Thoughts on Liturgical Engagement in the LGBT Community

Having spent last evening at DioCal’s Pride Mass celebrated at a local gay bar, I want to share some thoughts on what it means to bring Eucharist to these kinds of venues, and what the implications are for engagement with the LGBT* community on the ground of their own experience.

It was really a terrific crowd. More people, in fact, than I see in my parish on a Sunday morning. It takes a good deal courage for the Church (especially our beloved Episcopal Church) to step outside of its comfort zone to do what may be considered radical by both other members of ECUSA and also the LGBT* community at large. There are huge opportunities for engagement and mutual transformation. In my experience to date, however, the Eucharist as celebrated in a gay bar hasn’t provided those opportunities. Not yet…

In between intermittent bouts of self-consciousness and a little bit of condescension (OK…maybe slightly more than a little) — there were real moments of grace. There was something powerful and beautiful about the drag performers who stood among us during the Mass — truly in their own way a priesthood *de jure* in the LGBT* community. Watching the film “Milk” begin to play on the television monitors as we sang the closing hymn “We Shall Overcome” was particularly moving. But, I really wonder if we liturgically minded Episcopalians haven’t failed to consider that it is not only unreasonable, but in fact misses a huge opportunity, to merely transpose our liturgy into that type of venue with only minor accommodation for space and circumstance. Really an odd experience.

We religious folks still have to find the right language to speak about what it means to be ministers of the Gospel in the LGBT community. We do not minister to, but we minister among. And, I find myself asking “to what purpose?” Why the Eucharist? And to what ends? Evangelism? Engagement? Apologetic? Welcome? Hospitality?

The Pride Mass was an exercise in unclear motivations and odd accommodation. If it was to make us feel good about ourselves…then I suspect it was a success. If it was to bear witness to others of what our faith proclaims, then it was not a very clear statement. If it was to proclaim “welcome” to others and to engage the community via the patrons and staff of the bar, then I’m afraid it was a dismal failure.

Some observations about the event… From an outside perspective, it would appear that the Episcopal Church is composed entirely of clergy and religious. There were a few people not in clericals there, but overwhelmingly it appeared to be a rather close knit group of insiders, well familiar with one another already, and largely church professionals. I’m proud that my church and its clergy are so supportive and engaged, and are so earnestly trying to provide welcome and affirmation of the LGBT* community. It’s why I’ve made it my home. But, sadly, from the attendance last night you would have thought that no clergy actually informed the folks in the pews that attending would be a good thing.

The liturgy itself was — typically — a scaled down version of Sunday worship. Opening Hymn, Call to Worship, A Reading (Matthew’s Beatitudes), Prayers of the People, The Peace, Eucharist, and Postcommunion Prayer, Hymn and Blessing. The musicians were lovely (piano, violin, and vocalist), but the music choices were a little evangelical for my taste, but that’s just me.

What was apparent, however, is how little the Eucharistic liturgy lends itself to spaces like a bar. Of course, churches are constructed to accommodate the shape of the liturgy. Hence the reason we so often struggle in the church when trying to re-imagine it, confined as we are by a space that was constructed to do things a certain way. So, here is an observation. I have been to many successful Eucharists held on the street in Castro. Beautiful, open, inviting experiences. But bars are a different venue. Constructed for specific purposes. And they do not lend themselves to the liturgical movement or structure of the Eucharist, particularly as it’s done normally in Church. So why do we even try to do it the same way without some inventive re-imagining of what Eucharist could be in this very contextual place?

Were there saving graces? The Bishop’s Eucharistic canon, an almost poetic ex tempore reflection, was lovely. The homily on Trinity as community was excellent, and particularly noteworthy for me was his reflection on the fact that the Gospel reading chosen was most usually one heard at funerals! As for interested parties who were not Episcopalian? Zero. Tone deaf certainly applies for the rest.

We NEED to rethink what liturgical structure, movement, acts and words are appropriate in such a location and space. And we need to do so with a clear understanding of what we hope to accomplish in doing so. Otherwise, it merely looks as though we decided to take over someone else’s space for an hour to do a really poor imitation of what we do on Sundays, with no clear message and no hospitality offered even to our hosts other than an admonition to please tip the bartenders. We can do better.

I think having liturgical experiences in bars and other places *could* be marvelous. But we need to break out of our own comfort zones to re-imagine what might be possible. Firstly, the experience cannot really be about “us” except insofar as we are willing to acknowledge that we are open to being transformed by the community we minister among. To make it about us stepping outside of our own comfort zones, or being challenged comes perilously close to using others’ spaces and experiences as a means to our own ends, and that is most certainly not evangelism, nor is it expressly why we’ve chosen to do such things as works of mission and ministry among the LGBT community.

