Sunday, November 01, 2009

All Saints Day invokes GLBT saints

From “Invocation for All Saints Day” by James Lancaster, published in Equal Rites: Lesbian and Gay Worship, Ceremonies, and Celebrations:

Our gay and gracious God, where shall we find your gay and lesbian saints? Have they all been lost to us? Bring us Saint Perpetua and Saint Felicitas, martyred women whose love and faith sustained generations of Christian hope. Bring us Saint Sergio and Saint Bacchus, whose fidelity and endurance inspired centuries of gay lovers. Bring us Saint Anselm, Saint Aelrod, Saint Paulinus, and the nuns of Tegernsee, who revealed lesbian and gay love and courage to the church and the world so long ago. Praise God for these valiant souls!

Jim Lancaster was one of three openly gay seminarians who gained national publicity in 1988 for challenging the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s policy against ordination of gay men and lesbians.

Meet the saints he names (and more!) in the new GLBT Saints series here at the Jesus in Love Blog.


LX said...

oh, now come on, gay god? In the search for equal rights one can go too far the other way.

God is not gay, nor straight, he is a loving relationship between three persons, two of which don't even have a sexuality!

Making claims like that really does contradict even the core of the Catholic Church. I thought the aim was to keep the core beliefs but question the man made laws which are not inline with that core, like a lack of acceptance and love for GLBT persons.

Keep it realistic and there is a chance we may get somewhere. Go over the top like that and we will get nowhere.

(I know it was a quote)

Kittredge Cherry said...

Thanks for a expressing your opinion, LX. This All Saints liturgy caused a big uproar when it was used in a worship service about 15 or 20 years ago at Metropolitan Community Church of Los Angeles. People got upset over the very same issue that you raise: “gay God” versus “God is not gay!” “We mustn’t worship our sexuality or remake God in our own image,” etc. The whole invocation also includes a reference to “lesbian God,” too.

I agree that “gay God” or “lesbian God” does not express all of who God is -- but no words can. You say, “God is not gay, nor straight,” but I believe that God encompasses BOTH gay AND straight… and much more. God has no limits. I see value in highlighting aspects of God and God’s creation that have been devalued, such as GLBT people. We, too, are created in God’s good image… so doesn’t that mean there is a bit of gayness in God?

The aim here is to uphold the core of Christ’s life and teaching -- even if it does contradict beliefs of the Catholic Church or any institutional church.

eric said...

One of my favorite hymns in the MCC has verses that talk about strong mother God, warm father God, young, vibrant God, old, aching God. The truth, to me, is God is all of these... and none of these.

What are the core beliefs? This isn't a Catholic site. I'm not sure if KittKatt would consider it an MCC site. It doesn't matter. As she says, it's so much more than that.

I'd be hard-pressed to find any more "core beliefs" than:

-God IS;
-God Creates;
-God Loves what God Creates.

As to a gay God or a lesbian God, God isn't either of these. God can't be contained in any descriptive word or combination of words. But God's nature does include, I believe, all that is good in any descriptive word... and that includes gay and/or lesbian.

Kittredge Cherry said...

Thanks, Eric, for a beautiful and profound statement of faith. I also love the hymn that you mentioned: “Bring Many Names” by Brian Wren. Here's a link to the lyrics:

It’s exciting to think of “gay and gracious God” in the context of that hymn. I’ve heard the hymn sung many times in various churches, without anybody getting angry about the images of God in that hymn as father, mother, old, young.

But the phrases “gay God” and “lesbian God” are too much for some… maybe because Jim didn’t balance them with “heterosexual God” in his All Saints invocation.

“Bring Many Names” is a favorite in MCC, but it is in hymnals from many denominations and traditions throughout the English-speaking world.

By the way, this blog is not officially part of MCC or any other church. I’m a retired MCC clergy and a free agent for Christ in the world.

(P.S. When I looked up the link above, I saw that some people have complained about “mother God.”)

Anonymous said...

LX might think that god is larger than gay or straight, but then uses "he" to describe god. As a woman, I don't see god as a he at all, because this promotes male supremacy, men making god in their own male dominant image.

The Catholic church uses the excuse that Jesus was male to exclude women from the priesthood, and men like to think of themselves as little gods all the time.

To me god is a power lesbian, with a sword in her hand, defending women from patriarchy, avenging the wrongs against women, strives for women always. That's my god. I want a kick butt god who knows how to wield the sword against my oppressors.

Trudie said...

As Jesus told the Samaritan woman when he met her at Jacob's Well, God is Spirit and must be worshiped in spirit and truth. And God is Love, and Love is best epitomized by Joy, and Joyous and Gay are supposed to be synonyms. Too bad some of us get so hung up on semantics we lose the entire point!

eric said...

As you know, Kitt, many years ago, well before I joined MCC, MCC determined that inclusive language was to be used in all our activities. Fresh out of the seminary, where we'd been carefully instructed why referring to God as anything but "Him" or "Father" was wrong (and it was a very liberal school) I was at first quite bemused, and amused - but also offended, by the inclusivity of the prayers and readings, etc. My first encounter with Bring Many Names really left me shaking my head at how ridiculous it was.

