Thursday, December 29, 2011

Unsolicited Advice: Preemptive Pastoral Care for the Week after New Years

For those without the patience to read this entire blog, this video meditation says it all.

My pastor persona is "Mr. Life of the Party," but my true self is "Quietly Observing the Subtle Mannerisms of Everyone in the Room and Diverting Disaster at any Moment" person.

Yes, my pastor self wears a cape, but most of the time I am Clark Kent.

For the sake of my ministry, I must have a loud enough voice to raise the concerns of the vulnerable (you know my homeless friends, I speak of them often) I work for day-to-day. In this economy when their support is the first on the chopping block, I have to have an extra big twinkle in public and be a bit larger than life (think Dolly Parton). You may have noticed.

But, what most people don't know is that I'm an introvert who spends most of my time in hibernation, archives or tuning out crowded coffee spaces with big head phones.

So now is the time when I come out of my hole, with a big Ground Hogs Day moment, and share some of my quiet musings with those I've been observing all year.

Consider this is my written pastoral care to all the fine folk in congregations who listen to my 20 minutes of pondering on a given Sunday knowing I won't be around to support them day-to-day. This is also for the socially networked misfits who don't feel connected to local faith communities or who simply find my ministry inspiring (the "I want to be you when I grow up" crowd).

[Shakespearean aside to those who don't know me well: I know that these compliments are about a desire to do fun and meaningful work in the world that makes a real difference and isn't actually about me. I hear it less as an ego stroke and more like an Atlas styled weight of responsibility.]

So here are my observations for this season (feel free to choose your own adventure below):

Everyone: Before making your New Year's Resolution ask yourself: What really motivates me to choose this goal. Then, ask yourself: Is this the best way to achieve this goal?

I think most experience a week (or two) after New Year's meltdown, because they either created a goal that enables them fail quickly (usually numerically) or because accomplishing the goal doesn't feel good (because it's not addressing the root of the change you want in the world).

Consider goals that create tangible moments that you can celebrate and then actually celebrate them - even if things aren't as great as you dreamed.

A: If you want to lose weight, please do not make a numerical resolution. Weight fluctuates naturally throughout the month (especially if you are a woman) and nature will make sure that you fail.

Why do you really want to lose weight?
  1. To be healthier: Make sure this is actually how you feel. We think this is the only right answer so we often say this is true, but we don't really believe it. No one is looking, so read the possibilities below just in case this is a socially acceptable fib you tell yourself. However, if you really really do want to be healthier, I suggest that you make smaller goals that will actually make you healthier. You can be healthy at any weight. Focus on a part of your health you want to improve. For example, if you want to avoid diabetes make a goal based on monitoring your blood sugars or reducing all your risk factors. Or maybe, eating more mindfully should be your goal.
  2. To feel connected to a partner or to get a date: If this is your real reason for losing weight, you must know that it will not feel good to accomplish this goal. First, if you do get a date or feel more connected to your partner after success, you may feel resentful that the person couldn't love you just as you were. Second, you have to seriously ask yourself if putting on a few extra pounds was your emotional way to communicate that you needed some space from intimacy (for whatever reason). If this is the case you have some emotional work to do before you will be able to lose the weight and keep it off. This may be a lifetime's worth of work. If the weight was your self protection, then you need to find new ways to feel internally protected. Before deciding your weight is the issue, make sure you have asked your partner what they think would help make your connection stronger. I doubt they'll say your weight is the issue. But if they do, then it is only fair to ask your partner to also work on something that will help you feel more connected to them. An obvious thing would be for them to work on being more vocal about the things they like about you and your body. If you're afraid of this conversation, a pastor, therapist or counselor is trained to help you with it. For those interested in getting a date, remember that finding someone who loves you just as you are is the goal, not finding someone who loves you only if you're skinny - otherwise this will have to be your resolution your whole life. Oh, and online dating can be a way to find people at any size and to have mean people who judge you on your looks just pass you by without any awkwardness.
  3. Because you have guilt or shame about your body. First know that there are multimillion dollar industries invested in your insecurity. They can't sell you new stuff, if they don't convince you what you got is embarrassing. Remember when it was dorky to wear glasses? Now, all those glasses that were dorky in high school are high fashion. That's life in capitalism. A better resolution would be to learn to have a more balanced self image. Imagine how your life would change if your resolution was to give yourself three compliments about your body every time you saw yourself in a mirror. I don't care if they are the same three compliments, or if you have to stand in front of the mirror for hours just to come up with two. If that evil voice in your brain keeps telling you that you look like crap, drown it out with an even more repetitive voice that you are fantastic. Everyone has had moments of looking in the mirror and thinking they look great. But we've been taught that it's too vain to let those thoughts go to our head. Well honey, you've had a lifetime of putting yourself down and you deserve a little vanity. And don't make enjoying your body a new thing to feel shameful about... love loving yourself. Trust me it will feel better than the success of losing 5 pounds.
B: If you have some other resolution. Who are we kidding, most people's resolutions are about weight and body image. At least that's what all the magazines and news programs would have us believe right? The same principles apply to all other resolutions.

You just need to be brave enough to admit to yourself the real reason(s) you want to accomplish your goal.

Everyone: Don't make resolutions to do things, when what you really want is to feel things. Typically we are trying to achieve an emotion, not a goal. This is why even when we achieve our goal, we have failed to get what we want. Perhaps you want to feel loved, feel happy, feel self confident, feel important, feel healthy, feel like your making a difference or feel like an adult.

Ask yourself: When do I feel that way? Then do more of that or enjoy it more when it happens. Don't assume that you'll feel that way just because you complete tasks.Tasks are fleeting. Real change, real health, real self worth comes from being a balanced person who is able to love and be loved, to help and be helped, to give and receive.

Which is why I don't make resolutions. Instead, each day, each moment I try to live the prayer of St. Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury,pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Living Lutheran blog post: in the footsteps of the little drummer boy

I’m a scrooge of a pastor this time of the year. You may find me in stores, surrounded by excited holiday bargain shoppers, ranting to myself about the fact that it’s Advent and these carols shouldn’t be played until the 12 days after Christmas.

My least favorite holiday song has always been “The Little Drummer Boy.” It is the most obnoxious of the many long repetitive carols. Who would play a loud drum for a newborn baby?

Imagine Mary. She just trekked across the desert nine-months pregnant on a donkey. Then after giving birth in an unsanitary barn, she is exhaustedly trying to nurture a new baby who will not sleep for more than two hours at a time, when a little boy comes in with a loud drum.

What an impractical gift!

Read the rest here.

