News from AllianceQ: November 2017

New Resources: What do LGBTQ People Offer the Church?

While preparing for the Seminarians Conference last week, Mark Johnston, Executive Director of the Open & Affirming Ministry Program, looked around for some resources on the pastoral care of LGBTQ people. Asking for a few suggestions, what came back was an excellent list of resources and some food for thought – including thoughts not just on pastoral care but on how the LGBTQ community can revitalize the church. With thanks to Rev. Dr. Katie Hays at Galileo Church, Mansfield, TX, Tyler Heston at University Christian Church, Ft Worth, TX and Brite Divinity School, and Dr. Joretta Marshall, Dean and Professor of Pastoral Theology and Care at Brite Divinity School. Below are some of the thoughts they shared and resources they recommended.

Some food for thought provided by Tyler Heston:

When I think about LGBT congregants and their needs, a couple things come to mind.

First, our approach to relationships is significantly different. Queer folk are more likely to challenge conventional notions of love, marriage, and family; and even if we want something more conventional in terms of marriage, we are a lot less likely to have role models in our lives from whom we can glean information for our own relationships. (This is something I think about a lot.)

Second, I think we must be careful to not assume that queer folk feel as free as we may think in our congregations, even when we are welcoming/O&A. After the worship service we did at Brite for Pride Weekend in Fort Worth, a minister came to me saying that he felt so free in helping lead worship that night, making him realize how he did not feel free in other spheres of his life. Although he’s out and welcomed by his congregation, he was blindsided by this feeling.

And some food for thought from Katie Hays:

1. In the Bible Belt, here in the hot crimson state of Texas, I find that LGBTQ+ persons who were raised in church can be terrified of rejection — God’s rejection, as embodied in the church. So I treat every person who comes through Galileo Church’s door as a person with spiritual PTSD. Meaning that it is especially incumbent on me to make the safest, bravest space possible. I have learned to assume that some of these people have been hurt by people *just like me*, so it’s absolutely ON ME to help them believe that a different kind of church experience (and experience of God) is possible. I would want other pastors of newly O&A churches to think about that — the possibility that LGBTQ+ persons who visit your church, or members who come out after the church signals its acceptance, are carrying deep wounds and deserve our tender mercies. And sometimes — often — that means apologizing with sincerity for the ways that the mainstream, non-affirming church (of which we have ALL been a part) has treated them, or people like them. The book that helped me the most with that idea is Cheri Dinovo’s book Que(e)rying Evangelism: Growing a Community from the Outside In.

2. Huge conversion for me: ultimately, being O&A is not a big “favor” that the church does for LGBTQ+ people. Instead, LGBTQ+ people do the church a favor by giving it/us another chance. We cannot actually be Christ’s church without LGBTQ+ persons. And there is so much in the experience of LGBTQ+ lives that the church needs to know and experience. So I have let go all the language of “welcome”, because of the power structure it implies (“we” are welcoming “you” to “our” space, “our” church) and have instead taken a position of deep gratitude for every LGBTQ+ person who is willing to share their path with me. It’s a reversal of the assumption that marginalized people have to have permission from the mainstream to come near to God’s heart. It’s actually the opposite, as the liberation theologians have taught us. God has always been with the marginalized, and it’s up to privileged people to hasten to the margins to learn what those folks already know. I suppose the book that best represents this for me is Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity by Elizabeth Edman.

In no particular order, here are the resources recommended by Katie, Tyler, and Joretta for your browsing pleasure:

Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity

Elizabeth Edman, 2017 (format: book)

Arguing from the heart of scripture, the author reveals how queering Christianity—that is, disrupting simplistic ways of thinking about self and other—can illuminate contemporary Christian faith. Pushing well past the notion that “Christian love = tolerance,” Edman offers a bold alternative: the recognition that queer people can help Christians better understand their fundamental calling and the creation of sacred space where LGBTQ Christians are seen as gifts to the church.

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A Brief Guide to Ministry with LGBTQIA Youth

Cody J. Sanders, 2017 (format: book)

This book challenges pastors and church leaders to reflect on the various trials that adolescence brings for LGBTQIA youth. Designed for congregations that currently have a theologically and biblically affirming stance toward the LGBTQIA community, A Brief Guide to Ministry with LGBTQIA Youth provides insight and practical advice for tough questions like:

  • How does an affirming stance toward LGBTQIA people affect the day-to-day experience of teenagers in a church setting?
  • In what ways can a churchs youth ministry have a positive impact on the lives of LGBTQIA youth who want to fully live out their Christian faith and their gender identity?
  • How can a pastor, youth minister, or youth ministry volunteer embrace, nurture, and provide skillful care for LGBTQIA youth in a congregation or community?

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Queer Lessons for Churches on the Straight and Narrow

Cody J. Sanders, 2013 (format: book)

Queer Lessons for Churches on the Straight and Narrow is about changing the questions we ask about sexuality, gender identity, and faith. The author helps us imagine new pathways into old conversations by shifting our attitude from one of suspicious scrutiny toward LGBTQ people to one of compassionate curiosity. Less concerned with answering questions, it aims to cultivate our imagination for asking new questions. Sanders asks, “What can all Christians learn from LGBTQ people that will enhance our lives and strengthen our communities of faith?” Lessons are offered on the themes of relationship, community, faithfulness, love, violence, and forgiveness.

