Updated: Sep 29, 2022
When I came out as a woman who loves women in 2000, the denominational wars over inclusion of LGBT folks (those were the only letters then) were raging. I had spent 25 years in denial about myself and was ill prepared for the storm I was stepping into. When I took the helm of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists in 2010, I was still living in that storm but had become practiced at navigating within it from a place of peace and acceptance about myself and within the loving embrace of family and friends.
For many, they do not experience this embrace. Not only do family and friends shun and shame the tender person seeking to be loved in their wholeness but too often the shunning and shaming comes from a religious belief that there is only one way to love, one way to relate to the bodies we are born into. I am honored to be serving a congregation that has been Open and Affirming for almost 30 years!!! It was a powerful statement in 1994 when you publicly declared your welcome and affirmation of gay and lesbian Christians, seekers and believers alike.
And today we have a call to deepen our welcome and affirmation. It is a call to learn about and grow into being an ONA community who affirms Transgender, Gender Queer, Non-Binary, Intersexed, and those who choose to live beyond these labels. The designation of pronouns that is becoming more common is part of this deepening. But so is our willingness to learn about this new landscape beyond gay and lesbian.
Sexuality and gender are not the same. And while they were all tangled up together 30 years ago, they are now rightfully untangled. The Trans community is teaching us what it means to be people who transition genders and, in many cases, retain their attraction to the gender they were previously attracted to. Heterosexual men who become women appear to be Lesbians. Lesbians who become men appear to be heterosexual. The lines and assumptions get blurred and we are left with the question, “How much does any of this really matter, anyway?”
When we read scripture, we can hear so many ways that God exists in this non-binary world. In a most fundamental way, the Trinity is a transgender concept. Male and female; past, present and future; he, she and they. And if we truly believe we are made in the image of God – imago dei – then the image must reflect all the diversity, the creativity, the beauty that is the Creator, Creating with the Created! (Do you see what I did there?)
Yes, grammar is a way we can get our heads around this idea as well. But more importantly, relationships are the fastest way to get there. Have you had a conversation with a Trans or Non-Binary person and really listened to their story? How many Gender Queer folks do you know? I suspect there is a lot you are curious about and just don’t know where to go to ask your questions without seeming offensive. It’s ok. We all are there in one way or another.
The good news is that we have resources within and around our congregation to create some safe space to explore this topic and be in dialogue with this part of our community. Let’s create some listening circles this fall where we can deepen our understanding of the LGBTQIA+ community. Let’s bring our questions, share our answers and learn together so that, when we celebrate the 30th anniversary of First Congregational Church UCC being Open and Affirming, we can look back in gratitude and look forward with our arms wide open ready to embrace even more of the diversity that God has created, is creating and will create all around us.
With arms wide open,