Monday, December 19, 2011


I created this video after noticing that no one interacts or communicates on the public transit in San Francisco. It was filmed on a day when I traveled an entire day without human voices being spoken on muni. It is designed to make you feel the anxiousness that comes from a lack of collection. The only eye contact in the film is from advertisement on the side of the bus.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Transgender Advent Devotional

Excerpt from my writing in the Words Matter, NCC Women's Ministry Advent Devotional

December 16, 2011

John 1:6-8, 19-28 *

When I was gestating in my mother’s womb, the doctors determined my sex by listening to my heartbeat. Through gender assumptions about athleticism and speed of my heart rate, it was determined that I was a boy. When I was born, the very first words spoken when the doctor looked at my vagina were: “Oops, it’s a girl.”

This story of my birth delights me today as a butch transgender bodied person, because it names the way I’ve felt like a boy in my heart but have the body of a woman. Believing all the after school specials and talks about puberty, I thought everyone grew up with the same discomfort in their body, so I dedicated my teenage years to loving my body when what I saw in the mirror didn’t match the desires of my heart.

Read the rest of the devotional here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Pastor Megan's Christmas present to the Community of Traveler community is a series of videosongs that narrate the life of Jesus using contemporary pop songs.

Check out this project: The Gospel According to Pop

Megan hopes to finish the project by January of 2012. Leave your comments below if you have ideas about what songs you think would help narrate the Jesus story in a way that will cause others to think or hear the gospel differently.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Reform More Than Wall Street!

This Reformation week, I've been thinking about the ways Luther's actions would have been different if he lived today. Certainly, the political climate of the Occupy Movements have a similar populist gile that mimics the unrest of Luther's day. I imagine the reformation mobs that marched to abby's and churches to burn them down and distribute their riches to the poor, are similar to the longings of many angry marchers who head towards banks.

Thankfully, today's marchers are a lot more nonviolent and less likely to get themselves murdered if their top leaders flip-flop or align with political leaders, as Luther often needed to do in order to keep his head and neck attached.

Certainly the Pope and his theologians were as good at spinning bad press as Republicans are at convincing those desperately in need of health care that when the get it it will be a bad thing.

In my previous blog, I have argued that we should occupy churches and give power to the moral voices we want to have a national voice in our country's future. But, I wonder if optimism can cause Reformation if it lacks the sharp tongued venomous anger that Luther claimed as his vice.

Hatred and violence worked for our Lutheran origin, but I believe it cannot work today. At least here, from my privileged place as an employed Pastor in San Francisco, I must acknowledge that I'm nowhere near desperate enough to reform myself or the church in the ways Luther did.

That was Luther's to do.

My work is with the homeless and others living in poverty. My voice is heard by many and I hope it's because I see a vision of a more just world and deeply believe that if I do my part and you do yours we can be the society our neighbors deserve and at times desperately depend on.

As much as we may desire that others pay their fair share (whether it's bankers or seniors and those with disabilities), in the end it is up to us to roll up our sleeves, dust off our check books and feed people every time they are hungry.

Today our reformation is more likely to involve donations, cleaning dishes and toilets and loving everyone (without excuse) then it is to involve marching or pillaging.

So join me in the spirit of the Reformation and do at least one useful thing for the world, whether it's watching the kids of tired parents or raking someone's leaves - the new Reformation is one of compassion and care without an expectation that money needs to be exchanged for such things. Isn't that the heart of the historical Reformation anyway?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Feeding God's Children

My earliest memory of food is of a bowl of Jell-O being thrown across the kitchen, landing on the wall and sliding down the wallpaper. My alcoholic father was having a violent fight with my mother and yelling something about how we should have had dinner at the table, oblivious to the fact that his rage had made it impossible for us to sit and eat.

My parents’ divorce was inevitable. Then, like many single mother families in the ‘80s, my mother, brother and I joined the long lines of women and children receiving large blocks of government cheese and powdered milk.

Read the rest at

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy St Aidan's

As protests brew across the world, yesterday they raged in 900 cities, I've wondered if I should join the protests. You'd think it would be an easy choice, since I work with the chronically homeless and have dedicated my ministry to working with those living in poverty.

I love the idea of the people who have always been the majority taking back their voice and holding those in political power accountable.

I've done a lot of studying of nonviolence theory, so I'm proud when people find nonviolent ways to bring attention to important issues.

But, something about the protests have been unsettling to me. While I cheer on those street retreating and creating mass conversations in the streets, I can't help but remember that my mother is a banker and has been all her life.

In fact, she worked at the same bank since she was 18 and just retired a few months ago. As a working mother, she struggled to keep daily bread on our table. She managed the tellers at several branches of a South Dakota bank that went national. The reality is that our family was not the 1%.

As I see the images of the protests in front of banks I remember that my mothers desk and those on the lowest rungs of the banks payrolls are the ones sitting in earshot of the protests.

I also remember that the effectiveness of the civil rights protests and sit-ins came from their ability to dramaticize the injustices that existed, to force private terror to be publicly scrutinized or to clog the wheels of unjust laws by filling the jails so no one else could get arrested.

I wonder if the protests are dramatizing a solution? I also notice that we are in a precocious time when the world is listening to the protectors, but no individual voices have emerged as the leaders of a more benevolent future.

So I suggest, that we call for a shift in the countries moral compass. When we bring a mass of people to a location we give it power. But is Wall Street where we want our change to come from?

I call us to put our butts where our mouths are. Let's fill the spaces we want the world to see as the moral compass of our communities. And in those spaces, let's demand that those leaders speak for us and get voice in the halls of congress and at the CEO meetings where the 1% can actually be found.

What if the churches, Temples, zen centers and other places we wanted our ethical center to come from were as full as the streets?

This is our moment. Let us give to Wall Street what is Wall Street's. Keep your upside down wealth systems. Let us be people bringing a new understanding of love, hope and prosperity to the world.

So join me in occupying St Aidan's, herchurch, Christ Church, Inglesia Santa Maria y Marta and St. Francis. Lets fill the pews and the offering plates and reset our compasses. Whose with me?

Location:San Francisco

Thursday, September 29, 2011

New Living Lutheran Post: Loving and Learning with Grandma

The hymn lyrics, “Here I Am, Lord” and “Is it I, Lord?” bring tears to my grandmother’s eyes. “What if it’s true?” she asked me one day, revealing how ill-prepared and under-educated she felt she was to be God’s hands and feet in the world.

If you asked me, I’d tell you that most of the things I know about faith and advocacy, I learned watching my grandmother feed and care for people. No amount of education could create such an open, giving and humble heart. As a pastor and friend, I often find myself asking: What would grandma do?

