Andy and I are in conversation with ministry leaders throughout the country who are working in diverse and challenging endeavors  Being the emerging face of ‘church’ as the body of Christ. As co leaders of the Ministry Development work area for Church Within A Church, we explore the celebratory actions and the struggles of Being the church we want to see. Whether any of us feels that we are the outside other or the inside ministry leader seems to depend on the energy of the Spirit at that moment.  Evangelism truly is a queer triangle.

As the ordained minister for Rainbow Community Cares (RCCares), my work is deeply rooted in ministry development and church revitalization. Rainbow Community Cares has emerged from the praxis of neighborhood ministry begun in Schenectady, New York, and now is informed by participation in LGBTQ community organizations in Raleigh, North Carolina. An integral part of RCCares’ vision is to help heal the rift in our communities and co-create a safe place for community to grow.  The scriptural imperative to love your neighbor leads the way to the gatherings in which RCCares participates. The 2011 Equality Conference was one such gathering. (more…)

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Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender partners and their families are categorically denied full engagement in the communities in which they live, all in the name of religious “morality,” while the heart and essence of the source of life and love upon which religion is derived remains ever present ready to break through the oppressor’s blindness and let the captives go free.  In naming and claiming the spirituality that is inherent in our lives and written on our hearts, we are enthused to love ourselves and live in care of neighbor as self.  The Spirituality Training PowerPoint that follows was worked out during three workshops with LGBTQ participants.

The culture in which we live is undergirded by a socialized religion granting heterosexual couples’s status in the way of financial, legal, psychological and spiritual supports denied gay and lesbian relationships.  Those persons who vary from the “moral” norms of sexual identity, sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity, established in the same discriminatory manner by the dominant minority, are denied the safeguards that protect their full rights, as well.

Leaders in our nation will sometimes define social practices as “moral,” and therefore “acceptable,” based on dominant religious biases irrespective of the reality of the diversity of relationships lived in community. Heterosexual coupling has been legally identified as meriting “moral” status with the entitlements that go along with it, while discrimination against other relationships is sanctioned. The burden of proof that relationships other than heterosexual coupling are “moral” is placed on the community in a system where the leaders refuse to recognize the “acceptable” existence of diverse relationships. There is no legitimate place allowed for justice in this system. Blindness to the diversity of relationships in community creates an unjust living environment resulting in the denial of civil rights, inequality, oppression, and strife in the name of “morality.”

Practicing Safe Spirituality  –  PowerPoint presentation

“The community of faith and struggle, then, is the community that makes use of its critically reflected experience of struggle in the process of traditioning by which it selects from the still living and evolving past of scriptural and church tradition as a means of shaping an alternate future. Its appeal to Tradition in no way is a denial of its own process and experience but rather a faith affirmation that God is present in and through their struggle for justice and discernment of the meaning of the gospel message. Nor is it a denial of the need for careful critical thought as the community uses the theological  spiral to make connections between its  ongoing life and its continuing work of advocacy and welcome for those on the margins of church and society.”

Then, the “measure of faithfulness” is demonstrated in how the most vulnerable participate in church community over and against a non-reflective tradition.

We have already seen that table talk as both action and reflection is not disconnected from scripture and tradition. Rather, round table talk is designed to talk back to tradition … In a positive sense, talking back is a constant movement around the spiral, bringing scripture and tradition into connection with context, critical analysis, and action by those at the margins of church and society. This dialogue finds its conversation partners among communities of faith and struggle, who in turn become the prism for the feminist self-understanding of what it means to be church.

Opportunities continue to present themselves, more so now since my participation in E&J Day at the capital on 4/28. It is a practice that helped me remember my worth as a minister and my ability to nurture my passion in engaging with a community in servant leadership. Andy and I represented the church as a body living in the community of love, nurturing each other.

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On April 28, I participated in a rally for equality and justice at the New York state capital with 2000 people. We were an incredibly diverse crowd, including constituents from the far reaches of the state. We spoke with those who have been voted into office to represent us. We spoke so that those representatives would recognize the common interests and the needs of the people of New York state. We know the stories of our lives shed light on why passing into law GENDA (Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act), Dignity (Dignity for all Students Act) and same-sex marriage is the way to opening civil rights to LGBT in order that we all might flourish.

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Out of a starting point connected to those who are marginalized comes the theological spiral that Beverly Harrison has called a “liberation social ethics methodology” and Katie Cannon calls “emancipatory praxis”. This style 0f theologizing in a continuing spiral of engagement and reflection begins with commitment to the task of raising up signs of God’s new household with those who are struggling for justice and full humanity. It continues by sharing experiences of commitment and struggle in a concrete context of engagement. Third, the theological spiral leads to a critical analysis of the context of the experiences, seeking to understand the social and historical factors that affect the community of struggle. Out of this commitment to action in solidarity with the marginalized, and out of sharing of experiences and social analysis, arise questions about biblical and church tradition that help us gain new insight into the meaning of the gospel as good news for the oppressed and marginalized. This new understanding of tradition flows from and leads to action, celebration and further reflection in the continuing theological spiral.

from Church in the Round