Coming out and Signs of Hope in Our Lives

My story of Sacred Worth is about my JOURNEY of COMING OUT by becoming a Reconciling United Methodist in 1996. It was just before General Conference in 1996. Nancy McMurtry, a good friend, asked me to sign a card saying I would be a “Reconciling United Methodist” and I decided to sign it realizing it was time for me to “come out” as an ally. I had no idea where this JOURNEY would take me at that time but I knew it was a commitment to COME OUT as an ally and to COME OUT personally to be more visible as a person supporting persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities. I also knew I would have a lot to learn along the way with many challenges and struggles as most journeys are!

I knew what “coming out” meant as I had come out to myself about being sexually abused as a child in the years just ahead of this. I have come to realize that this very simple task of signing this card, (or signing on at the new website http://www.Rmnetwork.org) became the starting point for me to mentally & spiritually take the risk to start this journey of listening to other stories and being more aware of those around me who were searching for any SIGN OF HOPE in our churches and

communities to be SAFE.

Through the past eleven years I have become more aware of how important small SIGNS OF HOPE are to all of us and especially to folks who are looking for any shred of HOPE in our churches.  Once when my husband was called to a home to meet with an older couple in the church he had no idea what they were wanting to share. He arrived to find them wanting to share about the HOPE they had found in a simple church newsletter article about an upcoming Telling Our Stories” program planned by RUMOLA at Cornerstone in Lincoln. They had used a yellow marker to HIGHLIGHT it in the church newsletter. Then they told him about their daughter and her partner and how they wanted to come to this gathering. This simple newsletter article became a way of sharing a SIGN OF HOPE for them and in return they gave all of us a SIGN OF HOPE back when they came to this gathering!

Another time recently a mother emailed us to tell us how glad she was we had a Reconciling Community in our church as one of her children had just come out to them over the holidays. She was so relieved to know there was an OPEN HEARTS group in the church so she could come and find strength for this new journey. She had read about it in our church newsletter as her SIGN OF HOPE!

Newsletter articles don’t seem very important but another person came to our last meeting from another town because of seeing an article about our meeting in a local church newsletter. So these simple SIGNS OF HOPE are so important as we have many people looking for anyway to feel accepted and affirmed by the church. Parents, families and friends in our local churches are looking for people they can trust and safely talk to about having children who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.

When I think of all the SIGNS OF HOPE in my life through new experiences, new friends, & new faith understandings about sexuality that have GRACED my life through signing this card eleven years ago, I rejoice in all the ways spring is COMING OUT now in our lives; and I think of all the ways we need to show SIGNS OF HOPE to each other through our church newsletters, our conversations, our rainbows, our groups, our emails, and our new ways of making our churches SAFE to ALL persons!

We can keep COMING OUT like spring, like newsletter articles, like sharing our STORIES OF SACRED WORTh, like the rainbow, like Jesus CAME OUT with his message of LOVE to those around him who were marginalized and shared his compassion with all persons! Signs of HOPE!

Maureen Vetter, Grand Island, NE

PS:- I rejoice every time I come out to myself or someone else comes out to me-

 

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Coming out and Signs of Hope in Our Lives

Foreword to Stories of Sacred Worth

Stories of Sacred Worth

Foreword

By Phyllis Burrows

I am very proud to have been chosen to put this book together.  I am straight but I do have a story that explains why I care so much for all diverse people, especially the gays and lesbians that we lovingly accept in our church family.

When I was about eight years old, we had a neighbor who was a woman, but she always had her hair cut like a man’s and wore men’s suits and ties, etc.  She was a really nice person, but I couldn’t understand why she dressed as she did.  One day I asked my mother if she knew the answer.

Mama took me into the living room and had me sit down on the sofa.  She told me she wanted me to listen carefully to what she said, and to remember it all my life.

She told me that Jeanette was a very nice woman, but she was different in some ways.  She explained that she was attracted to women just as Mama was attracted to my father who was a man.  She said that was a God Given attraction, and that there were also men who were attracted to men, and that they were living as they were supposed to live.  She told me to continue to like Jeanette, and to respect her and anyone else I would meet whose life was the same.