Read the rest at

See the: Questions from Grandma Videos

Sunday, September 4, 2011

In the News: Butch Wonders

Butch in the Clergy

I recently interviewed Rev. Megan Rohrer, a pastor in the ELCA Lutheran Church who identifies as butch, dyke, queer, and trans (Rev. Rohrer is the first openly transgender pastor in the Lutheran church). I hope you'll enjoy her remarkably candid answers--about everything from divinity to her dating life--as much as I did!

BW: How did you decide to become a minister? What was the timing re: coming out and joining the clergy?

Pastor Megan Rohrer (PMR): I never had a moment of being in the closet. I kissed a girl in college and then immediately became a poster child of all things gay - in South Dakota of all places. The backlash was primarily religious. So I began reading to be able to have words to describe what I always knew was true: that God loved me and there was nothing I could do to screw it up. After reading all the books I decided to become a religion major. I had previously been an art major studying sculpture.

BW: What college were you at?

PMR: I was at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, a Lutheran college.

BW: Were many people there out as queer?

PMR: There were a few, but it was a tough time. It was right after Matthew Shepard's death and there was a conservative Christian backlash. Folks tried to exorcize "gay demons" from us and drunk football players would knock on my door at night to "make me straight." I had to move off campus for about 3 months.

BW: Did you see a conflict between your religion and your sexual orientation?

PMR: Never.

BW: Were you raised Lutheran?

PMR: Yes, Lutheran is to South Dakota what being Jewish is to Israel. It's so engrained in the culture, the news, holidays, everything. But [being a gay pastor] wasn't allowed in the Lutheran church then.

BW: So you were a pretty religious kid?

PMR: I had had mystical experiences since I was five and always had an inner sense God was with me and for me. I used to sneak off to church when I was in middle school and not tell my family. I didn't really agree with the fundamental beliefs of the church I went to, but I loved the rituals and music. Lutheran worship is mostly sung, and I've always loved music.

BW: Can you tell us a little more about your decision to become a pastor?

PMR: When I was a senior in high school everyone told me I should be a pastor, but I wanted to be an artist. Then when I became a religion major, I wanted to be a pastor but I couldn't handle the fight after living through the violence at college. Since [being a gay pastor] wasn't in allowed in the church back then, I didn't want to fight.

BW: But something changed your mind?

PMR: Well, I became a counselor for abused children aged 3-12. When a 6-year-old who had tried to commit suicide 12 times crawled on my lap to tell me he wanted to die before he was too bad and had to go to hell, I knew I need to go to seminary and be trained as a pastor. I moved to Berkeley to become a pastor when I was 21.

BW: Wow. Did it feel like a natural fit at the time?

PMR: No, and it doesn't feel natural now. I still sometimes wish I could have another job, because it's very, very hard, lonely work. But, I am certain that there is nothing else I could do and that I'd still be the one people cry to on public transportation and talk to about God stuff. When I started working with the homeless in 2002, they always called me pastor. I used to give them a long explanation about why the Lutheran church didn't allow gay people to be pastors. They just responded by saying: "Whatever, Pastor." I think people notice that mystical things happen to me all the time. I'm the person who asks that follow up question that seems to come right out of someone's brain, helps them feel seen, or gets them to finally ask for help.

BW: When does your role as a pastor feel the most natural?

PMR: It feels natural when I get emails from people saying that reading about me helped them decide not to kill themselves, when I see my homeless people get housing, or when someone says: "I believed it when they said God couldn't love me, but you've helped me see that God's love can be big enough to love even me."

BW: In your denomination, who gets to go to heaven?

PMR: Lutheran theology is fantastic because it believes that everyone is simultaneously a saint and a sinner and there is nothing we can do about it. It holds that everyone is equally sinful and that God loves us regardless of how we live. The idea is, if you don't have to worry about your salvation, you will do more to care for the world and do justice. Martin Luther is famous for saying: "sin boldly, but believe more boldly still."

BW: What does it mean to "sin boldly?" In my mind it seems like: "Don't steal a candy bar--instead, rob a bank!"

PMR: It could mean that in its extreme. Sin boldly means, take a stance and have faith that where you stand is the right thing. It's probably very similar to a butch ethic. It suggests that in love you should be strong and act boldly. This does not mean you should be abusive or overly aggressive. But, if you have robbed a bank, regardless of your reasons, God will still love you.

BW: Are some kinds of love favored over others? For example, a heterosexual married relationship?

PMR: I don't think any kind of love is favored over others. There are many types of relationships in the Bible. The Book of Hosea compares human love to love between a heterosexual man and a prostitute, and Godly love to that between God and the Sons of Israel. There are queer metaphors, trans metaphors, kinky sex metaphors, and calls to be celibate. It's a really diverse book, but most pastors don't talk about the juicy parts out loud... I think some Christians have confused God with Santa Claus who keeps a list, or Keebler Elves that are just supposed to give us wonderful things, but I think it's more about being people trying to learn how to love and accept love from something bigger than we are.

BW: You make it sound so clear cut! Why do so many kinds of Christianity reject homosexuality or label it as a sin?

PMR: Many Christians reject homosexuality because of the King James version of the Bible. It is the first time that homophobia appears in the translations. They were created because King James slept with men. People who could not say anything bad about the king (without being beheaded) put it in the translation... Then those ideas were taught around the world by missionaries who tried to colonize and convert people.

BW: Doesn't the NIV version have some anti-gay stuff in it, too?

PMR: All the later translations got their language from the King James. The words in the original Greek are unclear. But even if homosexuality was a sin, Jesus says his anger is but a moment and his love endures forever and that nothing--neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come--can ever separate us from God's love. The tradition of acceptance in religions of all faiths is much older than this contemporary idea that it's sinful. Ancient Rabbis believed that gay people were created by God.

BW: I bet that if they were raised with you as their pastor, more gay people would be religious! Why do you think so many gay people reject religion?

PMR: There are many gay Christians--I meet them all the time. I think it's harder for people to be "out" about their Christianity in the gay community than it is for some people to be out [as gay] in society.

BW: How do you identify within the queer community?

PMR: I identify as queer, trans, dyke and butch.

BW: I've written about the tension between female-identified butches and FTMs. Do you feel that, as someone who identifies as both trans and a dyke?

PMR: I do feel that. I grew up thinking that everyone felt body dysphoria--that's what all the after-school specials said about female bodies. So I learned to love my body even when it didn't feel like the body I would have chosen. But my trans brothers are unbelievably strong, and I mourn their loss of community when the butch community rejects them. Often this happens because people are afraid to admit they have similar feelings or that sometimes it would feel good to have male privilege and not get harassed all the time.