It should not be about converting members of the community via some liturgical “altar-call” like moment, but rather by engagement that can be mutually transformative. In cases like last night, the liturgical movement of Eucharist precisely prohibited engagement with the community surrounding us. And here, for me, is part of the problem. The Eucharist is not a tool, and so perhaps is not the right type of liturgical experience for this type of venue. Again…what is the purpose? If we, as we did last night, transpose our liturgical celebration as is into the venue of a gay bar, the natural result is that the community that gathers to celebrate becomes a powerful barrier to those who choose NOT to participate. An altar rail made of flesh and blood that bars the way if not the view of an insider celebration being performed outside, for outsiders.

We, for issues of sheer practicality due to the nature of *how* we celebrate Eucharist in church, shepherded ourselves into one side of the bar and “performed” a version of a Mass that was rather awkward and clumsy, and we engaged with no one outside of ourselves until the Mass was ended and the drag show began. So, the question for me becomes…If we are going to have liturgical celebrations in community spaces – particularly in bars that cater to the LGBT community – how do we do so in a way that leads us to engagement with one another?

We have to remember – and I mean really be clear on this – the Mass which is a symbol of comfort and community to us, can be perceived as an act of aggression on the part of a community wounded by the Church, particularly when conducted in their spaces without a suitable way to re-imagine how it becomes an act of hospitality and invitation to engagement with us as religious allies and also LGBT people.

The beginning, I think, of the solution is to look at what the Eucharist symbolizes for us as insiders in the Church. God’s love? Community? An equalizer of differences? A breaking of that which separates us? Unpack what Eucharist is. THEN, find out what symbolizes those things in the LGBT community and find a way to connect them. Liturgy is nothing if the symbolism has no resonance. And what symbols work for those of us who are engaged with the church may hold no meaning at all for those outside of the Church, except maybe that they are uncomfortable reminders of a religion that has wounded, expelled, or ignored them. Time for new symbols or accept the fact that Eucharist is perhaps not the right choice for these venues.

As I said, there were moments of real grace last night. But there has to be a better way for us to be authentically ourselves and yet create a liturgical moment that is inventive, sacred, hospitable, and reverent — and allows space for us to enter more deeply into engagement with the community on the ground of their experience, and not merely by transposing our liturgical narrative in situ — and a poor shadow at that — into a world created in part to escape the very narratives that marginalized the community in the first place.

I give tremendous props to those who coordinated the event last night, and to those who showed up. It takes courage and care to even begin a movement like this, and to find a model that is sustainable for future engagement. And, I think it can be done! But I encourage all of us to look at this with clear eyes, and to step outside of the familiar. I’m sure we can create a liturgical experience that has, at its core, a new language and new model for building community that leads inexorably towards Eucharist — Communion — without forcing the LGBT* community to engage with Eucharist as the entry point rather than a destination we can all arrive at together when the time is right and God wills it.

Christian Anarchism in Practice

There are certain things in the Christian faith that I hold to be evident from the Scriptures and what we can be sure was the major part of Jesus’ teaching. The most important of these is the Sermon on the Mount, with the Beatitudes and Jesus’ most important teachings on forgiveness. For me, this along with the Golden Rule is a sufficient ethical framework for Christian life.

Because I am a Christian Anarchist, and one who above all holds peace to be paramount to all of our works as Christian people — radical peace — then all actions that I take in my life should (I hope and trust with God’s help) adequately demonstrate my commitment. All of our striving for justice, love, and mercy in the Kingdom of God we are called to inhabit find their origins in this peace that I believe in so strongly.

In my opinion, the nation/state is an entity fully and unapologetically committed to violence. Aside from the wars it fights, it’s systems have been set up to perpetuate the power of the powerful, protect the landed and monied classes, and to regulate the behavior of the poor and marginalized to ensure that they do not rise to challenge the elite classes. Because I believe that the state is the antithesis of the Kingdom, and find the state a primary perpetrator of violence, I have committed myself to participate in the mechanisms of the state as little as possible. I believe that God and not the state is the ultimate authority over us. Naive perhaps, but it is my starting point nonetheless and I am committed to where that point leads me.

The “one man revolution” that Christian Anarchism calls us to means that my decision to follow the laws of God and conscience rather than the laws of men is my own, deeply personal, and relies solidly on the teachings of Jesus summarized in the Sermon on the Mount. Here is where I believe that the laws of God as taught by Christ are most adequately summarized, and that the implied ethics of this teaching are, in fact, complete. It is a radical decision to live my faith in action deeply and honorably, but it means making decisions that people don’t often understand.

