to stop tingling. That was the night I went into the closet and became asexual. I would spend several years completely ignoring all forms of sexuality. I wouldn’t recognize my body as needing touch or stimulation. Forget about pretending to like men; I would like no one.

It was sophomore year of high school. In order to fit in socially in high school, I turned myself into a girl I was still overweight, but I was growing my hair out from the short haircut I had had since I was about 8. I had an extensive skirt collection and I wouldn’t go anywhere without a purse. I had gotten breast implants to make my body look like everyone else’s. However, I still didn’t wear makeup, had thick glasses, bit my nails to nothing, and did not experience any sexuality. I had not even kissed a person or gone on a date. I was friendlier with teachers than students and I was never invited to sweet sixteens In my history class, we had to pick research topics. The Gay Liberation Movement was suggested and I took it, thinking it would be easy since it wasn’t very long ago. Still to this day, I honestly remember being so far in denial about my sexuality that I did not think I was a lesbian at all. I just happened to pick the topic. I loved that research paper. I worked day and night on it and won research paper of the year. As a result, I joined the floundering gay-straight alliance, PULSE, elected myself president, and became obsessed.

For the next couple years of high school, I would become the best straight ally in the history of the world. I ran PULSE for the next 2 years under the guise of being straight. However, I really do not recall thinking about being a lesbian. I never had this idea like I was in the closet, lying about who I was. Instead, I continued to be a model straight ally, claiming, to the best of my knowledge, that I was straight. I was so deep in the closet that I had convinced myself! During this time, I also turned to religion. I am not sure that I was conscious of why I suddenly had an interest in Christianity, but in hindsight, I think it was a way for me to be a walking contradiction and balance my liberal feelings on sexuality with something more mainstream and widely accepted. Needless to say, my religious phase didn’t last long as I wasn’t really a believer.

I came (again) to my realization of homosexuality my senior year. I realized that I was in love with my best friend, Leanna. All of a sudden, my memories of feeling all my life that there was something off about my sexuality came rushing forward. I knew that this was my label and it belonged to me the whole time. Shortly thereafter, I came out to all my friends and family. I went through a brief period of time where I didn’t want to tell them, thinking that they may not even believe me. However, I started having feelings of resentment, which forced me to just tell them already! No one was surprised at all. I guess I never thought that people would know until I told them. There was something about them all knowing that was a little violating. Everyone said that they had known that I was gay for a while and that they were just waiting until I told them. My family was and continues to be very supportive in everything that I do.

After coming out as a lesbian, I have started to really own my gender expression as I have always wanted it to be. I have more or less gone back to my seventh grade self (only I have updated my style a little). Going back to the buzzcut hair and male clothing, I have started to live the way I have always felt I should. My identity as a transperson, a gender queer person, a person living life “in the middle” began my junior year of college. I had been slowly moving back to where I wanted my gender expression to be, but only with a lot of judgment from others. I did lose a few lesbian friends, but I have found new friends who accept me for who I am. I began using a nickname instead of my given name and I plan on legally changing it soon. Now I bind my fake breasts (talk about an ironic situation) and try to live my life as neither man nor woman, just an ambiguous individual. I plan on removing my implants and pursuing the use of hormones to get my body to where I am more comfortable with it. I have yet to come out to my family as trans, but I am sure that they will be supportive. Just like anytime I tell my parents something special, it takes time for me to work out how I should say it. But I do not underestimate the love that they have for me.

“Coming out” is a never ending process that we, members of the queer community, face our whole lives. Some say that the idea of coming out implies that we have to admit to something. We will have to come out and identify ourselves as long as heterosexism exists, as long as the gender binary exists. In my opinion, to come out is to do a service to our community and the world. Without visibility, we are nonexistent. Diana Ross sings, “I’m coming out, I want the world to know, got to let it show.” She reminds us how good it feels to come out and how good we make others feel when we come out. Never underestimate the power you have by simply identifying yourself to others.

- Sauce Leon