BW: So you identify as trans, but are not physically transitioning?

PMR: I have learned never to say never when it comes to making statements about whether I will transition. This [female body] is what works for me now. I grew up watching movies where I wanted to get the girl in the end, so it meant that I had to imagine that I was the leading male. I think it's easy for my brain to go there and fantasize about that.

BW: I guess that begs the question: why not physically transition?

PMR: Currently, I don't shave my legs and I'm uninterested in shaving my face. I'm lucky I'm known as trans, because I get the best of both worlds. I can be seen as male (when I want to be) and keep my body the way it is. But when my doctors told me I needed breast reduction surgery to help with back pain, it was a long process to decide if I should make my chest more masculine or more feminine. Both felt wrong to me, so I didn't have surgery and I do physical therapy. Also, I've always felt like I physically want to have a baby, so I may feel very differently after that happens (though I'm not currently working on that, either).

BW: Do you ever present as male in your church?

PMR: Any time I wear a pastor collar people think I'm a "Father." It's because most people can't think of any butch pastors. I have bound and packed at church. Most people can't tell because the robe on top gets rid of any distinction.

BW: Do the folks in your congregation address you with male pronouns, female ones, or both?

PMR: It's a mixture. Some use male, some female. Some just say pastor. I once talked to a man at the end of the service who said until the sermon he thought I was a man, and then I became a woman. I appreciated that he had seen both natures inside of me.

BW: Who do you tend to date? Butches, femmes? Men, women? Trans people? Everyone?

PMR: I've dated all kinds of people, with all kinds of bodies. I'm very attracted to curves and soft skin. But I believe that if I transitioned that I'd likely be attracted to men. Very close to each other on the gender spectrum is the shift between a butch woman and a nelly [effeminate] man. When I present as male, it's a very feminine one. I find that when people accept my masculinity and my butchness, I can explore my soft sides that like to be comforted and taken care of. Someone recently told me I'm like a bear, without the beard.

BW: Why do you think you'd be more attracted to men if you transitioned?

PMR: It's pretty common when people transition. Some people think it's because instead of being attracted to a sex, people may be attracted to like bodies.

BW: I prefer my partner to have the same level of masculinity as me.

PMR: It's not very common for butches to be able to date each other and explore those dynamics. Perhaps if it was more common we could have a fuller sense of what we like and explore all the parts of ourselves.

BW: At what point do you tell someone you're dating what your occupation is? Is being a pastor something you put in an online dating profile?

PMR: I put a picture of myself in my clergy collar on my profile. If someone has a problem with my being a pastor, we should not date.

BW: I bet some people think it's a costume and that you're being ironic.

PMR: I think the faux hawk, tattoos, and piercings help people see I'm not a scary pastor... The picture I post in my collar is actually of me blowing a very large bubble--since I probably am more surprised that I'm a pastor than anyone else is. I also write in my profile that I'm a pastor, and about how I do things like Lady Gaga Mass.

BW: Lady Gaga mass?! I have to know more...

PMR: Martin Luther changed pub tunes into Christian lyrics. But the songs all seem boring nowadays. I followed his lead and changed the lyrics of some contemporary music. I also do Beatles Mass and a Bob Dylan Mass.

BW: That sounds fun! I just googled Lady Gaga mass and found your YouTube channel. I bet that isn't what most people think of when they think of church!

PMR: Right! It's true. Those videos are from the first time it was ever performed. Thankfully we've gotten better. We're doing a fundraiser in November where we're going to perform it with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence--that is going to be amazing!

BW: Back to dating... If I saw a pastor's profile online, I would think: there's NO way I'm getting any action for a while.

PMR: Yes, an often asked first date question is: can you have sex before marriage? I think it should go on the record that the greatest kept secret is that pastors are good in bed (when it's ethical and mutual and all that, not when it's any of the yucky stuff that appears in the paper).

BW: The record shall so reflect! So I'll take that as a yes, pastors can have sex before marriage?

PMR: Yes, we can. Oh, also: Something to think about is that a lot of kink culture comes from the sexualization of religious rituals. I'm just saying.

BW: [Laughter]

PMR: The Song of Songs is a very kinky book of the Bible. It's all about beautiful breasts and loving an ungendered person who is like a gazelle!

BW: Would you ever date someone who did not share your faith?

PMR: Oh of course. My longest relationships have been with Jews. I also feel madly in love with an atheist. I think what's important is how people live their life and how they love. There are lots of ways to share rituals and family without using words like: Jesus, God, salvation, etc.

BW: Would you ever raise kids with a non-Christian?

PMR: Yes. If I had a child I would want them to be baptized... But, it would be different if I was dating someone of another faith who already had a child. For example, Jewish traditions and rituals are where the Christian ones came from, so I think there's no need to double up. Kids are pretty smart and so much more in touch with faith than adults, so I think they are more than able to become amazing beings in interfaith families.

BW: That's interesting.

PMR: Oh, and pastors aren't allowed to be friends with people they meet at church. This is to help prevent some of the unethical sex scandals and jealousy that can come from getting to close to people in the congregation. But it means that although pastors are surrounded by hundreds of people all the time, it's incredibly lonely.

BW: Wait, you can't even be FRIENDS with people you meet at church?

PMR: It makes sense if you think about it. We act as counselors and know more about people than they do about us. And you can't really confide in them because people often confuse the faithfulness of their pastor with how God feels about them.

BW: That's got to be hard.

PMR: It is. Developing a strong group of friends is important. I find making friends with people of diverse faiths, or no faith at all, is important. It's great to have people who could care less about church, so we can be reminded that the whole world doesn't revolve around who spilled wax on the carpet.

BW: Do you belong to a community of butch pastors?

PMR: I don't know if there is a community of butch pastors, but I go on retreat every year with a group called Proclaim. It's the group of all the out queer pastors in the Lutheran church. It's like my family--to be able to spend time with them and have people around who understand the pressures of being a queer pastor.

BW: What are those pressures?

PMR: Being newly included in any community, there are pressures to be perfect. You can't talk about what is hard or ask for help in the same ways. But there are also ways in which I've been given a bigger voice and responsibilities because people want diversity and there are few queer pastors they can put in leadership.

BW: Do you ever get any flak from the Lutheran Church about the stuff you do outside of church?

PMR: Oh, no I haven't gotten any flak from the Lutheran Church. They actually hired me to blog for them because they like the way I write about advocacy issues. As the first transgender pastor ordained in the Lutheran church, there isn't really any precedent for how I ought to behave, so I get a lot of freedom. I'm very, very lucky!