There are some ways that I am forced to participate in the systems of violence that the government creates. A primary example is being forced to pay taxes that pay for war. My goal is to continue to strive to reach a place where my income eventually falls below the threshold required to pay taxes that subsidize the systemic violence of the nation state.

There are concrete ways I can choose not to participate. I can avoid investing in government bonds. I can choose not to vote knowing that our government comprised as it is of elected individuals, is corrupted by violence. And I can avoid jury service where the government forces me to sit in judgment over another human being – a human being whose truth and story I will never really know because wealthy lawyers are paid to twist the truth into one compelling tale versus another to make their case. Truth be damned. I can avoid fighting in their wars. I can engage in civil disobedience and protest. And I can do all of these things committed to nonviolence.

I avoid what I avoid because I truly believe that these systems simply perpetuate more violence. There are countless ways that I can and do work for justice, peace, and forward the work of the Kingdom that Jesus talked about — without having the be a tool of the state and the government, or participate knowingly or unknowingly in the violence of the system. And all of my decisions are based on discerning how, whether, when I am actually participating in these systems and to make decisions to eliminate or mitigate my own complicity in them.

So, I hope you understand that my choice is at least a principled one, even if you may not agree with my decisions or my means of reaching them. For me, it is a form of radical discipleship and a concerted effort to live with integrity the values that I believe Jesus taught us.

A Eucharistic Prayer for Lent (Abundance)

The people remain standing. The Celebrant, whether bishop or priest,

faces them and sings or says


                  God be with you.

People                        And also with you.

Celebrant            Lift up your hearts.

People                        We lift them to the Lord.

Celebrant            Let us give thanks to God.

People                        It is right to give God thanks and praise.

Then, facing the Holy Table, the Celebrant proceeds

It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and every-

where to give thanks to you, Almighty God, Supreme Artisan

of all Creation.

Here a Proper Preface is sung or said on all Sundays, and on other

occasions as appointed.

Therefore we join our voices to proclaim you, singing with Angels and

Archangels, with all the noble company of the heavens and your

creation, who for ever raise this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name:

Celebrant and People

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,

heaven and earth are full of your glory.

         Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.

         Hosanna in the highest.

The people stand or kneel.


Then the Celebrant continues

Holy God: We give thanks to you for the abundance of

possibility which you have made known to us in your creation.

You brought forth on your earth a garden paradise and filled

it with every good and beautiful wonder; things that bloom and

blossom, creatures both great and curious, and commanded all things

to grow and multiply and bring forth life plenteously.

In the midst of the garden you had made, you gathered the rich

soil in your tender hands, and fashioned human kind in your image

Breathing your Spirit upon them, you filled them with creative

possibility and sent them forth to tend and nurture all that you

had made. While in our pride we failed you, you did not leave us.

Through prophets and teachers you called us back. Through Moses

you brought us to a plentiful land. Time and again you offered us

abundance, seeking only that we should bring forth that which you

had purposed for us and for all of your creation.

When the time was ripe for harvest, you sent your Christ. Incarnate of the Holy Spirit, woven together in the womb of Mary, he entered the world to sow the seeds of your kingdom in our hearts, so that finally your mercy and justice might flourish. Through parables and deeds of power, he taught us your will. He proclaimed your purpose as no other, calling us to feed the hungry, clothe the poor and heal the sick.

And when the time had come for him glorify your name to the ends of the earth, he offered himself up to death and, rising from the grave, made the whole creation new again.

At the following words concerning the bread, the Celebrant is to hold it

or lay a hand upon it; and at the words concerning the cup, to hold or

place a hand upon the cup and any other vessel containing wine to be

consecrated.


On the night he was taken from us and handed over to death,

our Lord Jesus Christ took bread made by human hands; and when

he had given thanks to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples,

and said, “Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you.

As often as you do this, remember me.”

After supper he took the cup of wine brought forth from the vineyard; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you:

This is my Blood of the new Promise, which is shed for you and for all for the forgiveness of sins and the refreshment of your souls. Whenever you drink it, remember me.”

Therefore we proclaim the mystery of faith:

Celebrant and People

Christ has died.

Christ is risen.

Christ will come again.

The Celebrant continues

We celebrate the memorial of our salvation, O God, by this offering of praise and thanksgiving. Recalling his death, resurrection, and ascension, we offer you these gifts from the bounty of your Creation.

