I was fortunate to grow up in a unique household in the 60’s and 70’s. Though it was in a very monolithic community, it was a home that welcomed all and placed no barriers on who was or wasn’t included. I did have to learn, and continue to grow in my understanding of what it means to be a person of the dominant culture in this country. Yet, our home was always open and welcoming to all. That all included members of the LGBTQ community; though in those days our world only really recognized the first two letters in that acronym.
It wasn’t really until my teenage years and into my young adulthood that I began to discover how unique this was. Most of my friends in high school and college were not so lucky. Many were raised in households that not only didn’t talk about sexuality or sexual orientation; they didn’t acknowledge that they had family members or friends who, well, were “different.” I recall many a conversation educating others about the miss-use and derogatory nature of the word gay.
As a teenager, I remember my friends thinking it was scandalous that we had two books in our home - Dr. Ruben’s book, Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask and The Joy of Sex. These were much coveted by my friends - especially from those homes were sex conversations were taboo. I was also blessed to be raised by my “Aunt” Betty - who my friends referred to as the “sex lady.” She is both a licensed sex therapist and educator, who worked for years in research with The Kinsey Institute at the University of Indiana. To say there was never a question that couldn’t be asked is huge understatement.
It has also been a great blessing to sit with friends and many young people who have honored me with their first open statements and stories of “coming out;” sharing both their joy in finally being able to talk to someone about who they were and their terror of being found out by family and friends. I have sat with them as they have told their parents; and watched families welcome and reject their own. And I sat with my best friend in the last month of his life as he finally succumbed to the realities of AIDS and the cancer that ravaged his body. His parents never knowing that he was a gay man until just weeks before his death.
Why write all this? While our parish is an opening and welcoming community; there are still many Christians who use scripture and God as a weapon. We are called to witness a God who welcomes, loves and includes. We are also a church that is willing to live with questions and the unknown. There is so much that we as humans do not understand about the diversity of God’s creation. This is one of the blessings and struggles of The Episcopal Church. And it makes us unique. We welcome both what science teaches and what scripture enlightens. Let’s embrace our uniqueness and share that with those who most need the church doors to be open and welcoming.