News from AllianceQ: March 2020
At the Intersection: Parenting + Queerness, "Whenever and however family comes together" by Rev. Dr. Jon Berquist
*contributed by Rev. Dr. Jon Berquist (he/him/his), Professor of Hebrew Bible, Claremont School of Theology
In spring 2001, I began the best adventure of my life – parenting. I joined a new family of choice and gained not only a loving spouse but two children, ages 10 and 8. It’s fair to say that none of us were remotely prepared for each other, but that’s the nature of family whenever and however the family comes together.
The first weeks and months required a lot of support, and I am grateful for the many people (parents and others) who showed me the way through example, advice, and tears. Now that I am almost nineteen years into this adventure, it still takes a village to be a family of choice. There are always new joys and unexpected challenges, and I live off the wisdom and grace of this family and a much broader community.
I expected the church to be one of my strongest supports. After all, I have always been very close to what the church says it wants – a straight white cis male, raised in the church, educated in the faith, and more. I know that I start near the front of every line where the church hands out welcome and acceptance. The church always taught me “family values” and promoted the idea of a family. But when I stepped into the role of parent, I was never sure that the church could figure me out. I didn’t fit into the places where “new parents” could bond, and I never shared the experiences of expectation, newborns, and toddlers. I was still getting to know the family when teenager-hood arrived. My kids and I were in church together some weeks, but not others. My parenting never felt “part-time” to me, but it felt like the church treated me as a sometimes-parent, or not-quite-parent. And there were the endless questions whether I was their “real” father. Overall, church folk have been welcoming and supportive – except for those “not quite” times. I’d rather not talk about those.
One of my most profound moments of experiencing church-welcome as a parent came years later. Our kids were adults, living far away from where we had moved. I became friends with a man who had transitioned some time before, and who was preparing to be a pastor, as well as living in a new family of choice himself. Like me a decade or more earlier, he had just become a father – a role that for most of his life had seemed out of reach for him. He and I bonded in our discussions of what it meant to become a father, both within our families and within the wider culture. The world pushed us both around with all sorts of crazy expectations and stereotypes, and we faced very different situations and obstacles. But I found this friend to be one of the strongest sources of healing I’ve ever experienced.
The AllianceQ community shows us so many ways to be family – and this broad acceptance has been a powerful force of healing in my own life. No matter how our families form, our togetherness in difference is one of our greatest assets for each other and for this fragmented world. I’m grateful for the many Alliance families who have shared with me, supported me, challenged me, and understood me.
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We, the Disciples LGBTQ+ Alliance, are members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), called to join in God’s work of transforming the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) into a just and inclusive church that welcomes persons of all gender expressions and sexual identities into the full life and leadership of the church.
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