Wednesday, June 25, 2008

An open letter to Archbishop Nienstedt

So my favorite local Roman Catholic parish is in the doghouse again. Already blogged about an issue they had with the Archbishop last month. This time, the flare is about a prayer service that they've held annually for years, one that speaks directly to a decidedly under-served constituency in the RC church as a whole: God's GLBT children. And so...

To the Most Reverend Archbishop John Nienstedt

Your Grace,

I'm writing to ask you to reconsider your position on the place of GLBT Christians in the Church. I could make Biblical arguments; have done so a number of times, in a number of situations. I'm not going to today. I'm just going to try to get you to see this issue from my chair, and with a pastoral heart.

The St. Joan of Arc community, in small, quiet ways, helped me to come to terms with myself at a time of tremendous crisis in my life, one that I'd tried desperately to avoid. I was coming to the realization that I, a church kid from my very beginning, am a lesbian. St. Joan's helped me enormously, though I was only a visitor among them. They welcomed this stranger in a manner so fresh and simple and full of integrity that I could begin again to pray to a God I thought had left me in the desert. This welcome began with their visible presence to the GLBT community, which told me that they were a safe place in which to work out my deep, painful questions of faith in the darkest night of my soul.

If I may, I'd like to invite you back to your elementary-school playground for a moment. If it was anything like mine, there were a couple of kids in every class who seemed to have a permanent case of "cooties;" that is, they were the kids who got picked on. They were nominally part of the class, mostly because the teacher said so...and anyway, they had to be somewhere. But these kids, for whatever difference they possessed, suffered. For the most part, they suffered alone, because there was a social cost attached to any association with them.

In my second-grader's mind, these sounded like the people that Jesus would hang out with, and so sometimes I took the risk to do so, too. Turned out that they were interesting, worthwhile people who enriched my life when I had the moral courage to reach out. Sometimes I was that "cootie" kid.

Imagine being that kid. Imagine being that kid for life, most evidently in the place to which you're supposed to be able to bring your whole self in all its belovedness and in its brokenness: the church, the Body of Christ.

I'm now a "cootie" adult in your church: nominally a member of the Body of Christ, but never invited to play kickball, and sometimes beat up on the way home. I'm a lesbian. Didn't choose it, spent 20 years trying not to be, but there it is. And, in my 42-year-old mind, I still believe that Jesus would be sitting where I sit, because he came to do a new thing, to make the circle bigger--which mystified the "in crowd" of his day, and still continues to do so now.

God and I are OK. I have a happy life spent with my partner, living out my vocation as a church musician in a community that welcomes us.

I understand your ecclesiastical and canonical positions; I just disagree with them. And I don't see Jesus as someone who, in any instance, supported the doctrine of the day in place of justice. He stood with the outcast.

The St. Joan of Arc community is one that lives out Christ's missional gospel in a number of ways. They minister to many on the outside of the circle and speak with a clear, prophetic voice among the marginalized of many kinds in the Twin Cities:
Your representative said that there was no refusal of this prayer service in the past because the Diocese couldn't possibly monitor all of its many congregations. I have a hunch that you're paying attention to the St. Joan of Arc Community now. I hope, Your Grace, that you will come to respect the integrity of their welcome and their groundedness in the Gospel. Though many members of St. Joan's would disagree with you on doctrinal issues, they serve the same God, and they do so with fervor and with a great deal of grace. And they are now paying the social cost of sticking up for the outcast.

And the "cootie kids" of Minneapolis and St. Paul are grateful. This one surely is.


Songbird said...

Well said!

FranIAm said...

Oh this outrages me. It really upsets me a lot.

I can't really say too much when I am this upset over this kind of idiocy.

Last time I checked, Jesus was not about sending people away uncared for.

And if anyone should realize that it is my church.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Bless you for your letter. It is so beautiful and clear.

The Swandive said...

What a wonderful letter and I could not agree more with your sentiments about our beloved SJOA.

Diane said...

good job! Do you know about Isaiah? Our church is a member, too.

Magdalene6127 said...

Such a sad situation... and your letter is a beautiful witness. Thank you.