I am not ordained, and yet…
I AM A MINISTER.
I AM A BEARER OF MY EXPERIENCE WITH GOD.
I BRING TO THE TABLE UNIQUE GIFTS THAT I ALONE CAN BRING!
And so do you…
As the story of Esther goes, she was positioned in just the right place for just the right time. Yes, her place in the king’s favor allowed her to advocate for a community on the fringes. Her heritage was hidden for a while but never forgotten. Esther reveals just how scary it is to stand for the marginalized of society, yet sometimes our positions demand such a stance.
Midway through this internship, my primary focus has been on inclusion of the LGBT community. Their place at the table of Christ is essential to fulfilling the Kingdom of God. If you find this statement to be radical, I encourage you to ask yourself why. Through the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, it is the marginalized who God stands with. Those on the fringes are not forgotten by God. Instead, God challenges time and time again the status quo and reminds all people that we are called to protect the marginalized.
While my topics range from white privilege to the death penalty, I focus primarily on a group closest to me that continues to suffer blatant exclusion from Christ’s table. It is still a fight for someone identifying anywhere on the LGBTQIA spectrum to serve openly as clergy. The debate rages whether churches need to declare that they are indeed open and affirming or if people can just tell by attending. To answer this question, I speak only for myself in saying vehemently that NO, I cannot just tell by attending your church that I am truly welcomed and affirmed. The history I must claim as a gay man says this – churches exclude me and there are only a few diamonds in the sea of coal that both welcome and affirm. If you do not say it, I cannot know it.
The dialogue concerning inclusive theology is essential at the denominational level, regional level, church level, and camp level. My experience midway through this summer is that my views receive a great deal of support from clergy and church leaders alike, yet surprisingly my conversations are quite often the first of their kind to make their way to our young people. Calling all clergy and church leaders here, I need your help!
There are texts in the Bible that are often used to do great damage to my community, yet there are only a select few. While in Leviticus we may find one such passage, in Deuteronomy we find another that encourages the elders of a town to stone to death unruly children. Why is it I am the first one who has made their way into several lives this summer asking these children how to make sense of this? Why am I the first for so many young people to have asked why embracing a Levitical law condemning homosexuality is more common than embracing the one encouraging us to stone our unruly children to death? This is essential to including all marginalized communities at Christ’s table, and dear clergy of the church, it happens to fall on you to be providing spaces for these conversations to be happening.
The resounding temperature of my conversation this summer has shown that these discussions are not happening. I have left my loft at a small liberal arts school having completed my freshman year of college to represent a discussion that those far more educated than me are often times avoiding. Esther hid her identity for just the right moment, yet the miracle was her decision to use her placement at the table to help the marginalized find their own seat. You, clergy members of Disciples of Christ, are positioned as Esther. When my conversations stop this summer and are forgotten by many come this fall, it is up to you to keep them going. You represent the people of God – ALL PEOPLE – and I encourage you to keep these conversations alive.
There are many people doing many great things, but the theology of acceptance and inclusion of those in the LGBTQIA community is coming as a surprise to far too many of our young people. I encourage you to make your pulpit alive to this conversation. You are the advocates for the marginalized. You are the educators of Christ’s inclusion. You, friends, are the ongoing conversation these young people will be left with as they return home from camp this summer. Please do not let the call to inclusion fall silent.