When I was growing up in my conservative Missouri Synod school, we didn’t talk about much about human sexuality in general, so of course we didn’t talk at all that I can remember about homosexuality. As far as I remember, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as being gay until I was in college.
Then I heard that someone who graduated two years ahead of me was sick from AIDS and then that he died. I heard that one of his best friends wouldn’t visit him because he found out he was gay. I still didn’t know much, but I thought it was pretty terrible, both for the person who was sick and died, and also for the friend who had hardened his heart so much he wouldn’t visit a dying friend.
A few years later I was serving on the church council, or Vestry, at the church where I grew up, Mt. Olive Lutheran in South Minneapolis. (Mt. Olive) At the time, we were working on a guide booklet for our activities, one of which was Mt. Olive Gays & Lesbians, or MOGAL. I, of course, knew about this group, but I didn’t know much more. I would say I was neutral on the topic, though of course you can’t truly be neutral.
I sang in choir and “many of my friends were gay” but I still wasn’t too involved in the community and I was still pretty ignorant about issues that affected GLBT friends. Well, one of these friends approached me and asked for my help. Some people felt that the booklet wasn’t being published in a timely manner because of concern about including MOGAL. I am not sure if this was truly the case at the time, but I do know people were concerned about it.
So, I brought it up to the Vestry. This was in the early 90s. Even at the time we had a pretty progressive church and way back then we started sexuality studies and the pastor performed some unions. I started being invited to parties hosted by mostly my gay friends and met more and more gay men.
And then I went along with Linda & Mark to the Minneapolis Area Synod convention at Gustavus in St. Peter (where my niece Hannah attends now). Gustavus At the time, women had, during my lifetime, been allowed to be pastors, but openly gay and lesbian friends were not allowed unless they promised celibacy.
My friend Mark designed t-shirts with an upside down pink triangle, which was a symbol that represented much of the gay activism of the time. Read more about its history here: Pink Triangle
The shirts read, “Jesus loves you and so do we, but…” I think that was the first time I openly supported the GLBT community, and I suppose it was around that time that I became an ally.
I can’t say today why I chose to support my friends vocally and visibly. I suppose the Spirit was at work in my life. I could also see the pain that my friends experienced. I had no specific theology around it and I didn’t wonder if God thought it was okay to be gay or lesbian. I just felt this desire to show love and support for people I knew God loved.
So over the last many years I have continued to advocate for my GLBTQ brothers and sisters. I believe that our sexuality is a gift that God gives us to enjoy as we’re in relationship with others. The 2009 vote that allowed GLBTQ people to be ordained was a great moment, though I long for the time when our churches will not limit themselves to only straight, white men as they go through the call process, and for our time when our leadership will insure that gender, race and sexuality are not allowed to be considerations in the call process. Read the ELCA Statements on sexuality here: (Sexualidad and Sexuality)
I know that many of my GLBTQ friends have suffered a lot over the years. I rejoice with them now as they are granted full citizenship. There is still work to do so that people are not discriminated against in housing, employment and in other areas because of their sexuality. And I give thanks for the opportunity to walk with my GLBTQ friends and colleagues. I have been blessed with their openness with me, with all they have taught me, with their trust in me, and with their support of me in my own journeys.
And as Tapestry, I look forward to soon becoming a Reconciling in Christ faith community! RIC (Look for more details on that soon! And of course, I am looking forward to the day I get to marry, well, anyone…still on my list of things I haven’t done as a minister!