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.

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