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Bisexuality: Making the Invisible Visible in Faith Communities

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Marie Alford-Harkey, Rev. Debra W. Haffner, 2014 (format: Book)

Bisexuality: Making Visible the Invisible in Faith Communities is a multifaith compendium of stories and resources to help congregations as they take the next step toward full inclusion of LGBT people. This comprehensive guidebook helps congregations minister to bisexual people and their families by answering such questions as: How can a congregation become welcoming and inclusive of bisexuals? What does Scripture say about bisexuality? Can a minister or rabbi be openly bisexual and serve a congregation?

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Controversies in Queer Theology

Susannah Cornwall, Lisa Isherwood, 2011 (format: book)

Queer theology is a significant new development and central to much current teaching and thinking about gender, sexuality and the body. Controversies in Queer Theology provides an overview of the main areas of difference and debate in queer theologies, engaging with and critiquing all the major writers working in this area. Susannah Cornwall shows how this field is still in flux and the highlights implications for employing queer methodologies across theological work.

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Sexuality and the Sacred, Second Edition: Sources for Theological Reflection

Marvin M. Ellison, Kelly Brown Douglas (eds.), 2010 (format: book)

Christian discourse on sexuality, spirituality, and ethics has continued to evolve since this book’s first edition was published in 1994. This updated and expanded anthology featuring more than thirty contemporary essays includes more theologians and ethicists of color and addresses issues such as the intersection of race/racism and sexuality, transgender identity, same-sex marriage, and reproductive health and justice.

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Peculiar Faith: Queer Theology for Christian Witness

Jay Emerson Johnson, 2014 (format: book)

This book provides a resource for both students and clergy to reinterpret Christian theology and re-imagine Christian faith in the twenty-first century.

The author seeks “to encourage and equip Christian faith communities to move beyond the decades-long stalemate over human sexuality and gender identity” because “Queer gifts emerge in Christian communities when lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people no longer feel compelled to justify their presence in those communities.”

Useful in both seminary classrooms and in congregational settings, the book is a contribution to the still-emerging field of queer theology, translating the rigors of scholarly research into transforming proposals for faith communities.

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Ministry Among God's Queer Folk: LGBT Pastoral Care

DavidJ Kundtz,. Bernard S. Schlager, 2007 (format: Book)

Ministry Among God’s Queer Folk from The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA, is does an excellent job of doing several jobs at once:

  • being a clear, concise, and comprehensive read on the pastoral care of LGBTQ folk,
  • providing information about LGBTQ folk succinctly and remaining both accurate and accessible to those seeking an introduction to LGBTQ ministry,
  • providing a deeper, broader and coherent perspective on the the pastoral care of LGBTQ persons to those already involved in ministry,
  • clearly laying out the practical and theological case for caring for the broad range of the LGBTQ persons needs ranging from the personal to the systemic.

Any seminarian, pastor, elder, or church leader interest in the pastoral care of LGBTQ people should read this book and have it at the ready for review and reference.

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Qu(e)erying Evangelism: Growing a Community From the Outside In

Cheri DiNovo, 2005 (format: book)

The book chronicles DiNovo’s own attempts as a minister to expand the membership of a rapidly shrinking congregation in a poor, inner city Toronto neighborhood. As a result, DiNovo discovers that, in her congregation’s decision to evangelize among the marginalized and “queer” in their neighborhood, church members are radically changed. Qu(e)erying Evangelism answers the following questions: How do we understand evangelism biblically and in a completely new way? How does one be a queer theologian in a traditional pastorate and not only be faithful to a queer Christ but grow a congregation with all sorts of differences of opinion? How does the presence of the transgendered/transsexual-or indeed everyone perceived as different-challenge both the theology and praxis of a mainline denomination?

From the first chapter:

Like other colleagues in inner-city inclusive ministry, I wanted to try all the techniques of church growth that emanated from places like Willow Creek Church in Chicago. Surprisingly, I discovered that not only did the techniques not transfer effectively to our inner-city, queer-positive context, but that they were predicated on a vacuous theology with more in common with colonialism than with scriptural conversion. Clergy and laity who felt like failures because their churches did not grow numerically, and who feared the death of an inclusive Christianity that plagued them, became another group needing evangelism. How to speak faith to them? How to speak faith to ourselves?

That attendance at our evening or morning service grew ceased to be for me the primary question of my or our evangelical ministry. My own struggle with the discipline of being Christian became and is still focused on ignoring those very numbers. To read anything into the numbers that join or attend our church except our ability to be hospitable, I consider a temptation. Our struggle is to be faithful, to be hospitable, to be nonjudgmental. As we succeed in that, we are caught up in evangelism, we are getting out of the way of the Holy Spirit. For us, what is much more significant than the numbers attending is that the queerest among us feel welcomed, and that we can allow ourselves to show our own queerness.

Qu(e)erying Evangelism can be read online here or bought at the link above.

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