For Immediate Release

I confess that I am not much of a blogger. I’m not a terribly quick writer. I need time to ruminate, consider; live into thoughts and experiences. I am not a quick-reply, right on the spot kind of responder. I’m not terribly good in class discussions because I just need too much time. Blogs expect you to be immediately responsive to current events, immediately responsive in your thoughts, analysis, take on whatever is happening. I am not very good at that.

Much as I know this about myself, there are times when that is precisely what I want and need to be. Times when an immediate reaction and explosion of response is required. So it was last night in one of my classes. Just as we were preparing to go, five minutes left to our discussion, one of my classmates came out with the phrase, “I don’t believe in homosexuality.”

“I don’t believe in homosexuality” as if my sexuality, my very being, my life were a concept that she could choose to deny. As if homosexuality stood amongst the great swath of doctrinal, theological choices that one considers and can reject.

It struck me so deeply. The absolute absurdity of choosing to see homosexuality as a belief system – some sort of theoretical construct. As though I could do the same with her, “I don’t believe in heterosexuality.”

In my late-night fits going over and over what she had said and what I didn’t have the time to say, feeling that her comments were a personal attack on me, my family, my friends. Feeling so profoundly angry at her dismissal of my personhood, I conjured up all the things that I wished I had said. All the things that came to me after it truly sunk in. Enacting great comebacks, acerbic one-liners, and eloquent monologues…after the pain and rage sunk in.

But today I don’t have a speech to write or a sermon to tell about this event. I just needed the immediacy of this blog to say:

You don’t get to believe or not believe in my sexuality. You don’t get to choose. You don’t get to reject me based on some hair-brained conceptual framework. You don’t have the option of dismissing me. I am a concrete reality. So are the countless other queer folks I know. We are not a theory. We are not a theology. We are here, honey, in all our glory as flesh and bone, sitting right next to you in class, in church, on the bus, in the park etc. We’re here. We’re queer. There’s no belief involved.

When there is no quilt

Derrick, I wish that every non-parent, seminarian and church leader were so thoughtful about how to address, understand and just plain deal with our church’s youth as you articulated.  I am shocked and dismayed by how little time we take as church bodies to truly develop a theology around our children. Too often, Sunday morning adult worship trumps all – pastors are too busy putting together sermons, liturgy, putting out fires etc. to deal with creating a theologically equivalent children’s ministry. To be sure, most pastors never set foot in Sunday School because, of course, they are central to the adult worship that is simultaneously occurring.

As parents, we are so in need of our own worship time that we put our trust and faith in the – God bless them – volunteer Sunday School teachers who are typically (but not always) kind-hearted souls who do their best.  When my partner and I sat in on a Sunday School session the first time we visited a church, one of the parents approached us at coffee hour and asked us how it was because while she’d been sending her kids there for several years, she’d never actually gone and observed. She thought it such a novel idea. I don’t think she cared less than we did what her kids were learning, but I’m not sure it occurred to her that she could and should be involved.

Well intentioned or not, our amazingly committed teachers are not frequently trained and, in my experience, often operate autonomously. Sometimes this means that what is being preached up in the sanctuary is undermined or inconsistent with what’s happening in the church basement. Disturbingly, many (most?) churches don’t have well developed policies for dealing with children and creating “safe spaces” for them. There may be a newly derived interest in sexual abuse policies because of the slow unveiling of the horrific misconduct in the Catholic Church, but these policies are often simply on-the-books for show.

How many mainline congregations in fact take the time to establish an entire system of safety – both theological and practical — for the practices of their churches and for the care of their youth?  When my two kids (who have lesbian moms) and the son of a gay couple received their first Bibles from their church school leader on one special Sunday, they were told by a Sunday School leader that they should go home and read it with “your mother and father.” Understand this: the only kids getting Bibles that Sunday were children of the only out queer families in the church. A theologically cogent system designed for the safety and inclusion of its children would have never led to three kids hearing the dismissal of their families realities in front of the entire congregation.

I didn’t expect this post to get so long, but I’m not done yet. (And I’ve got a feeling I’m gonna need many more posts on this topic.)

Here’s another big problem: I’ve been at seminary for 4 years now and up until the January SU190 1&2 courses, Children in the Church  (non-required 1 point supplemental courses offered during intersession) with Laurel Koepf (who is amazing and I highly recommend any course she offers) , I have had yet to hear about or deal with anything related to children. In other words, it is quite possible to graduate from this prestigious (and mostly wonderful) seminary without ever having a course related to children. That is absolutely shocking. It means we are untrained to minister to what is it, roughly half of our congregation?  That’s unconscionable.

RE: How did it get this way?

Derrick, I kept picturing you with your Bible, poring over commentaries, working hard to get it right, get a word out to reach someone in need. I kept thinking about the platform of preaching, especially for LGBT folks. Thinking about how, when we are permitted, we send out our words from a pulpit and then they are out there – out there to be received by bodies in whatever fashion they will be. What an honor, what an incredible responsibility.

And then I saw this:

Right there sitting on my counter next to my coffee, right there on the front of the New York Times the heading, “Foe of Gay Marriage Says Its Nothing Personal,” with a picture of Ruben Diaz Sr., a New York State Senator and Pentecostal minister in the Bronx. Right up in my face at 7:30 a.m. All that incredible hypocrisy right up in my face as I sit next to my 6-year-old daughter while she eats pancakes.

Another man with a platform, this one on the front page of the Times.  A man who tells the reporter that of the two brothers and a granddaughter and the various other folks in his life who are gay, “I love them. I love them…but I don’t believe in what they are doing.” “I love them. I love them,” he says as he actively tries to bar same sex marriage from getting to the floor of the Legislature.  And I think, no, no, that’s not love, honey, that’s greed. You want what you want from them. You want what they give to you and how they enhance your life, but you don’t want what makes them happy for themselves.

No, preacher, that’s not what we do – we don’t just get to take what we want from folks and ditch the rest. No, in love, we don’t decide that when we’re uncomfortable with what makes that person tick — what is their soul’s essence – we don’t  decide that we’re going to deny it. In love, we don’t pretend that sexuality, the very fiber of what makes us human, is superfluous to our relationship and that our efforts to limit that aren’t “personal.” No, no Mr. Senator, that is not love, that’s greed. That’s taking what’s not yours to have.

“I love them. I love them…but I don’t believe in what they are doing.” What are we doing?

This is what I’m doing: I’m sitting next to my daughter while she eats pancakes.

And I’m going to seminary. I’m sitting in classes and working at a church and trying my best to figure out what God has in store for me.

This is what I’m doing: I’m working hard at reading scripture, praying scripture, doing research in the library and then confronting the reality of the congregation seated in front of me. Folks of all different ethnicities, shades, and sexualities; some folks who are barely making ends meet, folks who have lost jobs and countless hours of sleep, others who are sitting in the lap of luxury; some riddled with health problems, others living in difficult, loveless marriages; folks whose lives are full and those whose are broken; folks who come to church to hear some good news, others to be in company; folks who need more time in their lives, more time and less to do. I’m standing periodically before folks from all different walks of life with all different reasons to both praise and curse God and I’m doing my best to minister to them. That’s what I’m doing.

Then I’m going home to a partner whom I’ve shared a bed with for 12 years and with whom I have two amazing children. I’m going home to love her. I’m going home to work out all the stuff of this difficult world, to find solace and relief and comfort and…did I mention the love part? I’m going home to her to refresh my spirit so that I can go back out into the world and do what God continues, despite myself, to call me to do.