Wednesday, July 01, 2015

I have been called to be prayerfully affirming

(Note- all links will be marked with an asterisk and will be footnoted)

     As we have (mostly) all shared and grappled with our own and others' responses to the SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality, I've done my best to  sharing my own views in a positive manner, and quietly passing by differing views. I've found much more effective to stand by my own views, respectfully, and wait until others respectfully ask for engagement before doing so. That's where real change occurs.

     Not everyone takes that route, and the rainbowing of my facebook profile picture drew ire from one of my co-religionists, who felt I should not have overlaid our church with this symbol of inclusion.
Our 2015 Mexico Mission Team, before leaving to serve an orphanage in Tijauana

     The more I meditated upon it, the *more* I felt it was right and proper to do so. Of the people picture whose opinion I know (I don't know all their opinions), they overwhelmingly some down on the side of equality. And even if I didn't know some personal stories, anyone looking at a group of people that says should know that there must, statistically speaking, be gay, lesbian, or bisexual people present.
I feel this rainbow is right and perfect.

     But such opposition is about so much more than a photo. It's about people. Real people, who leave the church because of hatred and consider suicide in numbers much greater than the general population. Can we afford to respond with anything BUT love? And for people of faith, any faith, it's about faith. The two can't be neatly separated. I was made keenly aware this past weekend with my own and others' experiences at Seattle's Pride Parade.

     This is my second year walking with Open Door Ministries, a local ELCA ministry dedicated to full LGBTQ inclusion. Before the Pride Parade, I visited worship at Central Lutheran Church in downtown Seattle, where our Northwest WA Synod bishop, Bishop Unti, shared the message. In his message, he stated that "as we walk today, we will be proclaiming the Gospel." Powerful words! We then all walked to the staging area together, and as we waited for over an hour, photos were taken and I had the joy of saying hello to a pastor who was a former youth worker in our congregation.

Local ELCA pastors who came to proclaim God's radical love with their feet.

     As we walked along the parade route, I stay along the outer edges as I like to connect with people. There's a lot of high-fiving and hugging. I was carrying a simple sign: just some old mountboard with "GOD LOVES EVERYONE" written in rainbow crayon. As I high-fived spectators, one woman held onto to my hand and said "God loves everyone! I really needed to hear that now!". She kept holding onto my hand, near tears. Somewhat unusual for me, I felt it was right to ask, "Can I pray for you?" She said "YES!" and threw her arms around me. Another woman who was with her placed a hand upon each of our heads. I prayed that she would know she is a precious child of God, that she would know nothing but love and acceptance, and that she would never forget that God made her and loved her as she is.

     And then I went on my way.

     I don't know anything about her story, but I feel certain something meaningful to her happened in that moment.

     Of course, Lutherans were not the only religious people who joined Pride. On the bus to Seattle, I got to converse with an elderly, gay, Vietnam vet who was joining his Episcopal congregation. He spoke of the double hell of coming out, switching congregations, AND being a vet of a war so many disagreed with. He spoke of how the congregation he originally left after coming out now has their Believe Out Loud status. It was such a privilege to hear this saint's stories.

     But the story that brings me the most joy? My dear LDS friend who walked with Mormons Building Bridges. My friend and her husband did not always advocate for LGBTQ equality. But then, about the time our state was voting on marriage equality, she began asking sincere questions. She had conversations with people of all opinions. Before too long, we knew her oldest child had come out. I watched her position evolve. She made plans to join this year's Pride. Her facebook friends learned that her next oldest child was also gay. My favourite, very favourite photo from all of Seattle Pride is that of my dear friend with her arms around her gay son, who was wearing his LDS going-to-Temple clothes with a rainbow bow tie and a sign proclaiming "I know my Savior loves me". Yes, yes, yes! May the love and acceptance they felt follow them as they face Testimony in church this week.

     So to my fellow Jesus people I say- May the radical and inclusive Love of God be with you all. Everyone of you. And may you extend it to all.

Related Links:

ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton's Letter on SCOTUS ruling

Open Door Ministries on facebook

Mormons Building Bridges on facebook


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