Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Church's Closet Door

The Church's Closet Door

The Reverend Darlene Garner says the closet door and closeted pastors are warping the church and killing young people.
By Rev. Darlene Garner

COMMENTARY: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are in the pulpits, choirs, pews, religious education programs, committees, and boards of all houses of worship in this country. They have given extraordinary leadership to our congregations and continue to do so. Yet unfortunately, as has been made painfully clear in recent weeks, many congregations are quick to receive their gifts only if they keep their sexual orientation hidden. The implications of this are devastating. As people of faith, we can no longer afford to be silent.

When clergy condemn homosexuality, they send several devastating messages to the congregation. To young LGBT people they declare that their sexuality is shameful and vile in the eyes of God and that they should loathe a part of themselves. By so doing, they implicitly present LGBT members with an impossible set of choices: to hide part of themselves by “acting straight” and even in some cases marrying partners of the opposite sex; to denounce who they are by joining so-called ex-gay programs; to live a closeted life of isolation and shame; or to live a celibate life. In all of these cases LGBT people are forced to choose loneliness in favor of integrity.

For others in our congregation, the incessant din of homophobia grants permission to engage in bullying and violence. Even though some spokespeople for the radical right, like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, want to deny it, homophobic sermons preached Sunday after Sunday create an environment that legitimizes bullying and violence against LGBT people. Rather than fostering a community of love, homophobia in our congregations creates a wedge between people that breeds both shame and violence.

The evidence continues to mount: Our closets are killing us. When we remain silent about homophobia in our congregations, is it any wonder that many of our youth see nothing wrong in tormenting their LGBT peers in school? Is it any wonder that many LGBT youth come to see this torment as inescapable in life and suicide as the only way out? Those who drove Tyler Clementi, Billy Lucas, Seth Walsh, Asher Brown, and Aiyisha Hassan to take their own lives were not born hating LGBT people. This hatred can only be learned, and the most effective schools for this type of learning are, sadly, often our congregations.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


A Pastoral Call

Metropolitan Community Churches

For Immediate Release: 07 October 2010

Not long ago, accusations against Bishop Eddie Long alleging the misuse of spiritual authority to coerce and justify sexual exploitation of teenage boys surfaced in a suburb of Atlanta known as Lithonia. Like the sermons of this mega-church pastor, the stories of extravagant gifts, expensive trips and scholarships for further education spread far and wide and many, from private congregants to public newscasters, have offered comment.

Some speak of undying devotion to a charismatic leader and the good work he has done. Others profess disillusionment with "the church" and cite examples of clergy misconduct that spread across continents and cultures and include many denominations. --- Still others focus on the young men whose lives, regardless of the determinations of courts of law, have been forever changed. They face a lifetime of challenge to re-anchor their faith and hope and trust in a God who is often served by those who themselves have been the victims of structures and systems of abuse.

We speak today first and foremost as pastors and spiritual leaders of Metropolitan Community Churches. As such, our hearts go out to all those who have been or are currently the victims of abuse at the hands of leaders entrusted with their spiritual and physical safety and development. We offer not only our prayers, but our houses of worship and offices as safe space for those who are seeking refuge, counsel, support and healing.

For many of us the recent allegations and revelations bring up a host of emotional responses. For some of us they bring up long buried memories. --- For all of us they should bring up the need to engage in serious prayer and public conversation about things like the safety of our children and other vulnerable populations in our congregations, the diversity of God's creation and the gift of various sexual orientations, the afflictions of sexism, heterosexism and homophobia, gender and marital diversity, the ethics of shared ministry, and the use and misuse of power and authority especially from the pulpit. Sensationalism around guilt and innocence should not be allowed to mask the grave and serious issues before us as communities of faith.

For those of us in Metropolitan Community Churches, we believe the recent revelations should also challenge us to bring to light all the experiences of our past religious and spiritual upbringings, and how those experiences now shape our beliefs and leadership.

