The Invitation to Believe Out Loud


What does it mean to “Believe Out Loud”?

I recently found out at a daylong orientation to the Believe Out Loud Campaign where Rachel, of the Reconciling Ministries Network of the United Methodist Church, led about twenty of us in learning how to do just that.

We learned that to Believe Out Loud means being willing and able to articulate one’s experience in the church as GLBT or as an ally so that those we share our experiences with get some insight into the choices and challenges we face. To do this at all is a tall order; to accomplish it in just two minutes is utterly daunting. But that is what we learned to do.

It was a holy privilege to hear the stories of how people found a way to be faithful to Christ as they came out to themselves, to their loved ones and to their church families. And as the day progressed, it became clear that this kind of personal sharing is the best way we can receive from the church what God has already offered to us in Christ: a loving embrace.

For example, a pastor in my group shared the moment he grasped that his assumption about the Biblical position on same-gender, loving couples had to be examined. (He confessed that he had never really given it a lot of thought before that.)

That moment came when he visited the Shower of Stoles exhibit and saw the stoles with stories sewn into them, lining those church basement walls. The stories expressed the deep pain of real Christians, called by God, just as he was, to serve in ordained ministry, but denied the opportunity to serve because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. This sobering reminder that it is not safe for most GLBT people in the church to come out as fully who we are moved him to return to the Bible with fresh eyes. Rooted deeply in Biblical ground, he is now one of the leaders in our area for full inclusion of GLBT people in the church.

The moment I chose to describe was the challenge of being invited by Nancy and Brenda to preside at their wedding. I felt immensely honored to be asked by Nancy and Brenda to engage in this pastoral act, but also fearful, to be honest, about what would happen when the wedding announcement with my name as officiant appeared in our local paper. We knew some colleagues of mine in the Presbyterian Church disagreed with our understanding of marriage as a covenant between two people that is sustained by love and faithfulness, regardless of the gender of the partners.

In the end, my sense of God’s blessing on Nancy and Brenda sustained my choice to honor their request. It did lead to three years of adjudication in the Presbyterian Church, but that ended in an acquittal, which, I hope, encourages other ministers to say, “Yes!” to the pastoral call when GLBT faithful ask to be married. The Holy Spirit descended upon the community gathered to witness Nancy and Brenda join in marriage. The wedding remains one of the most spiritually powerful moments of my whole life.

And Believe Out Loud was transformative in its own way. In truth, I am writing this a bit differently from what I said in my group that morning. Their very helpful comment to me was that I might share a little more of the feelings I had as this experience unfolded. I responded that Presbyterians are not called “the frozen chosen” for nothing — but I knew they were right. I confess their encouragement helped me feel some of these deep feelings about that journey for the first time. My small group that day was a pastoral blessing for me.

Believe Out Loud gently nudges us all to take the immensely courageous action of sharing ourselves in a way that may be difficult for another to hear or for us to say, but is also life-giving and transforming for both the speaker and the hearer.

And Believe Out Loud does not send us out there to do this alone. It creates communities that nurture and support, and that, like Jesus with the disciples, send us out with prayer and receive us back with joy. Join in through the website or though activities in your neighborhood. Receive the blessings Believing Out Loud holds in store for you and those you love.


Reverend Janet

8 Responses
  • Rachel Harvey on May 21, 2010

    Janet, thank you so much for sharing your experience! You have beautifully articulated what I have the privileged to experience every time I attend a Believe Out Loud gathering – blessing! Thank you for continuing to follow your call, I’m glad to call you a sister “frozen” or not, in this work : )

  • Cynthia Little on May 21, 2010

    To Whom it may concern:

    I think it is wonderful to have a platform. I belong to a Presbyterian Church, but either they completely ignore the Gay issue or it is completely hidden. I feel like I am by myself in trying to live out loud and be who God calls me to be. As a seminarian at Shaw University I am among the most ignorant and hostile people. They are die hard homophobics with no clue. I have not left because I have come too far and do not hide who I am. I have some hostility towards many of them at times. It is refreshing to know that there are people of God that live out loud somewhere! Thank you,
    Cynthia Little

  • Michael J. Adee on May 21, 2010

    Thank you Janet for writing about the opportunity before all human beings to Believe Out Loud.

