September 2009

God Is Still Speaking!

As I write this, I am sitting in a hotel room in downtown Minneapolis. I came here immediately following two delightfully refreshing weeks in Tennessee that were all about being in, on, and around water (as you will remember from my column for August). I came here as co-president of Room for All. Most of you, if not all, know about my experiences around the issue of differing sexual orientations and gender identities. You know of my commitment to inclusiveness for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians. You know of my commitment to equal rights, including marital rights, for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. You have met my gay son and his partner, and some of you have met my gay brother. I am in Minneapolis again to meet with leaders of other denominational LGBT advocacy organizations. There are twenty-two of us here for these three days: program leaders from the Presbyterians, the Episcopalians, the Baptists, the Mennonites, the Disciples of Christ, the Methodists, and more. We meet twice a year to encourage one another, to work on building our movement, to learn all that we can about ourselves, our communities, and our cultures, and to worship and pray together. These are gatherings at which pain is shared, hope is shared, and growth is celebrated.

It is particularly moving to be here in Minneapolis this year this week. The national gathering of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (like our General Synod meeting) has been taking place here. It was only last week that the vote was taken to grant permission to ordain LGBT clergy without requiring them to deny their sexuality. This is a huge breakthrough for one of the largest protestant denominations in the United States. It follows more than three decades of advocacy work and community organizing by deeply committed Lutheran Christians. This vote also comes not too many weeks after the Episcopal Church lifted its moratorium on the election and consecration of LGBT bishops following the controversy over the election of the Rev. Eugene Robinson as the first gay bishop in that denomination. Subsequently, gay and lesbian clergy have been nominated to be bishops in California and Minnesota. Of course, the Lutherans and the Episcopalians are not alone. The United Church of Christ has also been ordaining LGBT clergy for a number of years. These communions give hope and encouragement to the rest of us. The Presbyterians came closer than ever before in a vote to overturn some of its prohibitive language.

I am grateful that our congregation is affiliated with the UCC where such diversity can be freely affirmed and celebrated. I am committed to the work for change and transformation in the Reformed Church in America with whom we are also affiliated. I am grateful for all the work that others have done in our sister denominations. Their struggle for inclusion informs ours, their successes make ours easier. We are carried forward on their bowed backs. I am also grateful for the grace with which they carry on with this struggle. It is not to be a matter of winners and losers, but of communion among people of faith who may hold very different views.

I thank you for the inclusive posture this congregation has taken. And I ask for your continued prayers for myself, for Room for All, and for all who are engaged in this struggle for equal rights for those who have been pushed into corners and closets by our society and by the church. God is able to do more than we can ask or think!