BW: I was thinking of your (excellent) photography work, "Everyday Drag" that was in Briarpatch earlier this year.

PMR: I wondered how they would feel about that essay, but I got a lot of feedback, particularly from female clergy, that it captured some of the pressures they felt like they couldn't complain about in church.

BW: What pressures do you think female clergy experience?

PMR: As a female pastor, I've never been to church and not had someone comment on the outfit I was wearing, or my hair. Some male pastors talk over me, literally. And... my menstration will not stop during certain parts of a church service. There is something mystical that happens during communion and the sermon where I become afraid I will bleed more than is safe. I can't explain it or describe it, but it feels sacred. In Jewish tradition, menstruation is sacred because it is connected to life. I never understood that before I became a pastor.

BW: That is intense.

PMR: Ironically, it is menstruation that made it so that women could not be pastors for so long. There was a sense that we are unclean and couldn't have a ritual given to others during that time. But, I know deeply in my body that the in-church rituals I do during that time are so much more sacred. Sorry bio boys!

BW: How does it feel to have a job that helps so many people?

PMR: It feels humbling and I'm extremely grateful for the opportunities I've been given, for my health, for the luck and inner drive I've had that helps me be joyous when others are depressed. It reminds a bit like how it feels to get dressed up in a suit and tie. There is this power that I can take on that taps me into this greater energy.

BW: That is the second analogy you have drawn between butchness and being a member of the clergy. It sounds like the two things are really symbiotic for you.

PMR: Yes, I think there is a connection between the way that butches embody strength and giving. Pastors have a lot to learn from butch culture.

BW: One last question: what advice or reading recommendations would you give to queer people who are interested in exploring queer-positive Christianity?

PMR: There is a queer Bible commentary that is really great. Jay Baker, Sara Miles and Anne Lamott write some really good stuff that isn't as queer focused, but is queer affirming for a general audience. I also recommend Peterson Toscano's plays - they're hysterical. He has one about his failed attempt to become ex-gay and one about transgender Bible characters.

BW: Thank you so much for your time--I learned a lot!

PMR: It was great to chat with you.

BW: This was way juicier than I expected.

PMR: Fantastic!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Questions From Grandma

I like grandma's questions because they are similar to the questions thousands of other Lutherans have but feel too embarrassed to ask their pastors.

I find that when I talk about faith in a way that my grandmother can understand, it's also more understandable to the typical person in the pew.

So please ease drop on these conversations and enjoy. I hope it inspires you to ask more questions about your faith and to begin talking out loud about what you believe with others.

Additional videos with Grandma:

New Living Lutheran Post: Lutheran Freedom

Some scholars argue that the most significant archeological find of the Reformation happened when they discovered Martin Luther’s toilet.

Calling it his “secret place,” it is thought that Luther did most of his writing while he battled chronic constipation.

While modern science may have been able to cure his reformational angst with pills and tonics, it was fear that paralyzed his bowels.

Luther carried the fear that he would go to hell deeply in his gut.

So when Luther had his breakthrough realization that he was freed in Christ to serve, that there was nothing he could do to screw up the salvation promised to him in his baptism and fulfilled by Christ on the cross, I imagine that the “a ha” came from inside his guts, which started to become unloosed (the literal translation of the Greek word used by Jesus for forgiveness in the Gospels).

Read the rest at: Living Lutheran

Thursday, June 23, 2011

New Living Lutheran Post: On Living Lutheran

When I was a student at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, training to become a pastor, it seemed like there were two types of students:

1) Cultural Lutherans who were raised Lutheran, are often from the Midwest and who hold many strange and wonderful German and Norwegian dishes and customs in high esteem. These Lutherans often call themselves “womb to tomb Lutherans.”

2) Those who chose to be Lutheran. These Lutherans often knew more about the sayings and teachings of Luther and spoke poetically about their conversion moment or the congregations that shaped their faith.

Of course, neither one is the right or wrong way to be Lutheran.

I grew up in Sioux Falls, S.D., where it seems that even the Catholics are Lutheran, because Lutheran culture there is so integrated into the speaking styles and expected customs that I find it hard to separate any of the things that I do in my life from my Lutheranism.

Read the rest of the blog here.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Honorary Degree from Palo Alto University

Today I was honored to receive an honorary Doctorate of Human Letters for community service from Palo Alto University a graduate and undergraduate university of psychology.

Below you can watch video from the ceremony-

President Allen Calvin Introduces Me:

My Acceptance Speech to 600 students, faculty, board members and family of graduates:

Receiving the degree:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

HRC Clergy Call in Washington DC

This past weekend I attended the Human Right's Campaign's Clergy Call in Washington, DC. On Sunday afternoon I was part of a panel on LGBT Homeless Youth. You can read more about my experience at clergy call on the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries blog. I've included excerpts below:

Blog 1:
“Last night I presented at the Human Rights Campaign Clergy Call in Washington DC on LGBTQ Homeless Youth with Jeff Krehely, Director of LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress and André Wade, Program and Policy Analyst at the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Jeff and André outlined the policy issues that currently affect LGBT homeless youth and I talked about ways that pastors and congregations can listen to, interact with and advocate for homeless youth in ethically and faithfully responsible ways.

Jeff and André shared alarming facts and stats that are compelling. I was shocked to learn that the US only spends $200 per homeless youth each year, which is supposed to pay for their education, housing and reconnect them with healthy families. Yet, this amount doesn’t even cover their food needs. They also talked about their work with Sen. Kerry, who for the first time is introducing a bill that earmarks funds for LGBT youth.

Yesterday hundreds of clergy and faith leaders, including about fifteen Lutherans, went to Capitol Hill as a part of the Human Right’s Campaign’s (HRC) Clergy Call. Their goal was to remind their elected leaders that progressive faith leaders who preach and teach that equality is a right for all people stand with the majority of Americans. In fact, a new poll from HRC shows that 86% of Americans of faith reported that their faith leads them to believe that all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, deserve equal protections under the law.

These faith leaders represented millions of parishioners, members of denominations and individuals whom they’d prayed with and for. Some of the most moving pleas at the press conference were calls to end the funerals that pastors had been doing for gay youth who falsely believed they had no other options. Leaders urged congress to pass the Safe Schools and Anti-bullying Acts that could provide nationwide support for these youth.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In the News: Bay Area Reporter

'Encampment' brings attention to homeless LGBT youth


Homeless youth and their allies staged a "street sweep" in the Castro last Saturday to bring attention to budget cuts for social service programs. Photo: Matt Baume

The May 14 encampment was part of a nationwide demonstration to raise awareness of homelessness among a demographic known as transition-age youth. Homeless and foster youth between 16 and 24 years old can face unique housing challenges, particularly as they age out of the foster care system and learn to navigate services for adults.