    I am grateful to have the choice to Believe Out Loud — and the libertation, grace and peace of mind that comes when I answer the choice with YES. My experience and faith journey is that each YES makes the next YES easier.

    with hope and grace,

  • Janet Edwards on May 21, 2010

    Dear Rachel, Cynthia and Michael,

    You are all very welcome but I feel that my thanks back to you is more appropriate.

    Rachel, you did such a lovely, pastoral job of leading us that Saturday! The Methodist Church is blessed to have you serving them as a deaconess and I pray for all joy in your ministry.

    Cynthia, you remind me of Jesus’ parable of the sower. I usually focus on the seeds but you bring into new focus for me the variety of ground into which the seeds fall. You are growing in such rocky ground and yet you continue faithfully to seek to serve God and neighbor. I am glad that the wonder of cyberspace can connect you with supportive friends. I hope you find a community at

    And, Michael, your courage is such an inspiration for so many including me. You remind me that believing out loud is just what Christians do out of joy and gratitude.

    Peace be with you all, Janet

  • Janet on May 22, 2010

    I have followed your experiences the last 3 years via the MLP, TAMFS, and Covenant Network sites. When I heard of Believe Out Loud I bought one of their pims and wore it as I joined a new PCUSA church (our old little one had to close). I had talked with the minister of the new church before joining to see if by any chance she might want to lead the church to be more open and affirming of LGBT issues/people. She wants to avoid the issue now, as she is new to the church and there were other issues she had to deal with. I understood and said OK, but figured I would somehow find a way to “believe out loud.” Some in the church know where I stand (if the opportunity comes I state my stand), others don’t. They have just elected me to be an elder, so perhaps from this point I can “believe out loud” more clearly. But I did assure the pastor I am not coming on session with an agenda (which she feared I might be). It is my prayer that simple events will occur which will allow me to speak with/for the lgbt folk in the congregation. Your work and your blogs are so inspiring and helpful. Between you, Michael Adee, Janie Spahr, Lisa Larges, Sonnie Swenson-Forbes and others I manage to keep my hope up that someday the PCUSA will change its position on ordination of LLGBT qualified men and women and on marriage equality. My prayers are with you and your congregation and I give thanks again for all your courage to be out there.
    Janet B.

  • Janet Linderoth Bohren on May 22, 2010

    Meant for my name to show on above link. Janet L. Bohren.

  • Donna on May 22, 2010

    The hard part about sharing in the way you have discussed here is that it requires a vulnerability, a conquering of the fear of what others will think, say, and do. Jesus was quite fearless in this regard and it’s hard to follow his example (the response of others can be one of many possibiliities – pain, love, mutual regard, reconciliation – and who wants to face pain like criticism or rejection or ridicule? Our very human feelings can debilitate us.), but if we are so led, then so we must do. I think if we don’t, we miss the reward of our own growth and, worse, forfeit an opportunity for God’s work to be done. As a GLBT person with fundamentalist roots, I was taught that I would be held responsible not only for the times I stood up and shared the good news of Jesus Christ, but also for every time I was ashamed or afraid to do so. So, while there are times I miss opportunities to stand up and be counted for sharing God’s love for GLBT people, there are times I have and know without a doubt that it was fully within God’s Spirit, love, and grace paving the way.

    As an aside, because of my roots which are grounded in a very real presence of God’s Spirit, the Presbyterian tendency to discount “feeling” is troublesome to me, although I don’t like that derogatory moniker (“frozen chosen”). My understanding has evolved to the thought that just as God created us in a myriad of ways, so God reveals God’s self to us in a myriad of ways, through mind, heart, body, soul and spirit. None of them are wrong or better, they just are.

  • Janet Edwards on May 24, 2010

    Dear Janet and Donna,

    Deepest thanks for your thoughts prompted by the approach of Believing Out Loud! I am grateful for the ways both of you shine God’s light where you are with the people there.

    Janet, your patient stand for GLBT people is an inspiration for me. Whether inclusion of GLBT people comes at a local level like support for an anti-discrimination ordinance in your city, at the church level like being informed about inclusion overtures coming before GA or at the national level like sending cards to Congress to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the opportunity for your congregation to side with God’s love for all will come. And you will be ready.

    Donna, you are very right that sharing experience as encouraged in Believe Out Loud can be burdened by a worry about what the other person will think. I am most successful when I remember that the response of my listener also requires courage. And I listen to the response for that which I can affirm so that we find our common ground, usually in Christ, and build together on that. And I try to bring my whole self, with all my feelings, as you wisely suggest. And not always easy for me.

    May you both be well. Peace, Janet

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