Make them holy by your Life-Giving Spirit; to be for your people the

Body and Blood of your Son, the holy food and drink of renewed

and unending life in him. Sanctify us also that we may faithfully

receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you as a people, willingly

transformed; that we, like this bread, may be taken, blessed, broken, and given to the world to proclaim your Good News, and at the last day bring us with all your saints into the blessed abundance of your eternal kingdom.

All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ, the great lover of souls. By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all praise and honor is yours, Almighty God, until the end of time. To you alone be glory. AMEN.

Do You Know?

To all of our non-LGBT friends, I just want to paint a picture. Because today, I need to get something off of my chest.

Do you know what it’s like to wake up every day and find your life the subject of endless debate? Do you know what it is like to feel like everyone is talking about you when you’re sitting in the room? Do you know what it is like to be treated like an issue rather than a person?

Do you know what it’s like to hear a stream of reasons why your marriage is not a marriage, or why it’s grounds to refuse you service in a local business, or why you deserve no rights, or fewer rights, or why asking for your rights constitutes some completely unreasonable request to be treated differently rather than the same as anyone else?

Do you know what its like to hear debated over ad nauseam whether it is right for you to be around children even though you have loved and raised your own, or nephews and nieces and cousins and the children of your heterosexual friends? And having loved them, and nurtured them, and laughed with them and played tag and hide and seek and kick ball and Easter Egg hunts — hear constantly that somehow there is something dirty and vile just beneath the surface?

Do you know what it’s like when you attend Church, and celebrate holy days with friends of varying traditions, and believe in God — to hear religious fanatics in the public square claim their right to discriminate against you in the name of religious freedom?

Do you really know what it’s like to wake up to another protest by the Westboro Baptists and others like them who say that “God Hates Fags” and that America is being punished because of you? Or that the word “fag” is even still lobbed at you in all seriousness?

Do you know what it’s like to have to fill out a special form for an insurance company to prove you “are really married”, or to have to create a “dummy” tax return to get the numbers right to file taxes “as though you were really married”, or to hear even the most well intentioned new friend ask if your reference to your “husband” means that you were really married for real — I mean for “real” and how and where you managed it?

Do you know what it’s like to have come out at 15 years old, and still at the age of 48 to feel as though you still have to come out again and again and again, an realize that in the 30+ years of trying to be your authentic self that you’re still being discussed as an issue — still — and that the acceptance you’ve worked for your entire adult life is still not necessarily forthcoming? Or that, if it is, it is only coming in the form of protections and laws grudgingly doled out and still more vehemently opposed at every step by people who don’t know you?

Do you know what it’s like to constantly have the temptation of the closet lurking just behind you with it’s own particular hell, always mocking you as an alternative to being truthful about who you really are?

Do you know what it’s like to see laws passed around the world that criminalize you? Do you know what it’s like to see LGBT teenagers, the ones you hoped to create a better world for with your political and social activism, commit suicide in vast numbers rather than face what the world has to offer?

Do you know what it’s like to recognize that homophobia is never ever going to go away, just like racism is never going away, and that your struggle to legitimize your worth as a human being is going to continue as long as you are alive?

Because if you stop for a second, I can guarantee that you that you absolutely have no idea what that feels like. For those who are our allies in the fight, your advocacy and love and fight for justice is so important. You don’t have to search for ways to legitimize us or our struggle by equating it to anything comparable in your own life. Or equating it to other struggles of the past or the present — for all of these struggles are different even while they share some characteristics.

No, it is enough to know that it is wrong. It is enough to know that in standing with us, you will risk much. But stop for a moment and ask yourself what it must feel like to endure this conversation every single day of your life because you can’t check out whenever it suits you to focus on other issues, because this issue is literally about you, your life, and your value as a human being.

I just needed to bear witness to this truth today. Because I’m tired. So many of us are just tired to the bone. And I really want you to understand that sometimes — you really don’t understand.

Genderqueer? Why Facebook’s Gender “Menu” Rocks!

I am not merely effeminate. The expression of that part of myself transcends mannerism and gesture and behavior. The part of me that aligns most closely with what our culture perceives to be feminine is deeper than that.

I am not trans* and yet do not feel comfortable identifying as cis-gender male without a bunch of qualifiers. And yet, I am not only effeminate — or a “sissy” as they used to call us in the old days. I am a gender nonconforming person. And this has nothing to do with the biological sex I was born with. Gender is a purely social construct. It is about me and where I fit on the male/female, masculine/feminine spectrum of false binaries we have created.

