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Coming out … Christian

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Clipart from Marj Johnston
Clipart from Marj Johnston

Since June is Gay Pride Month in the U.S., I thought I'd come out. After all, it’s true that “coming out” is not a one-time experience. In fact, I'm coming out Christian.

For 35-plus years I've held my faith in the Christian tradition (45 years as a church attender). I've been out as a lesbian for nearly 40 years to myself and out to family, friends and peers for anywhere between now and 30 years (for those who are just finding out in this post). So what's the big deal?

The big deal is that many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) people have been held at arm's length in so many ways from — of all places — the Christian church. When I review my life and faith journeys as outlined above, I've been in God's space forever — and in church since I was 7 years old, knowing my distinct “otherness” since 12, as a self-professed Jesus believer at 15, and an out lesbian since 23ish. Virtually my whole life has been a weaving of becoming who God intends for me to be without compromise to faith or to person.

So now I come out as a Christian? Yep. I’ve mostly avoided calling myself a Christian. Christ-follower, okay. Believer, sure. But there are some who call themselves Christian who act less than Christ-like toward others, so I let that word go. Now I want it back. I am a follower of the teachings of Jesus, and since those who call themselves Christian like to be considered as most adept at compassion, hope and faith in God and for the world, I want that word back.

I am many things: daughter, sister, auntie, partner, step-mother, niece, cousin, friend; lousy fisherperson, competitive board gamer, daring griller, avid reader, curious day-tripper; life long learner, human services professional, yard putter; Christ-follower. Pastor. Child of God. Christian.

My folks used to remind me that I could either be a part of the problem or a part of the solution, and if LGBTQI folks think Christians are out to judge and create distance between what was available when they appeared to be straight and now that they aren’t, then I want to be a part of shifting those things, starting with taking back “Christian” as a faith tradition that is for me and every other LGBTQI person who longs to be on that path of compassion, hope and faith.

As a pastor, I get to practice, study and nudge forward conversations about what we do with the radical teachings of Jesus, creating welcome in our world AND in our churches. Where are ALL God’s children welcome? In places that encourage and stimulate growth based in the teachings of Jesus. ALL should be welcome in our sanctuaries, our pews, Sunday school classes, Bible studies, book groups, church kitchens and parlors, nurseries. ALL must be welcome at the table where we serve the elements of grain and grape and at our baptisteries for the waters of baptism.

Of all the things Jesus shared with those who followed him, I don’t know where it says, “You who follow will be called Christians.” But for those who followed him or wandered around him, lingering where he taught or lurking to see if he would trip, Jesus made it clear that we are to respond by loving God with everything of who we are — body, soul, and spirit, mind, will, and emotion — and by loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Now it’s your turn, all you Christians! Come out and share in the work and words of Jesus!

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