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From Where Does Your Passion Arise?

2/26

I was recently asked by a new minister friend about how I received the calling to speak out for GLBT inclusion in the church or, as he phrased it, “From where does your passion arise?” I can’t remember anyone asking me this before.

What came to my mind were people.

First, I thought of my uncle. He and the man who my family called “his friend” visited Pittsburgh regularly in the fall to enjoy the changing season. My grandmother loved them both, and no one said anything more than that about it. It wasn’t until forty years later, when my uncle was in his 80’s, that my aunt told me the family had twice in the 1940’s sent my uncle to a sanatorium to “be cured.” He was deemed “unqualified” in World War II, just as brave GLBT people who wish to serve our country are turned away for who they are today. And yet he and his partner were together faithfully for over 50 years until my uncle passed away. During the last 10 years, my uncle’s partner stayed in the nursing home with him every day as he became more and more debilitated with strokes. Their love and commitment, which could be a model for any couple, was achieved despite the spoken and unspoken bigotry all around them.

I also thought about Chris Glaser, my classmate in seminary, who was already under the care of his presbytery, heading toward ordination, when we met. He put all of that in jeopardy when he came out our first year. Chris went on to create a vibrant ministry for GLBT people in the LA area as non-ordained staff of a Presbyterian Church, and to write a shelf of books that help us all understand the experience of a deeply faithful Christian gay man. Chris was finally ordained in the Metropolitan Community Church a few years ago, a terrible loss for the PCUSA and perhaps for Chris’ Reformed heart.

So, from where does passion arise?

Passion rises from our common humanity. I am no better than the GLBT people I know, and I admire their grace in the face of judgment toward them.

Passion rises from anger at the hurtful rejection perpetrated by the Church toward gentle souls who love Christ and feel called to serve their church, and toward those who love their same-gender spouse.

Passion rises from knowing that the privileges I have — first to have my marriage approved by church and state, and second to serve in ordained office — are denied to earnest GLBT faithful for no good reason.

And passion rises from joy when I do what I am convinced Jesus would do, and join with others in actively working to reform the Church to its true loving self.

I wondered as I spoke to my new friend, “Can passion arise from this, just knowing people?”

And the answer came that Jesus’ passion arose from precisely this — knowing the suffering of people. Jesus fed, touched, healed, taught and inspired because He was “moved by compassion” for the people He met. Fueled by similar passion, I rise each morning to do the best I can to love God and neighbor. How about you?

Peace,

Reverend Janet


3 Responses
  • pennyjane hanson on April 4, 2011

    hi janet. i was just reading through these old posts of yours…seraching for a little comfort. it’s not been one of my best days.

    last night a youngster i’d been working with decided that his isolation was no longer tolerable so he took what he believed was the only option left to him.

    today my passion is repressed, today i only mourn.

    yesterday morning on my way to church i came across a hitchhiker…it was a day i didn’t want to miss church, our pastor’s last sermon with us and…communion sunday. but, there i was with a car and there he was with a thumb…i picked him up.

    i managed to get him to where he was going and still get back to the church in time for the service. i was feeling pretty good about myself..i thought, well…i make a pretty good utility knife in God’s pocket…a tool he can just whip out and take care of some small problem without even opening up his tool box.

    just after the sermon the head usher tapped me on the shoulder and said there was someone looking for me. it was the guy i’d picked up that morning. it seems he’d lost his cell phone and was hoping it was in my car. it was….and as i hurried him back to the bus station, i prayed for God to let me get back to the church in time for communion….just in the knick of time.

    a really crackerjack utility tool i am, i thought…and God must concur…as i took communion with a joyful prayer.

    and then i got word of my little friend’s final decision. he wanted to believe me when i told him how much God loved and wanted him…but mine, it seems, was a voice in the wilderness. what he heard from his family and his church was that he was a sick, perverted abomination before the Lord…worthless to all. God hadn’t put much power in my mouth with this youngster…what a failed tool i am.

    and then this evening…a three hour committee meeting of our adult ed sub-committee with our associate pastor.

    at one point she asked us each to point out what group we felt was being least served by our efforts. all the usual suspects were rounded up. the young parents, the single adults, the disabled elderly…all acknowleged. we went though each group, identified why we weren’t getting the best for them and thought about ways we might do better.

    then i mentioned the acronym. i think my passion had risen from empathy. i talked…maybe a little too passionately for a presbyterian committee meeting, about how i felt that not only was our committee failing them but that the whole church was failing them miserably.

    mostly silence, a couple of nods…it seemed like an invitation to continue, so i did. i started talking…abstractly…about the horrific consequences of our neglect, and how i felt these kids were being singled out for our lack of attention.

    then i got disagreement. “whoa, pj..i have to differ with you there. you don’t seem to understand about how broken and undertreated are the over-achievers around here. how badly they feel when they don’t feel like they are living up to the standards set for them.” the committee chairman pointed out that some of these kids are dismayed to the point of suicide.

    that’s when i wanted to become very Christ-like. i wanted to turn over the tables and scream…”aren’t you listening?” i wanted to break out the suicide graphics and do a power point presentation…but i didn’t. i just turned red and shut up.

    the meeting continued, but i used my new skill…the capacity to “decline” any further invitation to speak.

    then, i came home…broke out your website and looked around for a wetstone.

    thank you for the opportunity for this utility tool to sharpen herself up, and pray that God will put me back in His pocket….thank you for listening.

    much love and HOPE. pj

  • Janet Edwards on April 5, 2011

    Dear pj,

    How I wish I could buck up your tender heart! Not one of your best days? Pj, it was a glorious day of seeing Christ in every person you met and meeting with compassion the need in everyone, just as Jesus did, including the need of your church committee to take a pass on the concern you so passionately raised before them. Your silence was an immense kindness to them.

    You know, we had a pastor in our presbytery who killed himself when he feared that he was going to be outed. He only spoke of being gay in a letter he wrote to us, his colleagues in the presbytery, that was read in our meeting after his death. He was a very faithful man. I have thought since then that he was more willing to face God with Jesus at his side in death than face us, supposedly Christian ministers.

    I share this just to suggest that this young man may have gotten your message of God’s love for him loud and clear and so raced to those everlasting arms. And in general, working as hard as you do to love God and neighbor is the success, not how others respond to it. That is theirs to take before God. I am sure your sub-committee will revisit youth suicide as a community need. You will have the opportunity to speak again and the group will be invited to be the arms and legs of Christ in the world again. That invitation will be the success–does that make sense to you?

    May you know the peace which passes understanding today, Janet

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