Archive for the 'LGBT' Category



21
Jul
10

going forward while standing still

Last night baby kitty, Bella woke me up  after  only 1.5 hours of sleep by jumping up to nestle down upon my sleeping body. Normally I would manage this but last night and for the past several nights I have been flushed with concerns and anxieties. I am currently overwhelmed with life in general and mine in particular. I would like to know when the golden years begin. I’m thinking this whole golden years idea might have been one of those advertising gimmicks to sell retirement homes or insurance policies. There is nothing golden going on in my life at present. Definitely nickel-plated.

Big Dawg and I still have 2 houses: the big beautiful one we put up for sale 2 years ago when we answered the call to come follow Jesus with the congregation we were attending at the time, and the charming little cottage in which we now reside. There had been ample time for leadership persons to explain to us that the invitation couldn’t include the two of us, but nothing was said until 3 days after we moved and there we were, sort of like your best friend died without leaving you a handkerchief. Two years later, we still have 2 houses and the strain of floating them, along with all the other vicissitudes of 21st century life is killing us. The strain of having lost Adopted Daughter along with what we’d thought would be a church family, comes home to roost quite frequently. I won’t go on. It will sound like a soap opera.

Two and a half days ago I had what we used to call a nervous breakdown—uncontrollable crying, despair, hopelessness, deep depression. I pulled myself up to a level closer to normal with the help of homeopathic medication, but  I am truly tired, inside and out. The prairie style FLW house we rescued from ignominy and poured so much love and money into has slipped from $479K to $300K and still no real buyers. We are reluctantly preparing to seek renters. This is a band-aid and not a good one, but it might lessen the financial leak. The wound remains until such time as the church that invited us, and then uninvited us, publicly accepts and confesses its culpability to us. Although we have extended forgiveness to them, such a statement would be a very healing balm to our battered selves. In the meantime, we practice the rule of 70 x 7.

Tomorrow BD and I will head out to Minnesota to attend the annual conference of Mennonites and Roman Catholics, called Bridgefolk, to be held at St John’s Abbey in Collegeville. We are looking for something more, but don’t know what it is. I have moments of wishing we’d not signed up for this because I feel so out of the Circle of Light, but we will go and God will bless and life will go on…one day at a time.

14
Jun
10

abominations, anathemas, absurdities

Leaving aside for the moment,  joyous occasions such as described in my last posting—Family Plan, June 10—I have another concern to share with you. This is one I personally walked a road of hot coals for in 2008/09. I have referenced my experience many times (sometimes overtly and sometimes not) since this blog began on June 29, 2009. (If you like, you can check the archives for these accounts.) The issue remains contentiously stuck in the minds of many. Some reasonable persons just get blind-sided.  What follows is at least humorous.

On her radio show recently, Dr. Laura Schlesinger said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. It is worthy of mentioning, however briefly, that Doctor Laura has a doctorate in Physiology (the study of the body); she is neither a psychologist nor a psychiatrist. She did however, earn a post-doctoral certification in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling. You can read her bio at http://www.biography.com/articles/Laura-Schlessinger-9542197

The following response is an Open Letter to Dr. Laura, penned by a U.S. resident, posted on the internet and currently traveling extensively and humorously along its currents:

Advice From Dr. Laura Schlessinger

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination…End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Law and how to follow them.

1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. Lev.25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. The passage clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev.11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

7. Lev.21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev.11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? – Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev.20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God’s Word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan,

James M. Kauffman, Ed.D., Professor Emeritus
Dept. of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education
University of Virginia
405 Emmet Street South
PO Box 400273
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4273

01
Oct
09

moving on

Last night BD and I spent 2 hours giving an exit interview to the mediators hired by our former congregation.  It was challenging to condense all that happened for us, and to us, in a way that appropriately conveyed the enormous amount of stress we lived with since selling all we had (otherwise known as downsizing), moving to a much smaller house, (while still paying mortgage on the bigger house) to Come Follow Jesus (with them) when we were unaware that the invitation didn’t really include us, a same-gender-covenanted-couple. But we did it by the Grace of God, who desires all things whole and beautiful. The mediators (a man and a woman) were respectful, considerate and gracious, and though professionally low-key, there were a few responses of considerable empathy and/or dismay that were audible. It was helpful to know that what we were sharing of our experience was hitting hearts and minds together…both/and, rather than either/or.