Over time, that song became one of my favorites. I embraced the inclusive language as used in worship, and in our day to day dealings.

Imagine, then, my surprise when all of a sudden, the use of inclusive language diminished in our congregation! And more so when I discovered it was the WOMEN who were most opposed to it, and who militantly espoused the use of FATHER, only, in our prayers.

That trend reversed itself again, I'm happy to say.

I couldn't help thinking this morning... I wonder, if it were to come to light that I hated green-billed, orange-feathered sentient birds, I think I would have to add to that song, a verse about green-billed, orange feathered sentient birds as God.

It is precisely because so many of us... okay, I think ALL of us... have preconceived notions of what and who God is that we must constantly stretch our comfort zones.

Perhaps my earlier list of core beliefs should be expanded:

God IS...
- black, white, brown, red, orange, green, mottled, and none of these;
- old, young, ancient, ever-new, and none of these;
- female, male, intersexed, and none of these;
- mother, father, daughter, son, grandparent, aunt, uncle, and none of these.

Kitt, I love your site, and this blog.

C.W.S. said...

Thanks for inviting me to the discussion. It's a big topic.

I think that it's a good thing to challenge our individual concepts of God. When we see God in other people we acknowledge that God can have other faces.

This presents a challenge to all of us. Far too many churches can't even envision "Mother God," so "gay and gracious God" is that much farther away. But at the same time, "our side" has to be willing to embrace a "Father God" too, sometimes -- God has many names.

As one of the first hymns written by someone in MCC reminds us:

Our God is not a woman,
Our God is not a man;
Our God is both and neither,
Our God is I WHO AM.

19th century Congregationalist George Rawson put it thusly:

We limit not the truth of God
To our poor reach of mind,
By notions of our day and sect,
Crude, partial, and confined.
No, let a new and better hope
Within our hearts be stirred:
For God has yet more light and truth
To break forth from the Word.

If anything, we're currently seeing a backlash against inclusive language in the church, which may have reached its peak in the 1990s. While MCC supposedly approved inclusive language in the early 80s, they never really defined it, and their congregational model also allowed each church to define it for themselves, depending on who was in leadership at a given moment.

P.S. I do present inclusive language hymnody fairly exclusively at my blog, but my regular readers are primarily fans of hymnody and merely tolerate the language aspect (with occasional objections). Would be nice to have some readers who "get it."

Kittredge Cherry said...

These are wonderful comments and I am amazed at how this has blossomed into such a wide-ranging discussion.

We need to see God’s endless variety. I personally grew rather weary of the genderless type of inclusive language, and that’s why I write about God as male AND female in my “Jesus in Love” novels.

For the record, the “hymn written by someone in MCC” is “My God is Like an Eagle” by Larry Bernier, another personal favorite of mine.

Leland Bryant Ross said...

Thanks for mentioning this thread over at CWS, KittKatt. I'm a straight Baptist, and I have no serious problem with "gay, gracious God" (my only quibble over "gay and gracious God" is about scansion, not sexuality or theology). CWS mentioned "Our God is like an eagle" (or "My", but I've always heard and seen and sung "Our"); that song spoke to me powerfully the second time I attended an MCC service.

I'd gone to MCCSeattle's morning service as part of a quest to figure out where I should align myself for worship if my Baptist church and association decided to exclude GLBT folks from ministry. I got there a bit late, and there was singing going on as I walked in. The tune was familiar, WEBB, but I'd never heard the "Our God is like an eagle Who helps her young to fly" text before. Loved it. During the announcements they mentioned they were having a hymn-singing healing service that evening, and I thought I might go back. The clincher was, as I was standing on a street corner that afternoon, I looked up at the Aurora Bridge and there was an eagle soaring near the bridge, the first time I'd seen a wild bald eagle in Fremont.

I attended MCC fairly regularly (at least once a month, plus some special events) for the next year, and ended up deciding that it wasn't really where I wanted to be, and in any event the Baptists found a solution I could enthusiastically live with (Evergreen), so push never did come to shove at my level. But I did translate that hymn (and a couple of other MCC pieces) into Esperanto.

My Esperanto hymnal is offline at the moment due to the demise of GeoCities, but it's still in the Internet Archive.

Leland aka Haruo

Turtlewomyn said...

I love the idea of god being like a green billed exotic bird! In fact, I had a vision once of god being my cat.

But a bird like a penguin is awfully enticing too.

Kittredge Cherry said...

Leland, thank you for sharing your powerful experience with “Our God is Like and Eagle.” (It was my mistake to call it “MY God is Like an Eagle” -- oops!)

Turtlewomyn, you’ve taken it a step further and brought up some interesting bird imagery for the divine. “Our God is like a Penguin” doesn’t have the obvious appeal of eagles, until you stop and think about penguin’s tenacity in a harsh climate and supreme care for their young.

God is compared to a mother hen in the Bible. And of course, God’s eye is on the sparrows.