Healing and recovery for individuals and institutions alike begins with telling the truth. The truth for us is that the recent revelations out of Georgia are nothing new. The truth for us is that homophobia and abuse of spiritual authority in the traditional church, and internalized homophobia and racism in Metropolitan Community Churches have prevented the kinds of discussions that hold the potential to shape a whole and healthy church universal.

All of us have secrets, whether they are about things we have done or things that have happened to us. All of our churches must become safe space for the telling of all our truths. That, we believe, is the only path to healing.

Risk management systems and insurance policies are not enough. Courts of law will never be able to offer the kind of healing that the Body of Christ is crying out for.

We cannot be silent anymore. The sordid appeals to sexism, heterosexism and homophobia by clergy who themselves are often engaging in the very things they are condemning must stop. Seminaries and supervisors of clergy in formation must be challenged to confront their biases around sexual, gender and marital diversity. And people of faith like you and like us must take up the mantle of pursuing justice and equality in the church, and do that vocally.

The young man recently escorted out of a service at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church for standing up and demanding that truth be spoken must become the example
for all of us whether in private conversation or public forum.

We cannot be silent anymore. There is an ongoing need to re-read the black church traditions inside and outside of the black church. MCC, as a body seeking to become a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic movement of faith, must engage and nurture all of us in the pursuit of the best of what those traditions have to offer and challenging all of us to look again at elements that only repeat "the sins of the fathers."

We need --- in MCC and in the black church and everywhere --- leaders who will continue to explore how God is speaking to the church now and who will use their
ministries to build communities that rely neither on the optics of success nor appeals to prosperity and political power, but on the call of the prophets to be a house of prayer for all God's people. --- We need leaders across the board who will no longer hide behind pretended norms of social or sexual conformity, and who are willing to no longer be silent about the truth of their sexual and human identities.

We cannot be silent anymore. Violence is not a single community issue. Lying about who we are to get what we want when we want it, violation of others in the bedroom and in our homes, bullying in our schools, speaking from the pulpit in ways that are damaging to kids and adults alike are not black or white issues, but human issues that must be addressed by all of us who profess to be the followers of a God of Healing and Hope and Restoration. The revelations out of Georgia challenge us to step up to the plate and speak openly and honestly about the intersections of power and resources and sexuality and theology.

We are clergy and religious leaders who have promised to use our leadership and ministries to affirm the diversity of God's creation and the goodness of all life. We have promised to be present in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health for all the People of God. Today, we honor those promises by calling the church universal to accountability not only for its young and vulnerable, but for all those who look to its proclamations for a word that will heal and restore ... a word of truth.

In just a few short days, many in this country will celebrate National Coming Out Day. Coming out is not just something that LGBTQI people do. It's something that we do as human beings when we believe that, as Jesus taught, the truth will set us free.

We pray now and pledge to act for the day when all children and all adults are safe in all communities of faith, when all clergy and religious leaders feel safe enough to be honest about who they really are, and when all our theologies, though divergent in content and approach, may agree on this one thing: that everyone should be safe in the presence of God. And we invite you, our brothers and sisters in Christ, to join us in promising to never be silent again.

In faith, in hope and in love,

The Rev. Dr. Robert Griffin
The Rev. Onetta Brooks
Mr. Barry Hundley
Mr. DeWayne Davis
The Rev. B. Y. Boone
The Rev. Elder Darlene Garner

You are invited to a panel presentation exploring the issues raised in

Join facilitator The Rev. Dr. Robert Griffin and panelists
Bishop Yvette Flunder, Presiding Bishop, The Fellowship
Rev. Elder Darlene Garner, Council of Elders, MCC
The Rev. Dr. Joan Martin, Ethicist, Episcopal Divinity School,
Mr. DeWayne Davis, MCC Public Policy Team,
and The Rev.Dr. Irene Monroe, Public Theologian, Writer and Activist
for a serious conversation from the perspective of faith and ethics.

COMING OUT DAY, October 11th, 5:00 - 6:00pm/ET.

To join the conversation please call 218-931-4141.

Id 778024.

Presenters only will be heard.