Being effeminate was something I used to think I had to overcome. No one has made me feel the need to overcome it more urgently than other gay men, whose investment in cultural definitions of masculinity are often overwrought, preening, and conspicuous.

I began being confused with being a girl when I was only about 4 or 5 years old. Halloween was always the time when my mother, God bless her, would always be told what a beautiful little girl she had, even when I was dressed as a cat or a scarecrow.

I grew my hair long early on, around 9 or 10, and always had the desire to do that until I lost it all at 22 and no longer had the choice. From the time I was a pre-teen, I’d have rather been in the kitchen with the women than watching the game on TV. I’d have rather knit and read and learned French than be forced to play GI Joe’s with my cousins or play stickball. I continued to be confused as a woman in person into my 20’s. And I’m still called ma’am on the phone more often than not.

For a man of my generation, I struggled to conform to a “masculine” identity even when it didn’t fit. I deepened my voice when answering the phone or being around the men-folk, yet finally learned as a teen to cross my legs without feeling self-conscious and to have both ears pierced long before it was fashionable. I learned how to be aloof in public, and navigated what kind of tenderness and vulnerability it was appropriate to show to a lover in private without turning them off. “If I wanted someone feminine, I’d date a woman!” Oh yes, straight acting, masculine for same. I learned while being ashamed that I laughed like a girl, and threw a ball like one, and cried when watching movies, that the women who surrounded me were independent and self-sufficient and strong. Even when confronted with the worst that men had to offer. Today, the residual introversion that still plagues me is largely tied to trying to reign in the femininity that is so obvious when I stop thinking and just act like myself.

I was slender and fey and willowy. I dressed as a woman for the first time at 15. It was the same year I came out as gay, and two years before I met Jackie, the woman who for a short time was one of my great loves, and 7 years before I married my now ex-wife who is still one of my dearest friends. And yet, I never identified as bisexual. I am and have always identified as gay, and the women in my life all knew that up front. And yet I am physically attracted to men, women, and those who identify as in between or neither.

I have done drag off and on since that first time. I have also worn skirts to work as a man — to the beach or shopping or to the playa for the Burn. And I’m not talking about a fetish of some sort – hat tip and all respect to those for whom it is so – it is not about sexual thrill. It just feels good. And logical. I mean, why keep all the bits confined in pants if there’s an alternative!

I love needlepoint and fashion and romance and small moments and beauty and all things delicate and fragile and vulnerable. And I love that all of these caricatures of femininity belie the fact of the ferocity and power and strength and aggression that can be hallmark’s of femininity as well. And I love loud punk rock music and football and fast cars and loved wearing a beard and hard nights of partying and being the aggressive conqueror when I was looking for a lover. And I giggle that somehow that stereotypical “masculine” influence somehow took hold when I wasn’t looking.

I have never, ever been accused of being “butch” or “macho” or “manly.” In fact, when these terms have been lobbed at something I’ve said or done, even or MOSTLY in jest, I cringe. As a cis-male, having to survive by living into the cultural caricature of what masculinity is supposed to be, I at times felt weak and vulnerable and threatened. Yet, when embracing my ambiguity in the binary of masculine/feminine I have felt empowered and strong and sassy only when willing to lay down the judgments imposed on me by myself and others. My “femininity” is a part of my emotional life, my relational interactions with others. It is a part of my attachment to women – their empowerment and their sensuality. Their beauty and their ferocity. It is part of my intense indignation when their rights are violated. And part of my deepest shame when their bodies are violated or exploited, or their strength undermined by what is still an extraordinarily sexist culture. Being true to this side of me is when I feel more authentic, and less reticent about my psychological and emotional responses to the world around me. And it is also in this place where I feel the most judged both inside and outside of the LGBT community that I call home.

I have been told to “butch up” and called “faggot” by lovers and friends and fathers and father-figures, and even wrestled with whether or not I was – in fact – transgender. And I know in truth that I am not. I simply do not feel that I am inhabiting the wrong body of the wrong sex. Though occasionally I wonder if I could not have easily lived as a woman for a time. That time, however, is long past. The choices I’ve made along the way and the life I live have closed that door in truth. And I am perfectly comfortable with that.

I do not prefer to be or to become female. And I am not wholly comfortable identifying as male. So, finally, the politics and social implications of our movement for equality have come around. They have given me space and terms to express myself in a way that is empowering and acceptable. At least in a limited way. And for now, that is good. We have a long way to go. I have a long way to go to relinquish the hold that masculine/feminine binaries have imposed on me and so many of us.

