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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Wednesday Festival: Acting Out Loud

(Tyler Clementi)
Ring member ByTheSea considers whether to preach on the recent tragic spate of suicides by LGBT youth. Her post of today details some of her thinking on the matter. What are your thoughts on this? Are you addressing this issue in the pulpit (or elsewhere?)

She says,

Similar to the article at The Episcopal Cafe, and was quoted in it, is this Open Letter to Religious Leaders in the Washington Post.

A UU minister talks about the current situation/events and encourages us to offer support for LGBT youth and adults, perhaps even from the pulpit, as National Coming Out Day is October 11.

Given some of the history in my parish of previous rector causing a split and leaving because of GC 2003 & Bp. Gene Robinson, I have some anxiety about talking about this in the pulpit even tho the ones with the most issues left with previous rector. (I did talk about similar intolerance issues related to Muslims the Sunday after 9/11 and people were appreciate and supportive afterward).

On the other hand, for a young adult male family member who became open to us this year about the fact that he was wrestling with sexual identity and is currently dressing more androgynously leaning toward feminine as part of this process... and all like him, I'd like to take steps toward both showing support and making it a safe place to consider discussing these issues.
At the WA Post article, while it's not new, I am saddened and disturbed by people's comments that say how hateful, and bigoted Christians are in general as well as toward the LGBT community. Granted, people who feel contentious may be more likely to post something. However, what does it say that this is their perception or experience? In part I think because it's controversial the media can be real good at showing intolerance in Christians, and movies and TV do too, and less often do they show those who express tolerance and love of neighbor. But beyond lack of representation, I wonder how much our simple silence contributes to the problem.

So I guess really there are 3 things I find myself thinking about:

1) Could we offer some kind of Forum or Discussion at the parish, open to the public around issues of bullying, or more specifically focused on current issues related to it in the LGBT community? What might it look like? Has anyone already done it? Resources?

2) How do we continue to raise awareness that "Christian" is not synonymous with anger, hatred, intolerance?

3) anyone else considering addressing this in the sermon this week (or last week)? Or have you in the past? Thoughts/suggestions (besides praying about it)? I see possible jump off point being the experience of those in Exile in Jeremiah, or Jesus' mercy. They may have no idea that Integrity exists... let them know about it? I'm also a member of
PFLAG and have signed their Straight for Equality pledge.
If one does preach on it...what about those who weren't there but might hear about it? Do you follow up with an article? Make sure that rather than preach off an outline you have a full text that people can get a copy of if they wish?

I also have large meeting to attend and a Funeral this weekend. So another thing to consider is if this is really a good time for me to give it the time it needs, and would a future date be better?


Integrity USA
Building an Inclusive Church Workshops and Resources
Believe Out Loud

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  1. Honestly, it is when 'good' Christian people spout off hate in the name of Christ (who never said so much as a single recorded word on the subject) that I feel ashamed to be associated with the Church (big C). I am blessed to be in an open and Affirming Church where I know I can fit this topic into a sermon or prayers at any time.

    I get really tired of hearing about churches that "just aren't there yet" - what nonsense. If they spouted off hate about women or racial minorities would we think it was okay that they "just aren't there yet"? I sincerely and respectfully doubt it.

    I am trying to arrange for our local theatre group to share one part of their newest play "The Laramie Project" (about the tragic and horrific death of Mathew Sheperd) with our congregation. If I'm reading our congregation correctly - and I think I am - we will have more out for that event than a usual Sunday morning.

  2. Wow. Since I haven't been blogging as often more recently as some others who are better about it I'm humbled to have my post in the Wednesday Festival, and glad for the opportunity of additional reflection/discussion on this issue by a great group of colleagues. :) so Thanks! I did a follow-up post on some of my thinking yesterday as well as links to a couple additional resources I found... GLSEN and the Trevor Project here: Still thinking about LGBT Issues & Preaching

  3. Also found out that Sharon Pearson has some good resources at her blog:

    Rows of Sharon blog, entry titled "A Cry for Help"

    And that Dr. Phil's show today and tomorrow will be on Bullying
    See Video preview of Oct 6th show and Dr. Phil's website

  4. I appreciate your questions. The Religious Institute ( has many resources that will be useful to you...A Time to Seek is a study guide on sexual and gender diversity for congregations. A Time to Every Purpose has reflection questions, a responsive reading, and background information. Our online guide Acting Out Loud will help you look at how your congregation can welcome and include LGBT people. Please let me know how I can be helpful! Rev. Debra W. Haffner

  5. Bythesea, I thank you for writing the post. As the editor of the feature, I choose what resounds for me (and hopefully others!) from the past week's writing.

  6. I am slow to preach on more controversial current events, maybe to a fault; I don't know. I am this way for a few reasons. One is that I am pretty sensitive to the fact that as the solo preacher at my church, except for the handful of Sundays that I am out of town each year, mine is the only voice that is heard. I don't want to be so bold as to assume that my thoughts, no matter how spiritually discerned I think they are, are the only ones that are "right" on a given topic. I prefer to address these kinds of topics, no matter how strongly I feel, in a discussion format where there can be conversation and dialogue and a variety of opinions expressed.

    I have NO problem addressing the issue of hate in this particular situation or the tragedy of young men and women who turn to suicide in the face their struggle. I preached about that in the context of lament (How long must this go on?) without getting particularly activist about it. I intended to address the hatred and the isolation of GLBT more than the "right or wrong" of their sexuality. Human beings should not be treated that way, the end. I think that message is universal whether you think they are "right or wrong."

    Another reason I choose to address things in this way is that my congregation is somewhat diverse. I imagine if we averaged everyone together on some sort of non-existent numerical scale we would end up left of center, but even so we have a few fairly conservative folks. I'm not afraid of them, but I intend to be a pastor to them all. I think my message would be tuned out all together if I turned a sermon in that direction. I would have NONE of their attention the rest of the day and maybe following. I don't want to bully my message to them from the pulpit, but would rather engage them in converation about the issue.

    Again, I may err on the side of caution, but this seems to be the most faithful path to me. The path I feel like I can follow pastorally and with integrity.

  7. I preached recently on bullying. Not on this type in specific, but bullying in general. At that point in my congregation I had a teen being bullied by a high school coach; a parishioner being bullied by a local policeman; and a group within the church attempting bullying tactics (although they would have vehemently denied they were bullies).

    subtopics included definitions (A person or a group repeatedly trying to harm or silence someone who is weaker or more vulnerable); What should we do; apathy is consent; gossip is fuel to the fire; bullying is everyone's problem because we are one body -- when the wasp stings the leg, the hand bats it away. Any of the "one body" texts makes the points here.

    The recent news has highlighted the LGBT aspect; but bullying is MUCH bigger than that. (how many of you have had boards or individuals try to bully you?)

    of course, the word verification might serve as warning: nitro.

  8. Everyone, thanks for contributing to the discussion. Unlike Sue's, my current congregation is not a place where I'd ever expect to hear this preached. It makes me sad. But there it is. So I really appreciate the honest, sometimes painful thinking that goes with the questions.

    May the Holy Spirit be in our asking and our hearing, in our actions and our words.

  9. I DID IT - preached on LGBT teen suicides and came out as an Ally and my parishioners were supportive and appreciative. I do have most of a full text, but didn't preach exactly word for word. Hoping the audio recording came out so I can revise my hard copy to read exactly as preached. Will try to post something later.


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