News from AllianceQ: June 2017

The Alliance has a New Name!

Forty years ago at the 1977 Kansas City General Assembly, Carol Blakley, a woman from Caldwell, Idaho, stood at the speak-out microphone of the General Assembly and read her son’s coming out letter to the entire church. She used her allotted time without finishing and the person behind her in line gave up his time so she could continue. Carol named that it was time for the church to open its eyes to the fact that gay and lesbian people are sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, parents, congregants, pastors and staff in our church.

Sparked by this moment, a small group of gay and lesbian Disciples, already starting to find each other before this moment, began to coalesce, meeting quietly, building relationship, and making plans.

The first – secret – meeting of this group was held at the St. Louis General Assembly in 1979. The meeting was held away from the Assembly site and only first names were used by those gathered. Over the next eight years meetings continued, relationships grew, and plans formed.

In January of 1987 the first issue of Crossbeams was published and at the 1987 Louisville Assembly a Pre-Assembly Event was held. Meeting at a More Light Presbyterian Church, those gathered named the organization Gay, Lesbian, and Affirming Disciples Alliance.

It has been thirty years since that 1987 gathering and the GLAD Alliance has grown from a small organization that gathered in secret to a vital if still at times controversial part of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Throughout those years not only has GLAD called the church to greater inclusiveness, but we ourselves have worked to grow in our own understanding of who we are and what we stand for. It was in 1999 that the GLAD Council officially recognized that our mission includes the affirmation of bisexual and transgender people. We continue to increase our understanding of the anti-racism/pro-reconciliation work of the church, we grow in our grasp of intersectional justice issues, and we continue to grow in our understanding justice as we pursue the mission to build a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) where all are welcome at the table.

And since then, we have realized that the Gay, Lesbian, and Affirming Disciples Alliance has outgrown its own name.

Yes, our name, so bold and daring in 1987, is now narrower and less inclusive than the mission and ministry we pursue.

Realizing this several years ago, we began making more use of our acronym, GLAD, and less use of our full name. Today this has brought us to the place where many of our members and supporters no longer know what GLAD literally stands for.

So, for almost a year and a half the GLAD Council along with several GLAD members have worked to find a new name for GLAD. We have dreamed large and bold, we have dreamed in color and imagery, we have sought perfection. Yes, you’ve guessed it. Finding a new name is difficult, and pursuing perfection can lead us down impossible avenues.

Back in November 2015, a call for suggestions was published in Crossbeams. Suggestions came in. We considered them all and tested many.

We considered using the word “Rainbow” to be all inclusive, and learned that while some LGBT people don’t find the rainbow image compelling, others saw that the rainbow didn’t clearly communicate our LGBTQ mission.

We considered names such as “Disciples Welcome Table” or “Welcoming Ministries,” and quickly realized that within a church that strives to open the table to all, these names were arrogant at best.

We thought about the word Alliance and wondered if Network or Coalition was a better claim to who we are. A look at the dictionary and a desire to maintain continuity led us to clarity.

The dictionary speaks of “Coalition” as an alliance of factions, which sounded to us, well, too factional.

A “Network,” formed to provide mutual assistance, just didn’t sound big enough to include our mission.

An Alliance? “A merging of efforts or interests by persons, families, states, or organizations.” Yes! We gather in both our interests for inclusive justice and in the effort seeking inclusion and justice. We ally as people, families, and organizations. We welcome our relationships within the Christian Church, striving to work ever closer with Disciples Justice Action Network, Disciples Peace Fellowship, and Reconciliation. We seek to grow our relationships with The Biennial Convocation, La Obra Hispana, and North American Pacific Asian Disciples and their work for inclusive justice. We cherish our relationships with our ecumenical partners in this work through the Welcoming Church Program Leaders.

Yes, an Alliance is what we are and thus an Alliance we will remain.

Although perfection, and the coming of the final reign of God, will do away with the need for the alphabetic soups that our communities use to name ourselves, we realized that in this world we need to name clearly the margins from which we minister. And even as we saw that in yet another 30 years any name we choose will look as small and constrained as GLAD looks to us today, we sought to choose a name that we are proud of and a name that leaves room for growth.

Thus, you will find in our new name LGBTQ+.

We intentionally include the four aspects of our community that have historically joined together, L, G, B, and T.

We intentionally claim a Q which reminds us of our pride in the face of our oppression and a Q which includes those who do not claim the binaries and boxes of L, G, B, and T.

And yes, we include a +.

We include a + to remind us that there will always be yet another neighbor around the corner to include.

We include a + to remind us that we cannot do this ministry alone, to remind us that we work alongside our affirming friends and allies.

And we include a + to remind us that we cannot do this ministry without reaching out to others in the margin who struggle along with us, those who also struggle for the justice based affirmation and inclusion of all God’s people in the full life and leadership of the church.

And then, we sought to express our love for the Christian Church (Disciple of Christ), sharing our affirmation that “We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. As part of the one body of Christ we welcome all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us.” We knew that it was imperative that our name reflect our love for this Disciples identity.

Oh, and we also wanted to have a little fun with the name.

So, without further fanfare, the Alliance formerly known as GLAD will be known as:

     The Disciples LGBTQ+ Alliance

and will in shorthand be known among friends and family as Alliance Q.

The Disciples LGBTQ+ Alliance will roll out this new identity in June and at the General Assembly in Indianapolis this July. You will see changes to our website during the next month and changes to email addresses. (We’ll do our best to keep the old addresses working for a while too.)

Come find us at our Assembly exhibit hall booth (shared with Disciples Justice Action Network, Disciples Peace Fellowship, and Reconciliation Ministry) and join us at our Assembly Banquet and other events as we celebrate this step towards becoming the justice seeking people we strive to be.