by Rev. Deb Dysert
Years ago, I went to a Worship Service during Gay Pride celebration in Indianapolis, Indiana. Rev. Howard Warren was the de-frocked Presbyterian Minister who was preaching at the service of celebration. To be honest, I don’t remember much about the service or about the sermon, BUT what I do remember is this: Rev Howard spoke with unbelievable passion about the love God has for us. He kept talking about God’s love being Wildly Inclusive! Isn’t that an incredible notion to embrace, God’s love being Wildly Inclusive?
There are so many people in this world who are making judgments about everything, and using God to speak those judgments (as if they can really lay claim to speaking on God’s behalf!). They are even speaking about how God feels about you and about me! We have all heard it: “we are an abomination, we are not worthy, we can’t possibly have a moral relationship, or a holy relationship, or have family values (my personal favorite!), etc….” The reality is our relationship with God (or lack thereof) is a personal issue. No one can tell you or me what God thinks or feels. God is the only one that can do that. As much as I love my partner of 17 years, and as well as she knows me, she cannot even tell me what God thinks about me or my actions. That is something that is very individual and very personal.
However, our reality is that some of us hear the judgments that have been spouted by multitudes of people, some of them even people who are in positions of power and authority in our lives, and we believe the judgments and let their words affect our relationship with God in negative ways. We know we cannot change who we are as people who live on the margins of society, but we also hear about a God who asks us to deny those feelings. So we try to deny who we are and live a differently, or we deny our relationship with God.
I have GOOD NEWS! God does not ask us to change the fabric of who we are and who we have been created to be. God wants to have a relationship with each of us, no exceptions. If you would like to explore this more by reading some great materials, I encourage you to take a look at the following list of books that is just a sampling of the many resources that are available. Many of the books are listed on the website for Jesus MCC, which is a rapidly growing church in Indianapolis, IN and doing some pioneering work in the areas of social justice for the GLBT Christian community. If you would like to dialogue with someone I am also available to either refer you to someone else in the community who might assist, or dialogue with you myself. Simply email me at PastorDysert@aol.com.
Just remember this, our wildly inclusive God simply wants us to grow strong, faithful, healthy, and happy, being a reflection of the wildly inclusive love God has for us!
“The Children Are Free: Reexamining the Biblical Evidence on Same-sex Relationships,” by Rev. Jeff Miner and John Tyler Connoley. A comprehensive yet easy-to-read examination of the biblical evidence regarding loving same-sex relationships and God’s attitude toward them.
“Our Tribe: Queer Folks, God, Jesus, and the Bible” (Paperback), by Nancy Wilson
“Living in Sin?: A Bishop Rethinks Human Sexuality” (Paperback), by John Shelby Spong. “God is the source of life. And if God is the source of life, the only way I can worship God is by living fully. And I’ve got to dedicate myself as a follower of this God to building a world where everybody has an opportunity to live fully.”
“Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? A Positive Christian Response” by Letha Scanzoni and Virginia Mollenkott. This wise, compassionate book examines the meanings and intents of Scripture, but also goes farther. It speaks of real people’s lives, and challenges Christians (gay and not) to re-examine their attitudes toward gay and lesbian people.
“Trans-Gendered: Theology, Ministry, and Communities of Faith” by Justin Edward Tanis
“What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality” by Daniel Helmeniak.
“The Lord is my shepherd and he knows I’m gay; The autobiography of the Rev. Troy D. Perry,” as told to Charles L. Lucas.
“Steps to Recovery from Bible Abuse” by Dr. Rembert Truluck. From the author: This book is a response to the abusive use of religion. My book is a response to the abusive use of the Bible against Gays and Lesbians and all others oppressed and alienated by religion. The book is the product of almost 50 years of work as a Southern Baptist pastor and university Bible professor, research and teaching, leadership of small group spiritual recovery groups in Metropolitan Community Churches, and almost 10 years in actually writing and revising the book. Includes extensive resources and bibliography along with references to web site material. The aim of the book is to provide information and incentive for spiritual recovery and growth.
“Omnigender: A Trans-Religious Approach” by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott
“Holy Homosexuals: The Truth About Being Gay or Lesbian and Christian” by Rev. Michael S. Piazza, who makes his case eloquently in a book suitable for lay people and clergy alike. Piazza shows a deep respect for scripture and the authority of God’s word, while educating the reader on context in both Hebrew and Greek society. This is a great book for those struggling with their sexual orientation and faith.
“We Were Baptized, Too: Claiming God’s Grace for Lesbians and Gays” by Marillyn Bennett Alexander and James Preston. Within the liturgy, congregations pledge to accept, love, forgive, and nurture the newly baptized member. The church, however, often lives out this covenant selectively, forcing its gay/lesbian members into silence, alienation, and doubt. This book challenges the church to take seriously its understanding of baptism and communion as a means of grace, justice, and liberation. Contains many heartfelt personal stories.
“On Being Gay: Thoughts on Family, Faith, and Love” by Brian McNaught. A sometimes humorous, sometimes touching yet always insightful look at such concerns as whether or not to come out, maintain ties with family, build love relationships that last, deal with God, AIDS and more.
“Where The Edge Gathers: Building A Community Of Radical Inclusion” by Yvette A. Flunder
“Coming Out of Shame: Transforming Gay and Lesbian Lives” by Gershen Kaufman and Lev Raphael. This book exposes the role shame has come to play in the lives of gay men and lesbians. The authors break the silence surrounding gay and lesbian experience so that individuals can “come out” of shame and begin a path toward personal growth and acceptance.
“Coming Out – An Act of Love” by Rob Eichberg, Ph.D. Taking responsibility for your life is the first step in moving forward and changing the world inside and around you. This book, written for both men and women, is a step-by-step guide to understanding and accepting your homosexuality and dealing with others’ reaction to it. Using clear, empathetic, and direct language, Eichberg, a trained psychotherapist, explains in detail how coming out radically alters self-perception and your relationships with others. Using examples from his own practice and letters from gay people to their mothers, fathers, siblings, and friends, Eichberg puts a positive, forceful, but gentle face on the process of coming out and the complications that it sometimes raises.
“Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America” (Plume Books) by Mel White.
“Coming Out to God” by Chris Glaser. Prayers for Lesbians and Gay Men, Their Families and Friends. “This book is a classic in devotional literature which one will return to again and again.” – Merrill M. Follansbee, co-founder of the Sacramento chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
“Discovering Images of God: Narratives of Care Among Lesbians and Gays” by Larry Kent Graham. The author has interviewed gays and lesbians across the country and has discovered a new sense of God at work through all people. These insights bring new images of God that are more true, more faithful, and more deeply connected to the pains and joys of everyone’s life.