LGBT, LGBTQ, Life in the Manse, Marriage Equality, Ministry, Orientation

Acceptance and Approval ~ Churches and LGBTQ People

Yesterday I was reading about Matthew Vines, author of God and the Gay Christian, and his continuing effort to be in dialogue with evangelical Christian leaders about the acceptance of LGBTQ people in the church. He was invited to a conversation with Rev. Caleb Kaltenbach, an evangelical pastor whose parents split up because they were both gay. Kaltenbach has tried to find scriptural support for being okay with gay people generally, especially since that group includes his parents.

As a child, Mr. Kaltenbach attended a gay rights march with his mother, and he recalls protesters yelling that God condemned the marchers and throwing urine on them. (His book, “Messy Grace,” part memoir and part advice for pastors on ministering to gays, will be published this year.) He says evangelicals should welcome gay people with “acceptance, but not approval.” Openly gay couples attend his church, he said, but are not allowed to serve on the leadership board. (From the New York Times)

My bold there. I don’t understand why, in a world where there are so many, many, many churches in flavors both denominational and non-, a gay couple would freely choose a church where leadership is forbidden to them due to their relationship status. I wonder about the hurt feelings sustained when they have been around long enough to want to get more involved and discover they are not *that* welcome. In a world where even Tony Campolo is now encouraging churches to embrace and accept gay couples, I hope they know there are other choices.

It’s possible that queer couples who go to a church where they are not received as full members, where they are not allowed to serve in leadership roles, where their status as baptized members of the Body of Christ is somehow “less than,” feel they are on a mission from God. I know I sometimes feel that way, living in South Central Pennsylvania, which is not exactly the most progressive corner of the globe. There are days when it feels like my entire calling to this place is to be an ordinary queer on behalf of Jesus Christ, whether as the interim pastor of a United Church of Christ congregation a few towns over or as the wife of the female Senior Pastor at the Presbyterian Church USA congregation across the street. Every time I answer the door at the manse as her wife, I am representing. Every time I share a family anecdote in a sermon, I am representing. Every time I get home from church first and walk our puppy, and the Presbyterians stop over to pet him before they go home, I am representing.

Some days it feels so ordinary to be there in a church-owned house with my wife and our children that the only thing I stress about is whether the puppy will chew on something that belongs to the church rather than to us. Other days, it feels like I finally know what cross I was always intended to bear, a cross engraved with the words “Queer Christian.” It’s not a death sentence; rather it is a holy burden, and the work of my life, to be queer and faithful.

He says evangelicals should welcome gay people with “acceptance, but not approval.”

This sentence weighs on me. It’s essentially the opposite of the UCC’s category for welcoming churches, “Open and Affirming.” Despite my continuing concerns about whether my family is fully safe, much less accepted, here in South Central Pennsylvania, on the whole we have received an amazing and affirming reception in our churches. This is particularly true at my wife’s church, where she continues to do fruitful ministry, and I do a lot of the things any pastor’s wife might as a volunteer leader: I lead a women’s Bible Study, and I serve on the Fellowship Committee, and this morning I stood witness at a wedding.

I don’t know the experience or the point of view of the gay couples who attend churches like Kaltenbach’s. I do know the feeling of doing what you believe God calls you to do. I also know the experience of being rejected or, worse, ignored by people who will not meet my gaze because they cannot quite get to acceptance, much less to approval. My hope for the couples who bravely return to church each week is two-fold. First, may they know that there are plenty of churches, more all the time, where they and their gifts for leadership and service would be most welcome. Second, if they are choosing to work through it in response to a call from God, may the change of hearts happening in the world reach the places where they are now, and may they be able to see the change and know they were part of it. Perhaps this is the work of their life, too, to be queer and faithful, accepted and approved by God.

 

Discrimination, LGBTQ, Marriage Equality, Orientation

Today I Passed as Straight

Today, I passed as straight.

That’s a weird thing to write, because in fact I passed for straight for most of my life, either because I hadn’t thought yet about not being straight, or later because I *had* thought about it and just couldn’t face what it might mean for my life.

Today I was getting a pedicure, and to be completely honest, it’s not the first time I’ve let the women in that particular salon think my spouse is a pastor in town who happens to be a man.

We were talking about dogs, and I said we used to have a Golden Retriever, and the young woman doing my pedicure, who had figured out we are a blended family, asked, “Was it yours or his?”

As queer as it gets.
As queer as it gets.

Sometimes, no matter how hard I try to not have it be a thing, being queer is a thing. It’s a truism of coming out that some of us don’t “look” queer, and that means we have to come out more often, because otherwise no one will know.* I’m that gay, that lesbian, that queer. Just last week, I asked my hairdresser to queer me up, but I still look like somebody’s mom, which is to say a person whose sexual orientation is not of particular interest to people, especially those younger than I am, whether they are gay or straight. This is true even in the gayest looking item of clothing I own (a $4.99 black thermal hoodie from the clearance rack at Old Navy).

