I watched PBS’s POV last night and saw “Live Free or Die” the award-winning documentary on the life and work of +Gene Robinson’s ministry as the first partnered, out, LGBT bishop of the Anglican Communion. It was powerful and wonderful and freeing all in the same moment. Aired just before it was another POV documentary on a Navajo boy who had been murdered for being “Two Spirited”, the age-old tradition of people within Indian cultured to accept people who presented as both male and female, or presented opposite from their physical genitalia.
The combination put before me a great conundrum as a churchperson and as a lesbian of how I had been conformed as a child to think of myself as ‘different’, ‘not right’, somehow not up to par with those girls who I thought were ‘boy crazy’ in elementary school and stupid in jr. high and high school. It has been fun to get to know those ‘girls’ now as senior women and talk about those views. We can knowingly look at our stupidity on either side of the sexual continuum and laugh. But knowing that the fear of gay folk still is still rampant here and much of that fear is still being promoted by those who call themselves ‘Christian’, ‘Jewish’ or ‘Muslim’ makes me more than a bit ill. I have not thought of myself as a 'gay activist'. I kept it quiet for years so that I could minister to the larger community. If I had been out all that time, I would have been forced to be a single-issue pastor. It is what we do when we want to lump people into the same pigeon-hole.
In “Live Free or Die” +Gene has the temerity to say “the Church has been wrong”. Certainly as a church historian I know that the Church has promoted ‘wrong doctrine’ at various times. And ever since my bout with Roman Catholicism I know that the Church is not infallible. No pope, no Scripture, nothing in this created world is infallible. To be flawed is to recognized that we are created. It is the uniqueness of the flaws that makes the world interesting and blessed.
But as a priest and teacher in the Church how do I deal with one of her bishops saying: “The Church didn’t initially get it right”? Personally I can call to mind many things that the Church didn’t get right in history. I don’t think that the Church got the Trinity right—it was valiant attempt to bring together our Jewish monotheism and the unique presence of a man who made present God who had been sacrificed to the powers of
Yes, we got that whole thing of human sexuality wrong! Unlike the very dualistic thinking of our Jewish roots, we are as a human species by far more diverse than just male and female. The First Nations understood this. The Native American cultures often saw among those who the Western mind calls homosexual or androgynous those who were specifically endowed with spiritual abilities.
Even though Christianity and Judaism stems from the freeing of a people in slavery, Judaism and Christianity got it wrong about slavery too. Christianity has gotten it wrong about human perfection—a Platonic concept that was embraced by the Greek speaking converts to Judaism who followed Christian teachings.
I have no problem with these historic issues. They were what they were in a particular time. What I don’t understand is where my place is in the Church today. I am an out lesbian priest who understands my gayness to be as part of my spiritual journey toward God as is my brother/sister priests experience in their marriage or their celibacy. God loves me. It isn’t because the Bible told me so. It was Christians loving in the name of Jesus who loved me into being. I know that as God’s love for me. Every time I celebrate the Eucharist I know that I am where I am supposed to be for the good of, not just my life, but for the goodness of the whole world. (Or as I experience it, the small part of creation that I touch.)
Can I support a Church that is still struggling with the LGBTQ issue? Can I still speak for a Church that is still fearful of losing members because they are gay-friendly? Because even with all the positive things that have passed General Convention, I still live in a world where LGBTQ folks can still be murdered just for being, can be denied the basic rights of being human (the option to adopt children, marriage, normal benefits that straight folk get because they are married.) Can I be a part of the LGBTQ community as an ordained person and speak of the love of the Church when we are still dicey on the subject? How do I speak to straight folk who as yet cannot accept that the Church or Scripture got it wrong? I can speak only of the fearlessness of Christ to be about what is good and wholesome. The lives that still hunger for a relationship with the Holy One need to know that God makes them good, makes their instincts to love sacred and makes love the center of what they do and live.
I cannot speak for or to a group that hides behind cultural norms to avoid embracing their own sexuality. I can only speak for and to a people if I know that we need not fear anything. But many of our leaders still want to ignore this part of the Church—those who have that unique giftedness that Native cultures recognized as being in touch with the HOLY. I cannot become a single issue person at this point in my life. I must continue to present to those who are unafraid the love that God has blessed me with so that this 'wrongness' can be healed. I will not see it in my lifetime, but it will continue because love continues.