I, of course, apologized for having made my (previous) assessment of our being an after-thought (posted 9/30/09), which was promptly returned with an apology of their own! Their job is to uncover the pieces and put them together in a coherent enough whole that can serve them in making recommendations toward a healing center for the congregation. This is a tall order and we pray that they are able to bring a semblance of healing and wholeness, but we don’t hold an expectation that this church will  embrace an Open and Welcoming/Affirming stance any time soon. My half-full view or educated observation? Time will tell. I have a lot of opinions, but I am also glad to admit error…and I will be most happy and delighted if I am in error here.

Mennonites as a group, do not speak readily of their thoughts/feelings. It’s an ethnic characteristic found in many rural communities as well. BD, although not ethnically Mennonite, comes from a rural background, understands this and has her own habit of unspoken thought. I, on the other hand come from a Middle Eastern heritage and we have a lot to say, even if we don’t know what we are talking about! (I think I’ve harnessed that last part, pretty well though, I hope!) We are openly passionate…unless depressed. Yes, I did most of the sharing, but I can tell you that when BD verbalizes something from the past that really hurt her to the quick, it is very powerful. And so, between the two of us, we put our story out there quite credibly. Praise God!

At the end of the time together the mediators thanked us for sharing our story…i.e., being vulnerable, and we assured them that vulnerability went with the territory, and not to give us more credit that we were due. This was CLOSURE for us…we were finally handing the pitiful story off to persons who perhaps may make a difference. We wanted it to be clear that we would not be telling this story again (hopefully never, ever again), but that we would like to know the outcome of their work with the congregation; we would answer questions, consider meetings, but never again dip back into those painful times on a personal basis. Although we don’t expect Open and Welcoming to be the end result, we hope for a resolution that allows us to visit at will…without tension and questions hanging silently heavy in the air. Accountability is rock-bottom in all of this, but we don’t expect it from everyone, just the major players. That will be enough for us. There are many people there that we love and miss…many who miss us as well. What we want is a semblance of Shalom.

Today I am happy to be free of the burden. We have closure for ourselves. We can journey forward where the Spirit leads. Our desire is One Body, One Spirit, One Hope, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism and One God. In the immortal words of Rodney King:

Can’t we all just get along?

30
Sep
09

let’s be creative for a change

I am a member of an online listserv whose purpose is promoting open dialog on various aspects of LGBTQ inclusion in the Mennonite Church (MC USA).  This subject has been kicked around for the past 30 years in this denomination—one that is not given to hasty decisions, obviously! Much of the time the members of this broad based group contribute erudite views—all very worthy and many quite thought provoking. But sometimes I get tired of the effort, because inclusion is a no-brainer for Christ followers.

For the past numbers of days the subject of focus has been homosexual desire vs. homosexual practice. The other day, in the midst of a flurry of intellectual postings, one of the members—Natalya Lowther—posted a view that totally took me by delightful surprise. She set forth a slightly unorthodox view, but reasonable nonetheless, with insight, clarity and creativity, and has graciously granted me permission to re-publish here on Called By Name. More from this author (including her profile and raison d’etre) can be found on her own blog:  http://www.pinwheelfarm.blogspot.com

Having been raised by a physics professor, when I hear the word “orientation” I think of magnetized particles orienting themselves  towards magnetic north.

Magnets are attracted to one another because of this shared alignment.

Magnets are attracted to iron because it has a potential for shared  alignment.

But whether magnets are “mating” with other magnets or with iron, they are always “practicing” their orientation. The physical force of the attraction is weaker the further they are from what they are attracted to…but it’s inherently there and functioning at all times.

People are attracted to God, and to other people, when there is a shared alignment. Mentally, intellectually, physically, emotionally.

Unlike magnets, our various alignments can be at odds with each  other…we may think that because we are aligned physically with  people of the same sex, we must be misaligned with God. But I do  not find that to be so. We can also use some senses to restrict the  alignments of other senses–the mind putting the flesh into subjection, artificially, by force. But then we are at war with  ourselves, creating chaotic conditions. Such a condition is not  sustainable, not healthy. Put the “south” poles of two magnets  together, and incredible force is needed to keep them in proximity.

In my life, I seek the natural alignment, the harmony, the sympathy  among all parts. If my life, my soul, my spirit, is given freedom  to fully express its natural orientation towards God, then the  other orientations that appear “not of God” will naturally tend  towards a natural alignment that does not conflict with that  primary orientation, even though it may not fit some artificially  imposed “norm.”

Just reflections, not clearly followed through but a beginning sketch.