"We're here to engage the community on homelessness, and specifically queer homeless youth issues," said organizer Beck, who uses only one name. "We're in kind of a state of emergency, saying, 'hey community, wake up.'"

Saturday's action started at Civic Center with games, an unveiling of protest banners, and hot meals served by Food Not Bombs. A march proceeded to Harvey Milk Plaza, where speakers read poetry and called for improved access to services to get off the street.

Their requests included housing with kitchens, rather than single room occupancy hotels with no facilities for food preparation; employment opportunities for youth who are unable to complete school; and an end to the sit-lie ordinance.

According to local organizers Trans Youth Rise Above, there are 5,700 homeless youth in San Francisco, of which at least 1,000 are queer.

Operation Shine America, which coordinated similar rallies in other cities, estimates that there are 2 million homeless youth in the country. Queers for Economic Equality Now also organized the San Francisco event.

Beck explained that organizations like the Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center and Larkin Street Youth Services' Castro Youth Housing Initiative have faced repeated budget cuts, reducing services that can prevent youth from living on the street.

Jodi Schwartz, executive director of LYRIC, agreed that times are tight. "There has been a sizable decrease in investments in LGBTQ youth services," she told the Bay Area Reporter. "Just for LYRIC, if we were to lose the last piece of dollars for transition-age youth workforce, our decrease in funding would be 72 percent over the last four years."

Larkin Street Executive Director Sherilyn Adams told the B.A.R. that the extent of cuts won't be known until Mayor Ed Lee releases a budget later this month.

"There's no proposed cuts to the Castro Youth program," she said, but added, "it does not begin to meet the need."

To address the potential consequences of such cuts, Lee recently convened a stakeholder group consisting of representatives from organizations that advocate for homeless youth. Based on feedback from that group, the mayor asked that the Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families prioritize funding for LGBT and undocumented youth.

While organizations hope to turn around the recent budget cuts, local organizers are seeking ways to demonstrate how the city's rate of youth homelessness could worsen.

After Saturday's protest concluded, about three dozen homeless youth spent parts of the night camped out around the Muni station, according to organizer the Reverend Megan Rohrer, director of the Welcome Ministry, a coalition of 12 churches that seek to provide a faithful response to poverty.

Rohrer is currently working with the GLBT Historical Society to raise visibility by drawing inspiration from past struggles. She incorporated a "street sweep" into Saturday's protest, in which participants swept Castro Street sidewalks with brooms to evoke a similar 1960s-era protest.

In that action, LGBTs protested the city's negligent sanitation and police roundups by pushing brooms through the Tenderloin.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

New Living Lutheran Blog Post

As an ELCA pastor, you’d think I’d feel more comfortable praying in public. But I confess that nearly every time I pray in public, I feel self conscious, like my words weren’t moving, poetic or spirit-filled enough.

Because it’s my job, I can’t refuse to pray during worship or when someone in tears pleads for private prayer. Thankfully, I’m required to practice praying out loud.

I’ve found it helpful to read the Psalms, which show me that prayer can be an expression of awe for God and the wonders of the earth, confusion about injustice in the world, cries for help and healing or even anger at God, when God seems to have forgotten to be as present as is promised.

I’ve also found it helpful to memorize some of the beautiful prayers that almost always touch people’s hearts. Words like: “Now I lay me down to sleep,” “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” “God grant me the serenity” and “Our Father, who art in heaven.” Recently, I’ve enjoyed using hymns and spirituals as prayers and find that they touch my heart in a particularly moving way. Some of my favorites to sing are: “Jesus loves me this I know,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”

Read the rest of the blog here.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Help Megan Win the Citizen of Tomorrow Award

Megan has been chosen as a finalist for the Bay Area Citizen's Citizen of Tomorrow Award, for her work using community gardening to help the homeless and individuals with severe mental health issues to improve their quality of life.

Of the 5 finalists for the award, 3 will receive cash prizes for the projects of their choice. The winners are chosen through internet voting.

If Megan wins, she will use the prize money to buy seedlings for the garden she helped create at Bethlehem Lutheran in West Oakland, to buy bicycle powered smoothie machines for 3 community gardens and food and supplies for SF Refresh events.

SF Refresh is a project that Megan created and coordinates as Project Homeless Connect's Growing Home Community Garden Manager, in collaboration with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, which coordinates free whole body health care at community gardens throughout the city. You can learn more about SF Refresh here.

Please vote for Megan (#5 SF Refresh) - you can vote once a day until May 16th.

Tree, another finalist for the award is one of Megan's co-collaborators on the Free Farm project. Tree will be donating any prize money that he wins to the Free Farm. So, if you choose not to vote for Megan, please vote for Tree!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Be Afraid: The Great San Francisco Sleep-In

Dear people who think it's a liability risk to have a sleep-in event:

Thank you! The fact that you think it is unsafe for people to sleep on the streets, even when it is supervised, well organized, rehearsed with the police and led by leaders who have gone on street retreats for years - means you have the ability to understand how much more vulnerable it feels for 100's of thousands of people (and particularly the young adults) to sleep on the streets every night of the year.

Part of the reason that I'll be sleeping on the streets on May 14th as a part of the Great San Francisco Sleep-In and part of the reason I'm encouraging others to join me is not so we can feel comfortable - but so that you and others can worry about us and be moved enough to respond to homelessness. I imagine you will be inclined to do more than if we slept in our beds that night.

How would our country change if we truly understood the part we are playing in the homelessness of our brothers and sisters? How would our country change if we thought every person who slept on the streets was a liability risk and we decided to no longer stand for it?

Whenever I sleep on the streets people care and worry about me, in a way that they do not worry about the others who sleep on the streets each night. If enough of us sleep on the streets on May 14th, we can get the whole country worried about those sleeping on the streets. Join me in person, or virtually (I'll be blogging about this night on the streets). Even if you're busy, don't forget to worry about it - for the purpose of inspiring you to give money, speak out and make change!

You can also read my blogged experiences of some of my past street retreats.

Thanks again for being uncomfortable. Please never get used to me sleeping on the streets. Let's get un-numb to the poverty and homelessness in our country.

Blessings to you all whether you'll sleep in a bed or on cardboard tonight.

Pastor Megan.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Living Lutheran Post: World Malaria Day


The last time I visited my mother’s farm in Minnesota, I remember her laughing hysterically as we carried in the groceries, luggage and items we had just bought in town.