Our 10-year-old is filling a notebook with jokes, which reminded us of this one:

A father and son have a car accident and are both badly hurt. They are both taken to separate hospitals. When the boy is taken in for an operation, the surgeon says ‘I cannot do the surgery because this is my son’. How is this possible?

The surgeon is his mother. 

My spouse is my wife, and the Golden Retriever was hers.

Usually I can find a way to avoid the pronouns, but sometimes, and this was one of them, the pronouns will get you. And I’m sitting there with my pants folded up to my knees and one foot in soapy water and the other foot in the hands of a stranger with sharp tools, and I’ve got nowhere to hide.

“Was it yours or his?”

“His,” I said, and even though we joke about how we are the Ward and June Cleaver of gay couples, and I’m June, I felt bad about it.

Most of my life has been lived with the benefit of massive privilege: white, raised reasonably well-off, well-educated, American, Protestant and, until I came out, straight-in-the-eyes-of-the-world and quite honestly in mine, too, for the majority of that time. Even before I came out to myself, when I was telling *myself* a story about my life, I could take for granted that talking about my family was safe.

I could take for granted that talking about my family was safe. 

Today I couldn’t do that, and I’ll admit that the law passed in Indiana is on my mind. People I know are sharing articles and op-eds they think are smart, saying the real trouble is about liberal intolerance toward religion, or that marriage equality is okay with them but people should have the freedom to associate with who they like. I would ask them to consider that the effect of such a law is more than the specific and localized legal impact. It says to people, even in places where it is not the law, that gay people – and particularly married gay people – are an acceptable group to despise and avoid.

It gives permission to “other” people, which is a dangerous thing.

I would like to ask my straight friends to consider how they would feel about going into a restaurant, a barber shop, a clothing store, a yarn store (God forbid!) or a ball park and being refused service. I would like to ask my straight friends to imagine not feeling safe to answer the kind of passing question your dental hygienist or nail technician might ask.

Then think about me. Picture me and my family, going to the kinds of places your family goes, and not being safe because our kid has a mom and a step-mom. I am asking you to personalize this and picture us when you wonder if this law really hurts anyone.

That’s why I didn’t correct the young woman doing my pedicure this morning. That’s why today I passed as straight.

*See this great cartoon at Everyday Feminism.

Faith, Friendship, Marriage Equality, Politics

My Cup of Hope

Light Princess came downstairs this morning as the kitchen counter TV, tuned to the news, blared a commercial with Christmas music.

Offended, she exclaimed, "It's not even Thanksgiving yet!"

I agreed. "I got a Christmas cup at Starbucks yesterday."

I prepared for her disgust, but instead she smiled.

"Well, they sort of put me in a good mood, so I guess it's okay."

And it was true, that on a morning when I felt discouraged, my first response to a Christmas cup was to cry out, "No! It's barely November!!" But then I noticed the words on the cup, which include "Wish" and "Joy."

And the first one I saw was "Hope."

Some of us might be about up to here with the idea of hope. We hoped and hoped all last year, and we rejoiced on Election Night, but on the other side of the country, people felt then the way my friends and I feel now.

It's possible that word got to bound up with a human being, one who doesn't share my position on the issue of marriage. I mean, he really, really doesn't. 

Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. (Psalm 146:3, NRSV) 

I don't like thinking of this verse in reference to a President for whom I voted. It felt like a *great* verse six years ago, when we were going to war and the colleagues in my preaching group were still trying to figure out how to talk about it in a sermon. He even acted like a prince, that President–in my opinion–but I see how inclined we are to make them into princes, all of them, even if only the ones we prefer. Princes or fools or mustachioed villains, however we dress them in our minds, do not put your trust in them. They cannot manifest our hopes single-handed. They may not share them. They may not even care about them.

We've got to find our hope in other places. 

I start with my kids. They are 23 and 19 and 14, and two of them voted, and all of them are angry. They're learning a hard lesson that other Christian people did not hear the gospel the same way they heard it in this house and in the churches that formed them. It makes no sense.

LP will go tonight to the big GSA meeting where LGBT students and their straight allies from many schools will gather to unpack what has happened.

For my No on 1-voting neighbors and the onlookers from away who don't reckon these things from a faith perspective, it's almost easier. They can shut out the religious voices, or try to, and make plans for the next campaign. They don't have to figure out a way to talk to the ecumenical colleagues at the next community event or clergy group meeting.

My friend, RevFun, went to see a priest yesterday. God, he's brave. He's braver than I am. He wanted to tell a priest how this felt and why it was wrong.

I know the priest he went to see, not as well. I've met him once. I wonder if he felt equipped to have the conversation. I wonder if any of them do.

My friend E wrote a beautiful reflection on the power of the widow who gave her mite, and another E wrote he would "watch the sun come up tomorrow, and go back to work repairing the world. Who's in?"and my musical colleague J used Facebook to share his feelings about how this experience led to deeper self-acceptance and my friend B simply said in a status update, "B W is not going away…"

We are all in some way part of the United Church of Christ, and we are motivated by our understanding of the gospel message that we are to love God with all our hearts and all our souls and all our minds and our neighbors as ourselves. Make no mistake about it.