For those of you in the straight and even in the LGBT communities who do not understand where gender nonconformity fits on the spectrum; for those of you who do not know why genderqueer is an important word for those of us who self-identify that way; this is for you. This is my confession.

Some words about praying the Daily Office…

As a religious, it is helpful for me to remember that the Daily Office is not my prayer…it is the Church’s prayer. Familiarity with the words is a help, not a hindrance…as I am bound to pray it on behalf of the Church and her members. It is NOT, however, a substitute for my personal prayer and my time with God in conversation. The language of the BCP (or whatever form we use) may or may not inform and infuse my own prayer with lovely words and phrases that become meaningful for me as they connect the needs of the Church to my own needs. But complacency in prayer comes from a lack of surprise, a lack of allowing its content to shake us and confront us with ourselves. I can become complacent with the words of the Office, but my own prayer often surprises me. Scripture and the Psalms always surprise me – especially my reactions to them. If I become worried that the Office has become boring and rote, because I have become so familiar with its words, then somehow I have managed to forget that it is not my prayer…it is my duty. I will not be transformed by the Daily Office, except in the way that any discipline changes me to be…more disciplined! But my transformation will happen in my own prayer life of which the Office is but a small portion.


After 20+ years of praying the Daily Office, it is hard for the words not to sometimes become rote and familiar (to the point of being able to say them sometimes without even hearing them). But, that being said…the words of the Office have become embedded over time in my DNA, into the very fiber of me. In times of trouble, they become comforting and anchoring. Often, my own prayer time is incorporated into the Office (at times appointed for meditation) or I will pause for my own silence and prayer time as inspired. Or it will lead to my own prayer, or sometimes I will even begin with my own prayer. When the community and I gather together, we are united in those moments as we pray the prayer of the Church together. When I pray alone at home, I feel united to the brothers in the Office because I know that we are all saying it in an unending circle that travels across time zones. And, in this time, I am uniting my voice to the unending voice of the whole Church as I prayer on her behalf. The Office is a rich and beautiful experience, and the discipline of saying it is certainly worthwhile. I will not suggest otherwise. Just that – and I know them well – in those times when it becomes hard to pray the Office, it helps to remember that it doesn’t belong to me and is no substitute for ones own private prayer with God that will truly transform the heart.

Advent Meditation

Blessed are you, God of mercy and might,

with tender comfort and transforming power

you come into our midst.

You remember your ancient promise

and make straight the paths that lead to you

and smooth out the rough ways,

that in our day

we might bring forth your compassion

for all humanity.

For these and all your mercies, we praise you:

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

Blessed be God for ever! AMEN

What am I waiting for?

A voice says, ‘Cry out!’

And I say, ‘What shall I cry?’

When words seem futile

and they seem inadequate

and they seem heavy.

What shall I say?

What am I waiting for?

I wait for a return to our eternal home.

That place of promise where things are as they should be.

The place just beyond the veil that covers my own eyes.

That place on the other side of the mirror

or the other side of the Universe?

I wait for God, the origin of all that is spectacular and plain.

As if I knew what to look for, being rather unaccustomed

to paying attention to the plain,

and rather bad at recognizing the spectacular even

when it unfolds gently before me

in unexpected places.

Isaiah says: “the word of our God will stand for ever.”

I wait for that word… because it sometimes seems silent.

And I forget that, in that silence, God waits with me.

I wait for lighting bolts

and great revelations

as though the Incarnation

were not enough.

The Word made flesh

who dwelt among us

and dwells among us

Incarnating among us

and in us

and with us

Until the end of time.

Get you up to a high mountain,

O Zion, herald of good tidings;

lift up your voice with strength,

O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,

lift it up, do not fear;

say to the cities of Judah,

‘Here is your God!’

What am I waiting for?

I wait for the One whom eternity cannot contain.

Large enough to surpass the Universe and all that we know and sense and feel…

and yet still small enough to slip through our fingers

to slip through the cells and the atoms and the particles

into infinite smallness.

I wait for the One who is more than time

and space, and quantum physics, and string theories

And I forget that we worship One whose name is Emmanuel:

God with us.

See, the Lord God comes with might,

God will feed these flocks like a shepherd;

God will gather the lambs in upraised arms,

and carry them in a soft bosom,

and gently lead the mother sheep.

I wait for the One who inhabits the Universe

and entered time with the wails of a tiny Child.

One who is infinitely strong

and infinitely vulnerable

One who needs nothing from us

and yet desires everything that we have.

