Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Room at the table for everyone

Jesus started off with 12 people. Twelve misfits, following a Messiah who said impossible things like "love your neighbor" and "blessed are the meek" and "I am come that you might have life - and have it abundantly!" We know what they did...

This weekend, I watched what the Spirit of God did with two hundred eighty-five gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Christians. In the mix were at least a half-dozen gay pastors who have been thrown out of mainline churches, and about a dozen gay music directors and worship leaders (although some would say "gay music directors" is repetitious...).

Imagine Christians who have been shunned by the rest of the Church world, who still have a heart for Jesus Christ - persecuted, shut out, rejected, ignored. And then take 285 voices who can't say enough about Jesus - and just imagine what it would sound like worshiping with them. Every session began with GLBT people worshiping - in some cases, participating in worship for the first time since they had been asked to leave their church. Worshiping out of every tradition - Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant of every variety, and no tradition at all.

And, oh my God, the music...

The theme of the conference was set to the tune of the praise song "How Great Is Our God." But this was not a group of Johnny-One-Notes - we sang praise music, the great hymns, even Taize' chant. Songs that I hadn't sung since my days as a worship team leader at Faith Lutheran in 2001 poured out of me. Sunday's worship set included the wonderful Taize' song Ubi Caritas, How Great Is Our God, Amazing Grace, I Love You Lord, Holy Holy Holy, How Great Thou Art, I Am A Friend of God, Beautiful Savior, and wrapping up with an amazingly synthesized pipe organ belting out A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.

As the last note of that mighty hymn floated away, one of the liturgists (a young Southern guy who is well-known in the group as a deeply devout Catholic) came up to pray. Surveying the crowd, he smiled and said, "If anyone doubts the inclusiveness of this organization, just think that this ol' Catholic boy is coming up here to pray after singing Martin Luther's hymn!"

It was electrifying.

And the speakers...we managed to miss JR Finney Friday morning, but Kelly Fryer's presentation Saturday morning was incredible. Kelly, a former Lutheran pastor who resigned before the church removed her, wrote the Christian beginner's book No Experience Necessary and a wonderful little volume for the Lutheran (ELCA) Church called Reclaiming The "L" Word - Renewing the Church from It's Lutheran Core. (The humor of the author of Reclaiming the "L" Word having to resign because of the other L-word was not lost on the crowd...). She poured affirming Scripture over the conference - telling each of us, "There is nothing more that you need for ministry; no permission slip, no special blessing! You have already received everything needed....ministry isn't a "right" than an institution can give you (or take away from you)!"

Jay Bakker, pastor of Revolution Church NYC and son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, shared the incredibly powerful witness of a straight man with a heart for the amazing unconditional love of Christ. His message of affirmation, and his memories of his mom (Tammy Faye, who died this last year, had a great heart for the GLBT community). But more than that, he gently addressed several of the so-called "clobber" passages that the church uses to try to exclude us, and pointed us back, every time, to the Cross.

That was the message, time and time again. Look to the Cross, no matter what the world, or the Church, or anyone tells us. The same Savior who welcomed the good thief into Paradise welcomes us, as well. The world needs what we have to offer, regardless whether the Church wants it or not. There is a place at the Table for us, our partners, and our families - we only have to step up and claim it. As my partner and I left the conference, arm in arm, the chorus of one praise song kept echoing in my ears...

I am a friend of God
He calls me "Friend"...


Heidi Renee said...

"There is nothing more that you need for ministry; no permission slip, no special blessing! You have already received everything needed....ministry isn't a "right" than an institution can give you (or take away from you)!"

Amen! (I think I have typed that here a time or two...) :)

Peter said...

"The world needs what we have to offer."
--Amen! Preach it, brother!

~pen~ said...

steve, are you trying to say're gay??

:: blink, blink ::

((((loves me my steve))))

do write me a quick note and let me know if anyone has, ahem, moved to the area. thanks in advance.

i love you,

Diane M. Roth said...

I didn't know that this existed. I have heard Kelly Fryer speak, by the way, and she IS incredible.

HennHouse said...

Isn't it amazing what God and do with anyone?

Paul K said...

I appreciate your blog.

I am not gay and, truthfully, have really struggled with what to believe as a Christian.

The bottom line is that God loves us. There is no "right" way we "ought" to be to qualify for His love. It is free. It is for everyone. Specifically for you and me.

I believe the accusation that we need to somehow change ourselves to be accepted by Him is an affront to the cross, comes from the pit of hell, and smells like smoke. Growing in His love is growth in unveiled authenticity. That is the guts of real trust and the measure of our reliance in Him. And it is recieving this First-love from Him that enables us, not only to accept and love ourselves, but enables us to accept and love others.

I look forward to re-visiting your sight and eagerly anticipate getting to know ya a bit. There is good stuff here.

I thank God for leading me to your site.

Your brother in Christ- Paul

bruced said...

I liked that post! Thanks, bro!