That was a very long time ago, but I have remembered my mother’s kind words regarding our neighbor, and have always respected any GLBTs I have met.  FUMC is a truly outstanding church family, and I am proud to be a member.  This booklet is a tribute to everyone who has the courage to live their God-Given Attraction.

 

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Foreword to Stories of Sacred Worth

Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society

Some readers may recall that one of my brothers responded during the family discussion by mention of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society.  In the next preceding post, His Spirit Is Crying Out and Yearning, the reader will hopefully recognize that the issues of homosexuality and transsexuality, when considered in the light of actual lives, aren’t so easily identified or judged.

Why do I juxtapose these two statements?   Because Niebuhr understood that one cannot do theology in the abstract.  His prayer, known as the Serenity Prayer, has been an inspiration for those confronting addictions based upon 12 Step programs.   It recognizes that when one “does theology” in the flesh, one must struggle “to know the difference” between what we can change and what we cannot change.  He has been cited by both extremes of the political and religious spectrum and all points between.  In the 2008 presidential election, he was quoted by both President Obama and Senator McCain.

For an excellent discussion of Niebuhr’s teaching and influence, particularly as relating to his book, Moral Man and Immoral Society , see http://www.onbeing.org/program/moral-man-and-immoral-society-rediscovering-reinhold-niebuhr/feature/five-conversations/2253.  That National Public Radio website describes Niebuhr’s contribution: “We explore the ideas and present-day relevance of 20th century theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, an influential, boundary-crossing voice in American public life. Niebuhr created the term “Christian realism:” a middle path between religious idealism and arrogance.”

 

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Niebuhr’s Moral Man and Immoral Society

8 Joann’s Reply

Dear
Rob,

I’m sure your friend Julian appreciates your friendship.  Of course he
should be welcome in the church.  The church is the body of Christ and the
pre-requisite to admission is a belief that Christ is the redeemer promised by
God and a desire to live as He taught and witness the fact to the world.
The church gives us communion with other believers and encourages us as we
worship, learn and share in each other’s lives.  Being composed of
imperfect people results in all kinds of imperfect behavior.  However, it
is blessed by Christ himself as we seek to worship truly and love as He loves.

It seems that the only examples of people being cast out of the early church
were those who professed Christian faith and lived arrogantly claiming they
were now free to do anything they wanted because they would be forgiven.
Obviously their focus was on themselves and not on pleasing God.

I’m not sure what you meant that Julian hasn’t been accepted into the
church.  Do they shun him?  Have they refused to let him
“join”?  Are they just rude?

Is it because some people think he is practicing homosexuality?  Even if
that were the case that is not a reason to not accept someone into your
fellowship.  However, the church has the responsibilty to give teaching
positions only to those who live as close to biblical teaching as
possible.  Julian’s genetic situation is not common but the situation of
his soul is common to all people.  We do all need to be forgiven and
changed. We all need to recognize that we are selfish creatures created by God
for communion with Him.  Christ came for the express purpose of making God
known to us and to substitute himself to pay the bill for our willful, sinful
core so we can be made like Him. So as Christians we know we are loved by God
and have the opportunity to accept Christ’s subsitution for our
wrongness.  I hope your friend knows the peace of God’s forgiveness and
love.

Have a great day.  Too bad we are separated by so many miles.  Love
to [your family],

Joann

 

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8 Joann’s Reply

6 Joann’s Reply

Hi again, Rob,

Just a quick response until later as I have company until Tuesday (unless I am up in the night).