My mother and I were inching our way from the car to the front door, each trying to balance about 10 grocery bags in addition to rolling suitcases, when my mother turned and said, “We come from a long line of German women who refuse to take more than one trip from the car.”

We laughed for a long time wondering why we thought we needed to do everything all at once.

Read the rest of the blog post here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gaga Mass & Vanguard Tour

I'm excited to announce that the Lady Gaga Mass will be traveling to select locations along with the Vanguard Traveling Exhibit and Speaking Tour. With the Vanguard Talk at 7pm (featuring Joey Plaster Oral History Chair at the GLBT Historical Society and Mia Tu Mutch trans youth activist) and the Gaga Mass, arranged by Pastor Megan Rohrer (Executive Director of Welcome and co-pastor of the Community of Travelers) at 8 pm. The Gaga Mass offering will raise money for local LGBTQ youth ministries and shelters in the area of our tour.

We'll be adding tour dates, times and locations to this site soon. Start getting excited!

Washington DC - May 22, 2011: HRC Clergy Call
New York - May 27-30, 2011
  • 7 pm: Saturday, May 28: Vanguard Talk at Trinity Lutheran Church of Manhattan
  • 8 pm: Saturday, May 28: Lady Gaga Mass Fundraiser to benefit Trinity Place (shelter for homeless LGBTQA youth) at Trinity Lutheran Church of Manhattan
  • 11 am: Sunday, May 29: Pastor Megan Rohrer preaching at Trinity Lutheran Church of Manhattan
Los Angeles - June 10-11, 2011
Portland - June 18-19, 2011
San Francisco - June 23, 2011: GLBT Historical Society Museum
Chicago - January 5-8, 2012: American Historical Association Annual Meeting

Copyright permission for the Lady Gaga Mass obtained through PERFORMmusic License#6400
Mad love to the Gaga!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Forgiveness Letters

On April 16th, I'm coordinating the first of six SF Refresh events. SF Refresh will provide free whole body care activities in community gardens throughout San Francisco. A number of art projects, created by Melissa Lareau and Ilyse Magy, will appear at The Free Farm, Hayes Valley Farm and the Growing Home Community Garden throughout the day (see the calendar of events). These projects are designed to beautify the garden/farm spaces, inspire wellness and to help us work towards more loving, peaceful, green lives and communities.

The We Forgive You Papers, is a project that I'm particularly excited about. On April 16th we'll be transforming the letters into pots for seedlings that will then be planted into the earth and will eventually compost into the soil. Check out the call for letters to learn how to participate even if you can't make it in person.

Here is my forgiveness letter:

Maya Angelou said, "you do what you can, until you know better."

I forgive myself for not knowing better sooner. I let go of the sense that I ought to have done more in situations where it was perfectly normal to just be a kid, to be afraid or to simply be human. I cherish the fact that I now have a voice and life that is strong enough to not only protect myself, but to speak out for others - particularly those thought to be the most vulnerable.

I forgive the angry men and women in my life who have created a sense in me that chaos is manageable and that I must carry more than is mine to carry. I understand now the systems of violence and generations of baggage that you are carrying. I do my best to not take yours on as my own and forgive myself when I walk the rutted roads of my ancestors that lead only to fear and shame.

I release myself from the useless debates in my brain that think: humility is opposed to achieving my dreams; trivial actions and speech are correlated to the amount of love I experience from the world and loved ones; about what life would be like without my disabilities; and the ways in which I stumbled the past.

I resolve to do what I can, until I know better.

I forgive you and I am forgiven.

Megan Rohrer
San Francisco, CA

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In the News: NBC Bay Area

Urban Farming About to Sprout in the City

Tuesday, Mar 29, 2011 | Updated 10:30 AM PDT

Joe Rosato Jr.

Pastor Megan Rohrer helps plant vegetables in the Urban Farming community garden near San Francisco Civic Center. "Gardens are some of the most self-care devices that we have," Rohrer said. "It gets you kind of rooted to the environment."

By Sajid Farooq

Farms in San Francisco? It's about to happen.

Technically it has been happening for a long time but the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is about to take the next step in urban farming.

Mayor Ed Lee and board President David Chiu are pushing a a measure that would update zoning regulations in the City allowing residents to apply for permits to grow gardens anywhere.

The measure would allow residents to not only grow fruits and veggies across the City with a permit but also sell the food.

The City is hoping the measure will promote residents' access to healthy, locally grown food.

Reposted from:

Monday, March 28, 2011

In the News: SF Examiner

San Francisco urban farms closer to legitimacy
Linked by Michael Levenston

Pastor Megan Rohrer helps plant vegetables in the Urban Farming community garden near San Francisco Civic Center. “Gardens are some of the most self-care devices that we have,” Rohrer said. “It gets you kind of rooted to the environment.” Photo by Joe Rosato Jr.

“Our legislation would place San Francisco at the forefront of urban agriculture policies nationwide.”

By: Brent Begin
Sf Examiner Staff Writer
Mar 28, 2011.

Reposted from:

The Board of Supervisors is one step closer to turning the phrase “down on the farm” on its ear.

“Urban agriculture” legislation sponsored by Mayor Ed Lee and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu would update zoning regulations to explicitly permit gardens in all areas of The City and allow for the sale of produce from those gardens.

The legislation breezed through the board’s Land Use and Economic Development Committee on Monday.

“Urban agriculture not only increases people’s access to locally grown, healthy and sustainable food, but it also converts unused land to productive green spaces, revitalizing neighborhoods and creating green jobs,” Lee said in a statement.

“Our legislation would place San Francisco at the forefront of urban agriculture policies nationwide,” Chiu said in a statement. “My hope is that this is the first of many changes The City makes to increase the viability and scale of urban agriculture in San Francisco.”

The proposal allows for gardens of less than one acre, while gardens one acre or larger would require a special Planning Commission exemption.

The full board will vote on the legislation April 5.

Story here.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

In the News: Indie Stories

Sunday, March 20, 2011


In San Francisco, the "Vanguard Revisited" project is doing some of the most exciting work in community history that I've seen in quite some time. Initiated by oral historian and radio producer Joey Plaster, and activist minister Rev. Megan Rohrer, the project "resuscitates the history of the 1960s queer youth organization Vanguard and explores the ways in which its history is embodied in the present," according to the new project magazine. Programs in oral history, youth development, and other areas may have a lot to learn from the model of "Vanguard Revisited." Besides, the project's magazine, blog, audio program, and walking tours are just plain fun, vital, and provocative.

