Saturday’s “Wedding Justice and Love in Faith Communities” was a remarkable time of sharing, worship, reflection, praise and celebration, and reconnecting with joy. Indeed, if there was one word that kept recurring, and kept characterizing the morning’s procedings, it was precisely: “joy.”
It was a joy, first of all, to be able to meet and talk with Jane Spahr and the remarkable group of people who had come to support her, to tell their stories of marriage and courage, and to remind the Presbyterian Church USA that it includes gay people, and that those gay people participate in the life of the church.
It was a joy to hear the testimonies of several veterans of struggles for full inclusion of LGBT folk in the church. Lisa Larges’s first words were “The title of my talk this morning is ‘The Church, Marriage, two patriarchal institutions that we want to be included in, we don’t know why” — oh, joy! And joy was Larges’s main point, that the God who liberates is a God of joy, and that the church needs the lives and stories and the joy that is brought by the marginalized, the excluded, though whether the marginalized and excluded need the church (at present) is far less clear. But of course, we’re not talking about inclusion in unchanged institutions. Both the Church, and marriage, need to change — to realize their potential to liberate, to be sites of joy and celebration. God, in Larges’s presentation, is a God of radical joy and abundance, and that joy needs to fill the church, and [by implication] change the world.
Jim Rigby talked about the abandonment of privilege, the road to learning from those who have been pushed to the margins, and in the process being under indictment or on charges within the church “a lot – all the time.” But again, this process is something that’s called for in a church that tries to follow God who is leading from the future into the future, a future that does not simply look identical to the past.
Jane related some of the history of her movement from new pastor, learning to preach, in a church in Pennsylvania that had accepted two women pastors because “no one else would take it,” and that church’s becoming a place of healing and joy; talked about discovering herself as a lesbian, and the joy that brought her; talked about reveling in being an evangelist – a person who spreads good news; and talked above all of the significance of the presence of the prophetic voices of LGBT folk in the church, who continue to speak out for justice even when in spite of the disregard of the untransformed church.
That church has problems, according to Jane Spahr. It reduces LGBT identity to “a behavior,” and then tries to treat that behavior the way it treats so much other sexual behavior. Visible, vocal LGBT people become the confessors of others who harbor sexual secrets that are unmentioned and unwelcomed in the church context, like rape, abuse, harassment. It expects LGBT people to stick to “their issue” – as if LGBT folk don’t have ideas about money, the environment, immigration, prayer . . . as other people do. That church turns its back on what the ministry and the presence of LGBT people offers it, brings to it as gift, through these people, of God.
We talked about marriage, what marriage means, what it might mean for the church and our communities to accept gay marriage. A high point was when several couples who have been married by Jane Spahr over the years shared their experiences of finding one another, and marrying, and what that has meant in their lives.
We enjoyed beautiful worship!! Johanna Bos read her moving translation of Isaiah 56. Debra Mumford reflected on the eunuchs, what that conflicted identity meant then, what the message of it’s inclusion might mean for us now – like the ability to worship, and to love ourselves, because God loves us, as we are. Johanna Bos reflected on the foreigner, who is not to be “separated, yes separated” from God’s people, but rather whose worship God will accept and take delight in, because what God seeks is faithfulness to God, and because God’s temple is to be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
We ate lunch, we met each other, we wished each other well, we had a wonderful time, we were blessed beyond measure. Thank you, Jane Spahr, for coming and spending time with us, and all of this group. Thank you for bringing us this beautiful wedding of justice and love, joy and hope, words and wisdom, in our faith community!
Last edited 3/11/09.