Rector's Blog Summer Throwback Series: Witness!
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Note: As part of our When Love Shows Up Summer Throwback Series, we are re-posting this blog post which was originally posted on June 7, 2019.
What if the Church really listened to LGBTQ+ persons? What would we learn about ourselves? How might our beliefs, our identity, our understanding of God and creation be transformed if we were willing to take the LGBTQ+ witness seriously?
I use the word witness intentionally, because it’s an important word in the life of the Church. Historically, the people we called witnesses were those who stood up and spoke the truth of how they saw God in the world, how they experienced Jesus, and how this experience had changed them. Witnesses stood up and spoke out at great personal expense. Their words were hard for many to hear. Their experience of God’s love was profound, but they found themselves at odds with the normative culture, and even the laws and authorities of their time.
The Church remembers early Christian witnesses because they chose to live their truth in the face of great societal pressures and dangers. They knew the truth of their belongingness to God, and nobody was going to change their minds.
Before there were ever Christian witnesses, there were the prophets of Israel. The prophet was someone who saw the truth of God, and the truth of God’s people. The prophet understood the magnificence of God’s love as it was lived out in the real world. The prophet recognized when the people of God were not living into the work for which they were made. And the prophet stood up and spoke out about it. Uniquely. Powerfully. With a heart that was simultaneously broken and full. If the people of God would really listen to the words of the prophet, they’d hear God, they’d remember their reason for existing, they’d change their hearts and rededicate themselves to the Love for which they were made.
How can the Church fail time and again to recognize the prophetic nature of the LGBTQ+ witness? LGBTQ+ persons live their truth in the face of great societal pressures. Their experience of love is profound, and yet they often find themselves at odds with the normative culture. They see the truth of themselves, and they understand the magnificence of love in unique and powerful ways. And in this time and place they are standing up and speaking out at great personal expense. Will the Church listen? Will the Church acknowledge the powerful presence of God here?
LGBTQ+ siblings: You are insisting on your belovedness and your belonging. You are witnessing to your God-given beauty. Your dignity is to be respected. The Church needs to listen to you.
I write these words as someone whose faith in Jesus has been transformed by your witness. So much of my life as a straight cisgender Christian was spent with other straight cisgender Christians formulating what we should believe about LGBTQ+ persons, what we should say about you and to you. I did not realize how much the Church needs your voice. Even now I am still just learning how incomplete the Church’s understanding of Love is when it rejects your witness.
Many of you have left the Church altogether. How can we blame you? When the Church and the Church’s version of God seem either to hate you or to love you only so that we can “fix” you – your leaving is a prophetic act. It is a defiant rebuke to hatred perpetrated in Jesus’ name. Many of you have stayed connected to the Church. We are humbled by your presence. You are a powerful Christian witness. The Church needs you.
The Church needs you if we are ever going to live into the Love for which we are made, if we are ever going to take seriously being the people of God. You are a blessing to this world, made by God. Your very life and being is a mighty witness to Love that will transform and expand the Christian understanding of God’s presence and work in the world. My prayer for the Church is that we will listen.
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