From Where Does Your Passion Arise?
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?