It is good to be here with you all. It is good to be able to gather among people like y’all and bear witness to my most authentic self. I hope you feel the same, in whatever led you to this place. Because to be sure, there is power in gathering, power in being able to assemble together. And I don’t mean just a warm, vaguely inspirational feeling that comes from being surrounded by like-minded people, though that is heartening in its own way. No, what I’m talking about is power both to resist the world as it is and to set forth an alternative vision of the world as it ought to be. In our communion in places like this, we see a micro-vision of how the world could be, witness to the broader culture that such a world is possible, and harness collective power to make it happen. But this power is only available to us when all people are able to live openly as who they really are.
Because the oppressive structures of this world will always try to suppress the power that we have, to keep us isolated and ashamed of our very being….in short, to keep that closet door shut tight. Make no mistake, this is violence and completely contrary to the full, abundant life God envisions for us. And perhaps most heartbreaking of all, at least for me, is that the voice that tells us to lock away whole parts of our humanity has very often come from the church. The church, which should be the witness to the liberating message of the gospel, which calls us to authenticity and freedom, too often operates as an arm of the very sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, capitalist culture it should resist. The church can and should repent of these perversions of the gospel. We lament the ways the church has failed so many of us.
But there is another movement brewing in Christ’s church. It’s a stream that has been there since the beginning, despite attempts to repress it. After all, the gospel we proclaim is of a God who dissolves every binary humanity has created: sinner/saint, death/life, and in the person of Jesus human/divine. These no longer have dominion over us.
In my own life, hearing this message anew as a young adult in my 20s was revelatory. I had always felt a low-grade shame about how I did not fit into conventional gender roles or the binary of either/or attraction. There was a stark outline of How These Things Went, and I was failing at it. I felt alone and as if there was something wrong in my fundamental essence. It was in hearing the witness of queer Christians and theologians that I began to experience the gospel again and as if for the first time. In experiencing the truly radical good news of the gospel that honors all parts of our humanity, I was able to become the person I always was, and for the first time I experienced theology not only intellectually or cognitively, but in my nerve endings.
The power of such a realization, this coming out, has even been called a sacrament. Not just sacred, but a sacrament. The queer theologian and pastor Chris Glaser says this about the process of coming out as a sacrament: “At their best and deepest level, sacraments renew life, relationships, community, and communion with God. At its best and deepest level, coming out means a new life, fresh and refreshed relationships, access to a new community, and increased intimacy with God.”
So there is indeed power in gatherings such as these, in knowing oneself and in being known more completely, in proclaiming that what God has created God has called good.
It’s also a power not to be held tightly or kept insular. Part of the reason we gather in a place like this, under these circumstances, is so that we can use this power for the liberation of all…liberation for those unable to come out for whatever reason, liberation for those who bear the brunt of society’s violence and hatred, liberation for the crucified ones of this time and place…
This work of liberation, which is done in freedom and a spirit of joyful disruption, this work is done knowing that God has already set us free from death; this liberation is true gift to all. When Christ says that he came that they may have life and have it abundantly…this is what he meant. Not just another individualized, comfortable, materialistic life, but a life of solidarity, in a collective of people all empowered to live their most authentic lives, and to join with one another in the struggle for liberation. Coming out and gathering is a good first step. Let us take the next steps together, onward toward the liberation of all.