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.