Blessings,

Natalya Lowther, Lawrence, KS

Sacred Bird of the North

10
Sep
09

reconciliation road home

My partner, Big Dawg and I experienced the pain and agony of being the center of our (former) church’s effort to accept us as a same gender, covenanted couple into membership. In parallel time, a frightened minority formed to block this effort, and in the end we were rejected.  It was a rocky, and finally brutalizing, experience that had required mature/experienced leadership. It was earnest, but not mature or experienced. And it too, became fearful as the months wore on.

We are now in a different congregation and conference—very Open and very Welcoming. Despite our growing affinity for this little church that could,  the pain of our past trials have not disappeared from memory. Repeated rejection is not an easy pill to swallow for most people. For those on the margins rather than in the mainstream, it is a familiar experience. By the time one reaches a certain age, those rejections have piled up, although not normally visible in the forefront of  daily life. This past year was different for us: forefront was the order of the day. I, for one, cried through most of the winter and spring of 2009. Having lost my sister from a cancer similar to mine did not help matters. Not a very auspicious beginning to my 3rd year of cancer remission.

Fifty weeks ago we moved house and home to be close to this church body we loved, and with whom we expected to live in covenant into older, old age. Two nights ago, BD (my partner), AD (adopted daughter) and I participated in an exit meeting with two conference level  pastors  of our denomination. They were not directly part of the devastating events at our former church, and we barely knew them. The meeting had not been at our initiation, but turned out to be the beginning of what we hope will be eventual healing for us and those loveed ones we left behind.

The word reconciliation took center stage that evening and I became aware that the word itself has many meanings. My understanding had been along the lines of the restoration of harmony—as in agreement, cordiality,  friendliness, friendship, harmonization, reconcilement, reunion, softening ( i.e.,  “kiss and make up”).  But the concept proffered was more about agreement, concurrence and balance. In fact the illustration used to explain this use of the word was balancing one’s checkbook! There were five of us gathered in this meeting. All but I found the checkbook analogy quite serviceable. It was too mechanical for where I was. So the next day I researched the term reconciliation, and found many nuanced uses. Of course, the most obvious use is in the current field of conflict resolution. I hadn’t even thought of that. I was drowning in painful memories of having been dragged along the rocky path of LGBT inclusion/exclusion prevalent in all the denominations to one degree or another. I was unprepared.

During this meeting it became clear that the public apology that I yearned to hear from the apex of that church’s leadership for having invited us to membership, could not come without (leadership’s) acceptance of culpability/accountability. There are many ways in which any of us can be blind to our own shadows, but this blindness was truly hurting so many of us. One of the pastors present in this impromptu meeting spoke eloquently of her own experience of abuse and pain in the church. Although the memory remained,  accepting an apology from someone significantly standing in the perpetrator’s stead gave her much emotional/spiritual freedom. She asked if we could accept such an apology from her in this same way…for the whole denomination as well as for the culpable leadership person. This was a challenging add-on (for me) to the new understanding of reconciliation, still reverberating in my heart’s brain. I knew the theological wholeness of it…that it would bring freedom, but I wasn’t ready to commit. I slept very little and woke with acute sleep deprivation. The day was a visceral faith walk and I wanted to throw up from time to time (I didn’t). I thought a lot about reconciliation and came upon this passage from the New Testament book of John. In terms of my personal faith and formation, it  seemed to be a doorway, a threshold:

Later on that day, the disciples had gathered together, but, fearful of the Jews, had locked all the doors in the house. Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side.  The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: “Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.”  Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them? John 20:19-23 (The Message)

Indeed…what am I going to do with another’s transgression if I don’t let go of it? It will keep me captive and closer to that person than I wish to be. More importantly, it will block my way home to peace and loving new relationships. I am not a young woman with my life ahead of me. In addition I have asked many times to be strengthened in faith.  So now I embark on another difficult journey knowing that difficult climbing brings spiritual transformation, which in turn, more and more fully allows the light of Christ to flow through us. And that is my desire.

For when I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I put childish ways behind me. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Cor 13: 11-13

Recently a friend shared this prayer for difficult times with me:  “I seem unable to find grace in my heart….. Lord, please be the forgiveness in me so that I may be healed and in healing find compassion…” That is the walking stick for the journey one needs at these times. It is the one I will use. In the end I want to know as fully as my sister did in her dying days: God is beneath me, in front of me, behind me, within me.                        (Prayer of St. Patrick)

It is the, within me, that I work on.    Poppy .5x.536-72


26
Aug
09

wind of God

I am a member of an online discussion group of Mennonites lending their voices and efforts toward  positive change in  denominational polity. Acceptance of LGBT persons (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-genders) into full membership is one of those issues, and its time has come. We are not the only denomination dealing with this possibly last great hurdle of Christendom. As a peace and justice church we must see the social justice aspect of this issue and lead affirmatively. I am convinced that once we exercise compassion and inclusiveness instead of the exclusiveness that fear brings, many souls will grow in Christ’s love and the denomination will grow stronger and deeper for it.

