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Coming Out!

For those of you who clicked on this link wondering if this writer was herself coming out as a same gender loving individual, I am sorry to disappoint you. You’re here now, so hopefully you’ll keep reading.

LGBTQ folks are not the only ones who “come out.” Coming out has a variety of implications and applications for those who have been silent regarding societal issues, subjects, and beliefs. Fear of negative reactions and rejection from friends stands in the way of honesty and transparency. Conversations with individuals who are now unashamed to speak boldly and courageously regarding their sexual identities has informed me of one reality – “coming out” is not easy!

Yet there comes a moment when we must decide to live by our personal convictions rather than be guided or controlled by other people’s opinions of us.

Over the last year or so I have felt compelled to “come out.” No, I did not come out as a lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender individual. Rather, I needed to “come out” as an ally and voice for a segment of society and even of the Christian Church that is often ostracized, treated as less than valuable, and excluded from participation in the life of local churches. I had to come out regardless of what people would think; I had to come out of a place of silence and begin to speak up and speak out in love for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters who have been hurt by the Church. We’ve done some serious damage to individuals and inflicted emotional pain that will not be healed by inflicting more pain – it will be healed by unconditional and radical love. We can and must do better, and I “come out” as a voice that says that we must do a better job of loving all people in the name of a Savior who shows us how to do that well.

I do not know the experience of being a same gender loving person, but I have been in far too many situations where I felt as though I needed to beg for acceptance and space, whether it was because I am a woman or because of my race. I’ve been there, done that, and don’t want to do it anymore. However, because of my familiarity with what it feels like to be an “outsider” – as a woman, and as an African American, it makes me more sensitive to the needs of others who are yet being ousted and shunned by the “majority.”

Recently I had the privilege of taking a seminary class on the topic of Sexuality and Spirituality with instructor Bishop Yvette Flunder. For some, it is problematic that I even allowed myself to be instructed by an openly same gender loving Christian leader (as though she has nothing of value that she can teach us).

It is imperative that each of us, regardless of where we stand on the topic of sexual identity, be willing to listen to one another and even learn from one another – whether they are individuals whose views are similar or different from the ones we hold. Willingness to take the course was a form of “coming out” for me.

This course was relevant in that it provided much needed dialogue among people of faith. I walked away with many insights and what was most impressed upon me was the need for transparency. In many communities of faith a “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” regarding sexual identity is real. Cultures of shame and secrecy abound and thus fosters environments where people find it more safe to live life on the down low.

  • Who does this help?
  • Has closeted living really helped anyone?
  • When individuals do come out, do our negative reactions help or do they fuel hostility and push folks back into the closet and further encourage a culture of secrecy?

Perhaps it is time for all of us to “come out” and honestly discuss what we believe and why we believe it. Maybe it’s time for each of us to “come out” and come clean regarding bigotry, hatred and an unwillingness to listen and learn. Maybe it is even time to “come out” and question long held assumptions.

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The Black Church, Obama, and Gay Marriage

I am about engaging with conflict and being ok with disagreement. I am about diverse and vast views of the Bible while still maintaining my spiritual journey with God. And I am about the spiritual ethos laid out by Billy Graham at the 1996 inaugural luncheon of then President Bill Clinton when a reporter asked him why he was in the presence of an obvious “sinner” such as Clinton; Graham stated: “It is God’s job to judge. The Holy Spirits job to convict. And my job to love. I’m here doing my job.”  – Dan White Hodge.

Read the entire post HERE.

The Church and The LGBTQ Community.

***This is the unscripted/unedited version of what’s on my mind***

About a year ago I fearfully shared my journey as it concerns the subject of homosexuality. You can read it HERE. Though it is not my tendency to cower in fear and be silent when the occasion calls for speaking, I found myself hesitant. Here I am a year later and the core of my being is moved to a point where silence is no longer sustainable.

I didn’t wake up one day and decide that I want to care about Gay/Lesbian folks. I sincerely believe that what is happening in my heart is the moving of God within me. I care about people – period. I also hold a special place in my heart for groups of people who have historically been marginalized and even ridiculed from pulpits in churches. Preachers have proclaimed messages of “get right because it is wrong” without providing love and support and seeing the LGBTQ Community as human. We can do so much better!

The reality is that caring will cost me. On some level it is costing me now. By caring and being a voice I risk losing friends, having people who KNOW that I love God question my role and calling as a spiritual leader or pastor; I risk being misunderstood, rejected and encountering those who believe that the only role I have as a spiritual leader is to tell the LGBTQ Community that they are living in sin and need to be changed. I believe there is a better way to interact with the LGBTQ Community – some of whom are my Christian brothers and sisters.

Human sexuality and God’s view of it is not nearly as simplified as some lead others to believe. The Church’s silence is at times deafening and our shunning is destructive. I absolutely believe that we not only should, but can do better.

Yesterday, President Barak Obama gave voice to his affirmation that same-sex couples should be able to marry. Members of the LGBTQ Community rejoiced. Some members of the Christian Community were outraged,others agreed with him, and still others were silent (whether because of ignorance, fear, apathy or something else). Whether we believe homosexual practice is a sin or not is really not the point to harp on. At the heart of the matter is the issue of humanness, equal value and learning HOW to love people well.

I don’t have all of the answers, but what I do know is that we need to be open:

1. To authentically enter into people’s stories

2. Listen for the purpose of understanding (not to fix or convince of our perspective)

3. To thoroughly think through what we say we believe & why we believe it

4. To consider that whether right or left, Christian or not, Gay or Straight, we each are capable of being right or wrong

More to come on this subject in future days. In the meantime I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments or privately.

It Matters…

OK, I’m getting ready to ramble a little – this may not be deep, but here it goes anyway.

Sometimes the smallest things we do as leaders is what makes the biggest difference. Recently, I was given a gently push in a different direction by another leader as I was serving as a leader on a college campus.

At first, my insecurities and defenses came to the surface (as usual), until I realized that we were on the same team and that we both possessed the desire for what is best and most effective in our attempts to be good pastors to those entrusted to our care.

As a pastoral leader, I not only have the gifts of teaching and preaching, but I also have the gift of administration. The combination of these gifts are a huge help to me and to others as I serve. However, sometimes I get consumed with administration and neglect other important elements of whom God is calling me to be. Sometimes in my concern for program design and efficiency in taking care of the details that get overlooked, I forget one of our core values as a ministry team – that we value people over programs.

After a difficult week of self doubt, discouragement, questioning my call, and even at times feeling like a failure, God waited until the end of this week to encourage me. As I spent time doing the “people part” of my job, not just the administrative parts, God opened my eyes and enabled me to see what ministry was really all about. His love for people, and desire to love through me is the central element of ministry. He also reminded me of how much of a joy it is to talk to people and be a listening ear – I LOVE doing that! But again, administration is a beast sometime.

After countless conversations with the university students that God has trusted me to support this week and a few emails from students expressing how helpful it is to them that I reach out to them, I started to get what God was trying to help me see.  As I reached out and just took moments to talk, listen, pray for, and physically walk with individuals this week, it wasn’t hard for me to do, I did it because I cared. But then a light finally came on for me and I realized that the small things that we do in supporting others is not always so small to the recipients.

This week, God taught me one of the most important lessons (yes the lights finally came on for me) that I believe leaders and all others need to grasp – and that is that small acts of kindness and support go a long way and make a bigger difference than it seems.  Stick with it!

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58).