That's my cup of hope this morning. I put no faith in princes, but in the next generation and in the people of God, who are not going away.

Marriage Equality

The Morning After

The Roman Catholic Diocese loaned its Public Affairs Director to the campaign against marriage equality, and last night he claimed to have been the little guy going up against the big guy.

There is a huge irony in people who suffered discrimination for being Catholic or for being Franco-American claiming their "little guy" roots as they work together to deny rights to another class of people.

It is, dare I say it, un-Christly.

(And in its definitions of traditional marriage, laughably un-Biblical.)

But these are the people whose Supreme Leader would deny women's call to ordained ministry, who is eagerly waiting to scoop up disaffected Anglicans around the world.

Don't be deceived. This attitude toward LGBT people is also an attitude toward women. It's institutionalized, and it's unloving.

My job this morning after is to find a way to love people who hate and fear.

Because love never fails.

I believe that. I have to believe that.

Four years ago we defeated a people's veto similar to this one, aimed at overturning a new law extending anti-discrimination rights to gay people. It was not the first campaign for, and against, those rights.

And this will not be the last effort to extend the right to marry to all people.

I'm angry this morning, but I believe that it's a message of love that will win in the end. And so I will pray, and get mad, and pray again. And strive to love.

Marriage Equality

No on 1

No on 1 vote earlyIt's Election Day.

Everyone in my family who is going to vote has done it already. We won't be going to the polls in person. In my case, I gave up my "vote on election day" heroism to show my support for the "Vote Early" effort mounted by the No on 1 campaign. The organizers understood that their supporters were young and did not have a voting history yet, that they had turned out for a Presidential election last year but might not be as likely to get to the polls within a certain window of time in this Off-Off Election Year.

I mailed my absentee ballot almost a month ago.

I marked the No on Question 1 carefully. There were other matters on the ballot, but this is the one driving my participation.

When Pure Luck and I decided to get married, we didn't have to ask anyone's permission. No one said, "You two have already failed at this marriage thing. Forget it!" But we had. No one said, "Hmm, a woman with three children and a man with none, that seems odd. Forget it!" But that's who we were. No one asked, "Are you sure you have proper judgment about who you are marrying this time?" Because it didn't work out so well the first time, for either of us, even though we married perfectly fine people in all other areas.

No one had the right to keep us from marrying the person we loved.

All we had to do was get the paperwork in order and find someone willing to officiate and sign the license.

There may be something to be said for making people work harder to have the rights we have. We can inherit each other's money and make medical decisions for one another. No one can keep us apart in the Emergency Room. No one can make us testify against each other.

But there is no justification for making it harder based on the anatomy of the people we love.

Churches have been part of this campaign, on both sides of the question. One side, those opposed to same-sex marriage, has focused on fear. The other side, the side I'm proud to be part of today, has focused on love. And so I ask people of faith in Maine, will you vote today based on fear, or on love?

If love is your answer, vote No on 1.

Marriage Equality, Politics

Vote Early

No on 1

We’re in the midst of a campaign to preserve our new law allowing same-sex marriage in Maine. Out-of-state money and ads remade from the Prop 8 fight in California claim to represent Maine Values, but our side is fighting back with good ads and strong volunteer efforts.

I volunteered at the Marriage Equality phone bank the other night. I say this not to garner praise; it was a pretty small contribution of time and effort, all things considered.

But here’s what I found fascinating.

We were calling identified supporters (mostly true) to ask them to vote early. This is a strategy devised to boost turnout, since many of the supporters of same-sex marriage are not people who have a history of voting regularly. Maine traditionally has good voter turnout, but this is an off-year election, so it’s clear the get-out-the-vote effort will matter a lot. Southern Maine organizers of the campaign have devised a script and a philosophy that works for younger, urban voters who, quite honestly, are the most likely to get busy on Election Day and forget to go to the polls.

My call list, however, was to small towns on the coast and in more interior sections of Maine. And I’m here to tell you that Maine Values in those small towns include going to the polls to vote. The idea of voting early seemed absurd! Absurd. If I live three doors or three blocks from the polling place, in a town with no traffic, in a town where I see all my neighbors when I go to vote, why would I want to vote absentee?

Now, the advantage to the campaign is clear once it’s explained. Every week the Secretary of State will publish a list of those who have voted, and the Marriage Equality campaign will cross-check that list with its list of identified supporters and stop calling those who have voted. It both helps with “turn out” and allows the resources to be turned in other directions, to undecided voters.

So, I got the message I preached, and this morning, I applied online for an absentee ballot.

If you live in Maine, and you are planning to vote No on 1 (yes, I know that’s counter-intuitive, but that’s the way you need to vote to support same-sex marriage here), please consider clicking here and requesting an absentee ballot. Please think about voting early.

And if you’re related to me–Snowman will be voting absentee, if he remembers to request a ballot–just do it. Thanks.

Because whenever and however you do it, voting is a Maine Value.