My own painful experience being my starting point, I admit to feeling hopeless as I hear the many voices, both erudite and modest continually chiming in denominational ears that appear to be deaf. Many voices, many brilliant minds lending themselves to the  acappella choir of ardent souls performing for so few listeners. I am not a brilliant mind, but I know beautiful simplicity when I see or hear it. Yesterday I read this post from Martin Lehman who calls himself TheOldFool. Is it because he takes Jesus words seriously to heart in a world that knows Him not? If so, he is anything but a fool. His essay gave me hope again and I share it with you here:

I joined the MennoDiscussion group and found my way to the discussion of why the Mennonite Church should receive people of same sex orientation.  I call myself  TheOldFool and tried to say some helpful things. I was asked to engage in the debate. The debaters are well skilled in the art, and present tough propositions.  I went to bed in a bit of despair, as I wasn’t sure I was up to it.

I often enjoy waking time, and it was then that it came to me that a debate could not be won, so I entered the discussion as follows:

It seems that literalistic thinkers and biblicists are bent on winning an argument that will exclude same sex persons from the kingdom of God. They use logic to determine the ways of God. They’re smart people, and somewhat proud.

They must, however, be born again and become as little children if they themselves are to enter the Kingdom. They must be taught again the elementary things of God, such as love, grace and peace. They are certain that God has accepted them in spite of their sins. Now they must learn to accept others as God accepted them.

Jesus described the Spirit as an unseen WIND which blows where it wills. We hear the wind’s sound and see evidence of its presence. Literalistic thinkers are blind to the work of the Spirit in bringing glbt persons into the Kingdom. The gentle blowing of God has brought gays and lesbians to faith. They believed, and rely on the finished work of Christ to save them. For years they kept in the closet. Though pained by the secrecy imposed on them, the fire of the Spirit lit them and they served in our churches and worked in our institutions. If outed, they fled to urban areas where they found others of like faith.

Literalistic thinkers would bind God by ancient words written on paper. But God will not be so bound. The record is that God often repented of words spoken in haste, or in anger. God is free to use Hosea as an illustration of his love and grace. Hard-hearted literalistic thinkers use the words written by Paul to denigrate saints. Those harsh words do not describe our brothers and sisters who happen to be attracted to persons of the same sex. I have heard them protest, but that was not my experience.

So, for more than 25 years I have been listening to the testimonies of same sex believers, some who abstained from sexual activity, and some in same sex partnerships. I have observed the moving of the WIND of God as it gathers power sufficient to overwhelm those who deny the extent of God’s grace. Arguments based on literal reading of the Bible once justified slavery. Changes in society and in the church swept those arguments away. So shall it be again.

Martin Lehman, August 25, 2009

 

YHWH .75x2.611

25
Aug
09

who is in and who is out: membership

I subscribe to Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation emails. Today’s message, Is group affiliation more important than personal transformation? struck a chord for me since my denomination is currently twisting and turning on the subject of membership inclusion or exclusion of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans-gender individuals and couples. My partner and I have personally and painfully met this divisive issue during 2008/09 when we were invited to membership, then uninvited after a raging storm capsized our boat and we found ourselves paddling to shore with a few broken bones.

Now in the aftermath, I stop and turn the words group affiliation over in my minds a few times. We humans are pack animals. We want to belong…I believe God desires this for us. I believe Jesus gathered in the lost and lonely, but the church continues to stumble over who to include and who to exclude. I offer this quote from today’s meditation—better stated than I ever could:

Membership questions become an endless argument about who is in and who is out, who is right and who is wrong? Who is worthy of our God and who is not? This appeals very much to our ego, and its need to feel worthy, to feel superior, to be a part of a group that defines itself by exclusion. The Country Club instinct, you might say. That is most of religious history. The group’s rightness or superiority becomes a convenient substitute for knowing anything to be true for oneself. Where did Jesus recommend this pattern? It has left Christian countries not appreciably different than other countries, in fact, sometimes worse. The two World Wars emerged within and between Christian countries. We can do so much better.*

*Richard Rohr – Daily Meditation: Is group affiliation more important than personal transformation? Aug 25, 2009





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