Walking On Broken Glass
Well, it has certainly been a season. After missing all of Christmas with the flu, and spending some much needed time on vacation in my happy place, in sunny Carpinteria, California with my beloved, I have had a good amount of time to reflect on many things; primarily my relationship to “The Church.” The title of this post is an homage to one of my favorite artists, Annie Lennox, and also descriptive of the state I find myself in, in relationship to institutional religion.
In August of 2018, I was suspended from all service as a Subdeacon in the Orthodox Church in America, and told I could no longer vest and serve in Liturgy, teach catechism, preach sermons, lead groups, or wear my cassock (fancy black dress for churchy dudes) because I refused to remove or “clarify” my post regarding my support for the LGBTQ+ community.
Initially, while some of this was expected, I was not upset or hurt. I knew very well that by posting my beliefs, I could come under scrutiny and might ruffle a few feathers. However, I never expected the scorched earth that followed. In the time that has passed since August of last year, I have heard next to nothing from leaders in the church. I understand not knowing what to do with someone; I don’t understand pretending they don’t exist. Most recently, I have been asked to stay away from the camp that I faithfully ran for 17 years. The new director is being bullied by some folks who believe I “might be a danger to the children” as I may “spread my gay liberal agenda'” to them. Some have even threatened to keep their kids from camp if I am involved in any way. This is madness. What have we become? This is “The Church?”
Sadly, I believe I must write this now, as too much time has passed, nothing has changed, and people are wondering what is happening, with many starting to come to their own conclusions. Brass tacks: I have been silenced and ostracized by the church I have served my entire life, because I questioned the teaching and tradition of the institution and it’s treatment of LGBTQ+ people, and after 20+ scandal-free years of working with youth and camps, and for a time as the National Youth, Young Adult, and Campus Ministries Director of the OCA, I am now believed to be unfit for leadership and unsafe around children.
It hurts. It’s hard and grievous. I am frustrated and angry. But, that being said, I am also glad. I know I am not alone. Many others are asking the church the same questions, and, if what I am experiencing is only a tiny fraction of what anyone in the LGBTQ+ community has experienced at anytime in their lives in any church, it is a humbling joy to stand in solidarity. Marginalizing anyone is wrong. The Church is the one place everyone should feel welcome, safe, and loved. The suggestion that your voice matters less or should be discounted because you are born a certain way (gay, female, brown, etc.) is absurd, and frankly, not compatible with the Gospel. That we consume our own and build walls rather than bridges to ensure “they” don’t corrupt our institution should be telling enough. That some delight in another’s punishment or casting out, is a clear sign that we are adrift. A tree is known by its fruit.
As the Reverend William Barber II once said,
“When someone excuses a person’s bad behavior with the phrase, ‘Well I know he’s a good person in his heart.’ I want to say, frankly, I don’t give a damn what’s in your heart. What do your actions say about what’s in your heart? Jesus didn’t curse the fig tree because it didn’t have good fruit in its heart; He cursed it because it bore no fruit for others. What’s ‘in your heart’ is shown by what you do, not by what you say is in there.”Rev. William J. Barber II
On reflection during this time, the question I have asked over and over is, “What is the fruit?” Is “The Church” making people more loving, more inclusive, more joyful, more involved in helping the “least of these”…or not? Am I? Do we live the life that Jesus the Christ exemplified, or do we just worship His journey while refusing to walk it ourselves? Do I?
Talking is hard. It’s often like walking on broken glass. I don’t know where all of this is going, or how it will end; I only know that I cannot be silent when I see others being treated as “other” and told they do not belong, by the same people who say they are the Beloved of an unconditionally loving God. It really is that simple. Do we live what we say we believe, or not? Do our actions show that? Out of the heart the mouth speaks and the body acts. What do your actions say about the fruit of your heart? If perfect love casts out fear, what are you afraid of? You are beloved by God. So are “they.”
“I would rather live on the verge of falling and let my security be in the all sufficiency of the grace of God than to live in some kind of pietistical illusion of moral excellence. Not that I don’t want to be morally excellent but my faith isn’t in the idea that I am more moral than anyone else. My faith is the idea that God and His love are greater than any of the sins we commit.”Rich Mullins
I don’t have all the answers, but I know who I’m with. I’m with Jesus, who is always with “them.” I hope that I am. I hope that we are. Time will tell. A tree is known by its fruit.