One whose self-emptying sacrifice and love

was laid in a feeding trough

in a tiny backwater town

in a tiny backwater province

among a peculiar people.

One with dubious parentage

who was swaddled

by a woman of ill repute.

One who would know rejection

more intimately

than I have ever known.

A mewling baby… our God,

helpless and at the mercy of the world.

Too young for words

Too young for ideas

The Eternal One… too young.

I forget that we grown-ups often,

if not always,

get it wrong.

I think… one day I will be wise

Age will make me wise.

Experience will make me wise.

I forget that I should be like a child.

But I forget that life is a choice between wise and jaded

and that I can easily fall one way

or another

depending upon my mood.

What am I waiting for?

I wait for that life which informs our living;

for Christ’s compassion which changes our hearts;

I forget that God cannot be contained by our grand theologies and

our random exclusions.

Cannot be contained by our certainties

and cannot be pushed away by our doubts.

What am I waiting for?

I wait for Christ’s clear speaking which contradicts our harmless generalities;

for Christ’s disturbing presence;

I forget that Christ does not permit me to remain silent

on issues of faith, on morals, on issues of war and peace;

And I forget that for all my words

I often say nothing of any meaning

or spend too much time reducing the world

to delightful platitudes

and ultimately meaningless sound bytes.

I wait for Christ’s innocent suffering;

Christ’s fearless dying;

Christ’s rising to life breathing forgiveness;

Because while I deal with the complexities

of my own internal life;

While I struggle to be better:

a better partner

a better listener

a better friend and colleague

While I unpack the meaning of my Christian life

what it means to be a brother among brothers

to serve rather than to be served;

While I try to listen to the voice of God

and look for the face of Christ

I forget that it is as close as the nearest mirror

or the nearest friend;

and that God speaks in the softest whisper

of my conscience, or the unnoticed “hello.”

I forget that Christ has already done

what he set out to do:

That God lived our human life

died a human death

and that he rose again;

Having been rejected, God triumphed.

Having been an outcast, God embraces

one and all

with arms bared in rage at our petty divisions.

What am I waiting for?

Isaiah says again: “Go up to a high mountain,

herald of good tidings to Zion;

lift up your voice with strength,

herald of good tidings to Jerusalem.

Lift up your voice, fear not;

say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’”

When is the beginning I await if it has already begun?

Do I trust the Spirit to rise up within me?

The Spirit who, from the beginning, attracts us to God’s goodness

who even now confronts us with God’s claims.

I forget that God is already with us

and that I need to trust

that God’s plan is unfolding

in spite of my fears and doubts to the contrary.

And I forget that the Holy Spirit

allows me to say such things;

That it is She who gives voice

to words which still astound me

regardless of how many years they have been said.

What am I waiting for?

Do I forget that I already have God’s permission

to speak the Good News;

to give hope to the hopeless?

Strengthen the weak hands,

and make firm the feeble knees.

Say to those who are of a fearful heart,

‘Be strong, do not fear!

Here is your God.

God will come and save you.’

But I forget that praise alone

does not fulfill Gods purpose.

What am I waiting for?

Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel!

Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!

God has taken away the judgments against you

do not let your hands grow weak. Your God, is in your midst,

God will renew you in God’s love;

God will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival.

God says: I will deal with all your oppressors at that time.

And I will save the lame and gather the outcast,

and I will change their shame into praise and renown.

I will bring you home.

My brothers and sisters:

as you prepare to reflect

on the Advent of God

as you search for meaning

in words like

waiting

and

anticipation

and

expectation…

Lay down your wisdom

and your will

and your words

search yourselves:

your hearts…

your faith…

your doubts…

empty your hearts,

bring nothing in your hands;

As we open to receive the Spirit

who converts us from the patterns of this passing world

As we trust to God to conform us to the shape of Christ

I ask you:

What are YOU waiting for?

Stop Your Binary Thinking!

Gender is not the same as gender identity, is not the same as gender expression, is not the same as biological sex, is not the same as sexual orientation. Biology is not the same as societal gender expectations. The biological “sex” of a child born may have nothing to do with the “gender” of that child as expressed within the framework of societal “norms.” Norms that differ from culture to culture. Take a look at the vocabulary we employ to find ways to categorize individuals who do not fit into the framework of our specific culture, a culture by the way that is very particular in time and place and differing by degrees from other contemporaneous cultures: sissy, tomboy, butch, femme, dyke, faggot, queen, nellie, nancy-boy, fish, fag-hag, she-male, tranny, he-she, gender-bender, lipstick-lesbian, breeder, etc.

