East Lansing Congregation Takes On Racism, Homophobia

Jason A. Michael

Rev. Liz Miller, an out lesbian, of Edgewood United Church of Christ in East Lansing.

EAST LANSING – It's been nearly a year since Rev. Liz Miller came to Edgewood United Church of Christ and she still feels that she and the church are a good fit.
"We're a really good match for each other and it's been a really wonderful year," Miller, an out lesbian, told Between The Lines via phone. "Edgewood had a significant amount of transition over the past four years so I think they're happy to have someone settled in. And I plan on sticking around for a good, long time."
Miller hasn't always been good, however, at staying in one place too long. Born in Bakersfield, California, Miller spent her time growing up going between her hometown and the Kansas and Oklahoma region.
"I've lived pretty much all over the country, in Georgia, the New England states, the Midwest and finally Michigan," Miller said. "I do love exploring new cultures and learning about different parts of the country and trying new things."
Since being in Michigan, Miller said she acclimated rather quickly.
"It took me about two weeks to become a diehard Michigan State fan," she said. "Now I can be found at most home games for any sport."
Miller lives in East Lansing with her wife, Beth, two cats and a dog.
"We've been together almost seven years and we've been married for three years," said Miller.
"My wife works with the developmental disabilities communities. We were actually married twice. First we had a legal ceremony in Connecticut where we lived. Then we had our wedding in the Grand Tetons National Park. We love the national parks and that has always been a very special place for us. It became legal for gays to marry in Wyoming like two weeks after our wedding. So we have two anniversaries."
At Edgewood, Miller found a welcoming congregation committed to social justice. And during a year of political strife and the election of Donald Trump, Edgewood has stood strong.
"We have seen since the election that we have more visitors and more new people come who are seeking refuge or feeling under attack and are seeking out a place where they can live out their faith in a radical way. They organize and start letter writing campaigns where they can really live out their political values and their faith values.
"We're not a congregation that is 100 percent Democrat," Miller continued. "We have Republicans and Democrats. But I can pretty much say we're 100 percent against hate and oppression of all people."
Fighting racism is a top priority for Edgewood.
"Before I came last spring the congregation had a congregational conversation about what are the most important justice issues of our times and what should Edgweood be doing about them," said Miller "Anti-racism came to the top. Edgewood has a history in our local community for being dedicated to anti-racism work and they wanted to renew that commitment."
Edgewood has partnered with Black Lives Matter Lansing and brought in speakers to tackle the touchy subject.
"Right now we're beginning a six-week anti-racism seminar," Miller said. "It's open to all members of the church and we've really got to go in-depth and see how racism has affected us personally, and as a congregation, and what we might begin to do about that."
Fighting homophobia is another priority of the church.
"Our congregation is radically welcoming," said Miller. "Any stereotypes that I may have carried with me about what someone who is in their nineties might believe about the LGBT community has been totally thrown out the window. People are here because we are welcoming and they're open to learning and challenging their own stereotypes that they've grown up with, challenging themselves to be as loving as possible. We thrive on diversity at Edgewood."
But Edgewood isn't always so serious.
"For over 30 years we have had an annual Edgewood Camp where the whole congregation goes to a local campground and spends five days together in the woods, singing, retreating, swimming, and getting to know each other in a different way. That's a long standing tradition and one that has helped people connect to the church. I love Edgweood Camp because of the opportunity to just play together. And silly songs are definitely a part of that."
It's all about fellowship and ministry, Miller said.
"I feel called to ensure that our congregation continues to be a place where love is spoken," she said. "I feel called to speak out against the policies that have been enacted that are against the LGBT community, against immigration, that have a racist foundation, anything that goes against my Christian values of justice and peace and unconditional love."


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