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…)

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.

6a00d8341c730253ef01156f639b39970c-800wi

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.

6a00d8341c730253ef01156f639703970c-800wi

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

“… I describe the church as a community of Christ, bought with a price, where everyone is welcome. This community is bought with a price because of the struggle of Jesus to overcome the structures of sin and death constitutes both the source of new life in the community and its own mandate to continue the same struggle for life on behalf of others.”

“Those of us who ‘fall in faith’ with [Jesus] and [the] story of God’s welcome experience cognitive dissonance, a contradiction between ideas and actual experience, when we turn from reading the Gospels to looking at the way this message has been interpreted in the church through the ages. Nevertheless, many of us, including myself, continue to find that this is a life-giving story that points us to God’s intention for New Creation, in our lives, in society, and in nature as well.  And we find ourselves seeking out communities of faith and struggle that speak of life in the midst of all forms of death-dealing oppression.”

– Letty Russell, Church in the Round

It is impossible for me and for many other alienated women and men to walk away from the church, however, for it has been the bearer of the story of Jesus Christ and the good news of God’s love. It seems rather that we have to sit back and askourselves about what is happening among us when two or three gather in Christ’s name and begin to think through possible ways of being church that will affirm the full humanity of all women and men.”

– from Church in the Round, pg 11.

The Open National Coordinating Team meeting in White Plains, NY, will be meeting March 13-15. Follow this link to learn more: CWAC Meeting

The Church Start/Redevelopment Team (Ministry Development) will meet on Friday, March 13th at 3:00pm. We will be gathering to discover what BEing church looks like in ministry as new church starts and revitalizations. We are stepping out into communities as church – the Body of Christ. What exactly does that look like?

It looks like a communion table that always has room for one more.

It looks like a place where every pew is a sacred space of sharing

It looks like a time/place in which no voice is valued above another.

It looks like a place where everyone is a participant, not a visitor.

It looks like …

We would love to be able to come together to talk about how this is lived in reality – here, now, today – in our ministry.

I need mentors to guide and inspire. I need mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers of the church, the body of Christ, for me to grow in the call to the servant leadership. Our Church Within A Church Movement is about BEing the church today, with justice, mercy and equality overcoming the push to conform to the will or the way of a socialized hierarchy of worth. At times I lose focus as I lose heart.

I have discovered that I especially need the companionship of a woman of wisdom born of experience in visionary work. (more…)

divorce_vid2This is a movie from the Courage Campaign in California. It is truly poignant. I encourage all, no matter your thoughts on same-sex marriage, to see this video and ponder the effects of potentially being forced to divorce your spouse.

Or, you can go to http://www.couragecampaign.org/page/s/divorce

Perhaps this begs a question. If you don’t believe they should be married to each other, who do you believe they should marry?

This is an offering from the Power Flower discussion at the last national meeting in October. I hope it gives further food for thought and, at least, keep the issue of -isms in the forefront of dialogue.

Privilege is one of those very strange things. Those who lack it generally recognize it as either something to envy or something to despise. Those who know they have it and are inclined to have more, manipulate it to their own advantage. Then there is the great, largely clueless majority who, if asked, will tell you they don’t have privilege – they are just as downtrodden as women, people of color, GLBT or whatever other group they may name. Sometimes I think that the invisible unflective privilege is the most heinous and insidious.

To fully understand privilege, we have to first unpack its two close relatives – bias and prejudice. While we tend to use these words interchangeably, they are quite different. Bias is an ingrained preference for or against particular things, and it ranges from the mundane to the notorious. Preferring strawberries over apples is a bias, as is having a preference for white people or against people of color. One is relatively harmless and mild, while the other may be hurtful to both persons involved. Prejudice is pre-judgment based on some criteria or bias. It is one thing to be biased towards whites, but another to prejudge the characteristic of white as better than all other possibilities. Prejudice elevates bias to an action or belief system that is illogical and not just hurtful, but potentially truly harmful. (more…)

It is imperative that churches recognize the need that exists today to teach folks how to reflect theologically. The single biggest reason for this, quite honestly, is that church hierarchies have done the local church member a grave disservice.Increasingly, the theological discussions surrounding potentially contentious issues have occurred in denominational ivory towers, leaving the average church-goer divorced from the process of contemplating God’s place in any controversy. (more…)

This is a video compilation of key moments in the Church Within A Church service of extraordinary ordination.  Revs Annie Britton and Jenna Zirbel were ordained in the Methodist tradition in an ecumenical service. What can you say, it was a beautiful event – one that changed us forever. Praise God!