The issue around these terms is not only that they are derogatory, but they perpetuate the same kind of binary thinking that get’s people into trouble in the first place, turning differences into categories — easily identifiable and easily targeted. They take no account of individual self-identity, but imposes on individuals terms that place them, objectively, in opposition to the categories that we find acceptable and gives them instantly recognizable status as outsiders. And, not inconveniently, they give voice to our own internalized discomfort and insecurity around difference that make us feel superior and acceptable. Even when we happen to be individuals that do not fit the expected “norms” of the prevailing culture. Hence, gay people who suffer from homophobia, women who are misogynist, even gay and straight antagonism towards self-identified bisexuals.

People who tend to fit binary categories, tend to think in binary categories. Male, female; masculine, feminine; gay, straight, etc. All well and good if you fit those categories, but not so much if you don’t. Among the swirl of complexity that represents self-identity, there are a variety of binary categories that simply do not fit the reality of human diversity. Yet, by our nature, we are all too willing to – rather arbitrarily – choose categories of this type and try to fit everyone into them in a way that makes life comfortable by suiting our own biases.

Breaking down the fundamental categories that we use to create outsiders is difficult. Not just for the prevailing “hetero-normative” culture, but also for those of us in LGBTIQQA culture and, frankly, those who do not identify with either of THESE two categories!

For my part, I choose to stake out my place on the arc, not at the poles. And where I am on that arc might swing from day to day, hour to hour. How we choose to identify ourselves is our prerogative. And it is part of our dignity. And I choose to honor the integrity of those I meet by celebrating their self-identity, and by not finding the need to impose one on them that suits my biases, my fears, and my built-in comfort with binary thinking.

A Word on Power, Privilege, and Poverty

If you are prepared to attribute moral culpability to the poor for their own poverty, then you must accept moral culpability for your own privilege and the damage it has wrought.

However, both the poor and the privileged are born into their circumstances, and social structures conspire to reward or deny them depending on those circumstances. You have earned nothing, you merely got what you got.

It doesn’t matter what you have (or don’t have) but what you do with it. Individuals with privilege and power have a responsibility to use that power rightly in service to others. But first, you have to acknowledge and accept that you are privileged, and that it has nothing to do with you or your own moral rightness. It has to do with the broken systems of the world that reward some at the expense of others.

And those “others” are the very ones for whom you are responsible. The poor, the powerless, the outcast. All of those whose potential was sacrificed on the altar of the systems that maintain your reward for being of the privileged class.

All of our structures must be seen through this reality. Our laws, our moral judgments, our systems of education, religious institutions, economies — these are constructed to maintain distinctions between the privileged and powerful and the poor. At least the messages of the prophets periodically remind us of the proper imperatives of a just society.

And yet, we kill them nonetheless.

I have some questions, please!!

Given that the Episcopal Church’s teaching on marriage holds that the couple themselves are the “ministers” of their marriage and parties to the covenant they make with one another, and;

Given that the Church’s role has been to “bless” the covenant that the couple has made with one another, and;

Given that up until very recently, the Church has withheld that blessing from same-gender couples in long-term committed relationships, and that even now that in some places where it grants that blessing, it has written specific liturgies for that purpose because the “traditional” marriage rite is not “suitable” to these circumstances, and;

Given that a good number of faithful Christian people who are LGBT have engaged in a good variety of alternative rites and ceremonies, witnessed by friends and families, upheld by communities of their own, in the absence of blessing from the Church, creating lasting, loving, mutually supportive covenants with one another;

QUESTION:

Does the Church now have the right to decide the acceptable terms of the covenants that these same-gender couples have made with one another, and have lived with for years, before the Church decided it was time to offer their blessing?

LIKEWISE

Given that the LGBT community has, by force of social pressure, been forced to live apart and has evolved it’s own cultural norms around issues of relationships and sexual mores, and;

Given that, for the most part, the expectations around those cultural norms, while not exclusive to LGBT people, exist in hetero-normative culture as well, but have evolved in ways that are particular in their acceptability as nearly normative in LGBT culture, and;

Given that Christianity has a dubious history when it comes to healthy and honest appraisal of what constitutes appropriate sexual ethics, especially concerning LGBT people who have only recently, and only in part, been deemed acceptable conversation partners in the dialogue;

QUESTION:

Should the Church have expected, at any time during it’s recent advocacy on behalf of LGBT inclusion in rites of blessing for their long-term, covenental relationships, that it would not find itself challenged by the LGBT community’s differing understanding and practices concerning issues such as monogamy, fidelity, and partnership?

DISCUSS!