Wednesday, January 23, 2013

First openly LGBT clergy ever helps lead Inaugural Prayer Service

A lesbian minister, Nancy Wilson of Metropolitan Community Churches, became the first openly gay or lesbian clergy member in history to participate as a worship leader a Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service.

She read the scripture at President Obama’s Inaugural Prayer Service yesterday morning (Jan. 22) at the National Cathedral in Washington.

You can see her reading the Bible passage (Isaiah 55:6-11) there on video at this link:

I worked closely with Nancy in the 1990s when I was MCC’s National Ecumenical Officer and she was Chief Ecumenical Officer. Since then she went on to become moderator of the whole Metropolitan Community Churches denomination, which was founded in 1968 as a LGBT-affirming church and now has ministries in 40 countries. Nancy was part of the first LGBT delegation to meet with a sitting president in 1979. Almost 35 years later she is serving on President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Rev. Nancy Wilson at President Obama’s Inaugural Prayer Service (

Nancy read a scripture that includes one of my favorite lines: "My word... will not return to me empty; but it will accomplish that which I have purposed, and prosper in that for which I sent it."

How often I turned to that scripture in the early days of my LGBT ministry! It helped me through the emptiness of the AIDS crisis and the rejections that Nancy and I faced in trying to do "dialogue on homosexuality" at the World Council of Churches and National Council of Churches. It is amazing to see that the seeds we planted are bearing fruit now. God's purpose is being accomplished, although the journey is far from over.

Nancy stood for many queer people when read the Bible at the Inaugural Prayer service. Before the event, she wrote about what is means in a blog post for Believe Out Loud: “When I stand in the presence of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden to read the Hebrew Bible under the soaring arches of the National Cathedral on Tuesday, I will be exalting. This exaltation is not for myself but for the millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people who have longed for a safe place to call home,” she wrote.

The Inaugural Prayer Service was the final event on the inauguration schedule. The inclusion of an openly lesbian minister was a suitable ending for an inauguration with many breakthroughs for LGBT people. No president had ever even mentioned LGBT people before in an Inauguration speech, but Obama set a new precedent with a strong affirmation of LGBT equality:

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until… click here for full text.

Related links:

Inaugural Prayer Service Includes First Out Gay Clergy Member (Advocate)

A Lesbian, a Bible and an Inauguration Service: In Search of Safe Homes by Nancy Wilson (Believe Out Loud)

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Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts

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