Julian’s genetic code that results in confusing sexual identity is not his fault and just “is” as you said.  I believe you are right, his response to his situation is between him and God.  Practically speaking I would say that it seems better to live out the sex that is the most obvious but that is only opinion and I know people’s feelings about their sexual identity are a reflection of a lot of things.  I do believe that the scriptures are consistent in their condemnation of homosexual activity.  I do not believe it is a specially awful sin.  All sin separates us from God.  As far as trans-sexual identity and altering parts goes I don’t know the answer in his case.  That is why I focused on our relationship to God as persons primarily.  That is clear.  In regards to those who chose to change their sex who do not have ambiguous genes I do not think it is something that is necessarily approved by God just because the person feels different.  All the transsexual people I know were abused sexually as children… ALL of them.  The identity change choice is the way they deal with it.  Only God can change a person’s heart and heal the awful pain from abuse.  Just a few thoughts for now.

love, Joan

 

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6 Joann’s Reply

2 New year greeting of 2009

2009 New Year Greeting!

I don’t usually send New Year Greetings, but certain experiences of this past year struck me that I am now ready to share.

I had some experiences last year that reaffirmed past experiences and beliefs, and that raise issues that presently challenge our churches, our families and our society: that of sexual orientation and our reactions and responses to it.  Our associate pastor called me to see if I would be willing to talk to a trans-sexual member of our church who wanted to change the name of his daughter, to whom he had given birth.  . . .  It was confusing, as you can imagine.  I didn’t know the circumstances, but I knew him to be a Christian, a spiritual person, loving, and a member of our Sunday School class.  So, I helped him.   We have a lesbian or two in our church (“don’t ask, don’t tell).

I remember a good friend in Omaha that taught band in one of the junior high schools.  I took piano lessons from Don on Saturday mornings.  Often, during the lesson, his boyfriend emerged from the bedroom.  I never felt threatened by Don, but genuinely appreciated him as a friend and for his musical talents.  I think of how Tchaikovsky tried to be “straight,” married a woman that he hid from in fear, and tried to commit suicide because he felt forced to be someone contrary to his nature.  Much beauty was created by that tormented soul.  And I think of a boy in elementary school who is quite effeminite in his behaviors.  What does his future hold?

I know the subject is divisive and I know many of the arguments on both sides. But they are only arguments that too often obscure real persons who, our Christian belief says, are loved by God.  I see in the Old Testament that homosexuality is an abomination, but so is eating shrimp or pork (which I love) and a host of other things; that the homosexual is to be stoned as, also, a recalcitrant son (not good for me to live then); that God commanded his people not to kill but then told them to kill certain others and even to exterminate people that they found already living in “their” Promised Land together with their children and even their livestock (that battle is ongoing and no one seems willing or able to stop it).  I note that in places Paul authorizes judgment of homosexuals as well as a number of other people, but that Jesus said not to judge lest we be judged, to love our neighbor, and not to be a stumbling block to those who believe.

I am hopeful that the Christian community and our society, generally, can stop judging people for sexual orientation, which they don’t understand and irrationally fear, and which does not affect them personally.  I hope that people, particularly those of the Church who claim Christ’s example, can genuinely appreciate and celebrate our many differences.

Then I think of C.S. Lewis’s book, “Surprised by Joy.”  I hope you are surprised by joy this year.

Love, Rob

 

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2 New year greeting of 2009

1 Two Discussion Strings Concerning the Bible and GLBT Issues

I have ten siblings. Our father is a retired pastor, and our mother saw her calling as a witness in her home.  Both remain active in their Christian witness and unconditional service. We love each other but we have a wide range of views on the Bible, religion and sexuality as they relate to GLBT key issues.   It is always frank and sometimes it gets a little and dicey; but we are still family, we still love each other and we still communicate at least at some level.

I suspect that as to our disagreements, we are not so different from other families and certainly not so different from the various members of other societies, churches, and religions.  But these differences do not tear apart the “ties which bind us.”    As to siblings who joined these discussions, I will assign randomly a name since their identity is not necessary to these purposes.

There were two series of discussions, the first was initiated by my 2009 New Year  greeting, which I will identify as “First Family Discussion”  and the second began with my  post  on one of my sites in 2012, which I will call, “Second Family Discussion.”   I see these discussions as representative of the larger debate on GLBT issues that remains hot in various denominations, religions, and political arenas and generally in society.

The next several posts will share the various contributions to each discussion.

 

2 New Year’s Greeting of 2009https://wordpress.com/post/lovejudgenot.wordpress.com/309

1 Two Discussion Strings Concerning the Bible and GLBT Issues