Let's step into the way-back machine for a moment. As far back as the 1960s, San Francisco's Tenderloin district has been a hangout spot for runaways and street youth, many of them LGBT or queer. Queer youth had flocked to San Francisco because of its growing reputation as a haven for outcasts. And the Tenderloin district was where many of them would gather; not coincidentally, it was also home to the "Meat Rack" area for young sex workers, the offices of the early "homophile" organization the Mattachine Society, an urban ministry in Glide Church, led by the Rev. Cecil Williams, and more. It was here in the Tenderloin in 1966 that queer street youth formed "Vanguard," a group for fun, socializing, and mutual support. They held street protests, put on weekly dances, and produced a magazine that covered sex, drugs, theology, loneliness. A 1966 statement protested police harassment, economic exploitation by adults, and drug problems to which adults seemed willfully blind. A hostile letter to the magazine (with the oddly affectionate salutation of "Darlings") said that the writer had "bought your filthy magazine from a street seller much to my dismay. I find it is nothing more than a rag for low-grade perverts, dope addicts and pacifists." At least he was in agreement with Vanguard youth. An underground 'zine that same year, 1966, ran a story headlined "Young Rejects Form Own Organization." The kids were doin' it for themselves!

Until fairly recently, this group -- which disbanded in name within a year or two -- was just a memory for surviving members to recount, and some faded papers in the archives of the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco. But that organization's oral history program coordinator, Joey Plaster, learned of the group, and saw a special resonance with today's youth. He joined forces with local minister Megan Rohrer to put the past in conversation with the present.

It would be a perfectly nifty little project to, say, republish one of the old "Vanguard" magazines. But what distinguishes "Vanguard Revisited" is that the history duo teamed up Larkin Street Youth Services and other local organizations to assemble a group of today's queer youth, who then submitted their own stories, poetry, and art in response to the contents of the original magazine. In "Vanguard Revisted" magazine, content from the 1960s "Vanguard" is paired with writings and art from today, often on similar themes. There's also a project blog, a series of oral histories, walking tours that feature clips of oral histories from original Vanguard members, and an upcoming tour to other cities.

Instead of simply delivering history to queer youth, "Vanguard Revisited" actually enlists today's queer youth to quite literally make history -- to document history, and become a part of it. Youth draw a historical (or, in a sense, genealogical) line from themselves to homeless youth of the 1960s and before, perhaps even to the outcasts in the Bible. And in time, today's queer youth may become the ancestor's of tomorrow's fighters, writers, poets, and preachers.

Intrigued? Go visit the project website, where you can listen to an audio documentary with clips from oral history interviews of original "Vanguard" members, and download the "Vanguard Revisited" magazine. Also be sure to check out the project blog, with video clips of Tenderloin walking tours, and more.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Reclaiming the 'e' Word

I confess that when I was asked to write for, I expected to simply have a virtual pulpit where I could share thoughts that might not fit into the lectionary or community I was sharing a Sunday morning with.

I’m glad to say that it has become more than that to me. Recently, I’ve been logging onto the website regularly to read tips about how to minister to diverse populations or in difficult settings and to read the thoughts of Lutherans across the country.

What is new and exciting about this site, is not that Lutherans are living out their faith in creative and justice-centered ways, but that we are beginning to learn how to talk about it.

The members of the ELCA are very good at doing. I’ve been proud of my church’s response to natural disasters, poverty, human suffering and all the seen and unseen ways we are fulfilling the gospel call to “go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).

We are truly an active church, but sometimes we are like a family that shows kindness and supports each other but never says the words “I love you” out loud.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Evangelism and Scabby Crosses

Last night, I taught an intersexed youth how to properly bandage her arm. She had cross shaped scabs on her arms that were not nearly as deep as the pain they were trying to make visible.

Across the country, congregations, groups and even our presiding Bishop have made videos as a part of the "It Get's Better" campaign. The message is important: life is precious, all should be loved and GLBT individuals sometimes grow up to be healthy productive members of society - sometimes even to become famous.

But, when we fail in our evangelism, this is not always the case. When the Lutheran church was slow to respond to the AIDS crisis, arguing about the sexuality of the individuals rather than sharing the deep gutted gospel message that proclaims baptismal love, thousands of gay men died before it got better.

Later when the Lutheran church was slow to evangelize to GLBT individuals and got caught up in arguing about the sexuality of pastors, dozens (possibly hundreds) of pastors and would be pastors killed themselves. Countless youth and young adults fled the homes and the churches they grew up with, in search of families that could love them without hesitation.

You may be like many Lutherans who wonder why they have to extend a special welcome or evangelize to GLBT individuals. Shouldn't they know that the phrase all are welcome includes them?

Perhaps if there wasn't a 31 year delay from when Lutheran college students began demanding the church evangelize to GLBT individuals and our ability to fully do so, a need to evangelize in a special way would not be needed.

Having worked with the chronically homeless in San Francisco for that last nine years, I am convinced that we will never be able to deal with homelessness in San Francisco until congregations like yours begin evangelizing loudly to GLBT individuals.

Nearly all of the homeless folk I work with left their homes and families (predominantly from the midwest) because they experienced or thought they would experience homophobia from their communities. Even if their church never said anything about GLBT individuals, the voices of media and television personalities became so loud that they were confused with the voice of all Christians.

Or maybe you did try, but it didn't seem big enough to counteract the feelings of the rest of the community or the GLBT folk missed that Sunday.

If only to save the life of one youth, our evangelism voices must raise to the same volume and frequency as those who have negative things to say.

Evangelize like the prophet Isaiah. Speak from the longing for and demand God's justice now. Assume that more is possible and be people ready to act boldly.

Someday your evangelism will pay off and your welcome to all will be heard by all. Until then, your congregation is much better prepared to hear "It gets better" than a youth considering suicide.

If your congregation is worried about bullies who may get angry or upset if you evangelize to GLBT individuals, imagine how hard it must be for youth who lives with this experience daily and who feels they must face it alone.

Thankfully, I was able to be a pastor to the intersexed youth who needed someone to remind them that we celebrate lent as a community so that we can voice the pain and suffering of the world. And thankfully, our beloved Lutheran church is big enough so that there are pastors and congregations across the country willing to evangelize to GLBT individuals.

But, let us all work together during this Lenten season to let the whole world know that we have old rituals to embody the same feelings that may be new to the young adult who carved into her arm. We're not afraid of pain or suffering and we march towards the cross because we know Easter is waiting just around the corner.

As it is said in the echoing refrain of taize: darkness is never darkness in your sight, the deepest night is clear as the daylight.

We know the light and we must share it though loud rainbow proclaiming evangelism. It will be.