To the Most Reverend Archbishop John Nienstedt
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:
- In 1989, they created a care facility for AIDS patients in their rectory.
- They're part of the city-wide Isaiah project, addressing issues of civil rights for immigrants, transportation, education, domestic violence prevention, and sponsoring the neighborhood crisis nursery.
- They formed a nonviolence group, in cooperation with WAMM, in 1996 to address issues of peacemaking.
- They have outward-reaching ministries for adoptive families, environmental justice, housing issues, and an active relationship with a sister church in Guatemala.
And the "cootie kids" of Minneapolis and St. Paul are grateful. This one surely is.