Saturday, January 30, 2016

Don't You Hate It When God Tells You To Do Something That Makes It All Worse?!

In the beginning was the Logos...the Reason. Sometimes, preachers or denominational councils will say that God told them to do a thing, or that the Spirit revealed a thing, and that is meant to silence any questions or debate (e.g., the top LDS leader recently said that God told him to exclude children of gay couples from the rite of baptism). But if the thing that God supposedly told one person or one small group causes outcry, pain, distrust, mass anxiety, and if Reason isn't part of the process (but rather a divine dictate that can't be proven is the final authority convenient for the one/s God directed), then a healthy hermeneutic of suspicion is in order. We don't have to agree with him, of course, but the Apostle Paul thought that "God is not the author of confusion..." Something to think about when autocratic decisions are trying to be forced in the name of God and the result is utter chaos.

Friday, January 29, 2016

A Prayer for Metropolitan Community Churches in a Time of Great Need

My prayer for the movement (Metropolitan Community Churches) to which I have given half my life so far. It represents my heart only. The movement has barely more than half the churches it had a decade ago, and morale within the movement seems to me to be at an all time low. This is a pivotal moment for the movement; all heart-felt prayers are needed at this time:

Goddess of Justice, Lord of Love, Healing Presence, Guiding Light:

In this blessed moment we pause to give thanks for MCC Founder Troy Perry's vision, his courage, his willingness to affirm the sacred value of all people. Through him, you opened doors that had been closed for far too long; through the movement he launched, many of us found a home, a family, a purpose, and a reason to celebrate who you called and created us to be.

MCC told LBGT people that they mattered. MCC was the embodiment of healing love during the worst of the AIDS crisis. MCC let people in the pews realize that "God" is not a boy's name. MCC changed the world.

But somewhere along the way, we collectively stopped believing that we were uniquely called to do a new thing. Somewhere along the way, we decided we wanted to "fit in." We were tired of fighting, especially after surviving and even winning so many battles. We longed for validation from the "mainstream." And increasingly, we got it. Our righteous indignation which fueled holy Queer activism softened, and as our passion waned, our effectiveness began to wane as well.

In a time when religion is being questioned and old attitudes are being challenged, we had a chance to be something different, fresh, beautifully radical. But instead, we turned our fears, frustrations, and uncertainties into internal battles. We fought for internal recognition. We fought for privilege within our diminishing ranks. We fought to protect the status quo. We fought for the thrill of fighting rather than to achieve any noble purpose, and when the thrill was gone, we continued to fight out of sheer habit. And now, the once compelling vision is buried and we see no angel to roll away the stone to let the vision rise to new life again.

The question so many ask today is, "What shall we do?" And that question seems to have many answers. Some will stay in a declining movement. Some will become radically ecumenical and join multiple organizations, not giving 100% of their devotion and support to any. Some will simply slip away. Some will end their relationship with MCC and start new relationships. We see these options being embraced already.

We have worshiped the deity of the past, the golden calf, Apis the bull-god of yesterday, and now our dreams and hopes are scattered; our tomorrows will be beautiful, but also dispersed. What we have known and devoted so much of our lives to is fading before us, and it is impossible to go back, and we seem to lack the courage and vision to be new again as a movement, so we must be new as individuals and as separate parish communities.

Where we failed, forgive us.
Where we allowed fear to win, forgive us.
Where we allowed personalities to trump possibilities, forgive us.
And whatever the future holds, help us to make the most of it and to thrive in the new day.

Bless Troy, your anointed prophet who changed, and in many cases, saved our lives. Bless those who will continue moving forward. We may never again be the MCC slaying the Giants of homophobia, parting the waters of terror in the age of AIDS, turning the water of discrimination into the wine of marriage equality, and showing the world that worship can be prophetic, energetic, empowering, and ridiculously fun, but let us also never forget that we were that MCC, and whatever we do or become next, that history is part of us and will be part of all future successes.

The days ahead cannot be known to us today, but what we can know is that individually, we still have work to do, and in our communities of faith, we still hold a sacred vision, and we know that as we remain faithful to our highest and best understandings, to our deepest and strongest hopes, to our truest longings to be your love in action and your healing hands touching people in this world, you will continue to work through us and lives will still be changed and blessed, and the world will be better because of our faithfulness.

In your good time, heal our grief, but let us not wait so patiently to do good in the world. We'll embrace healing as and when it comes, but we can't wait for healing to continue to build communities of hope, celebration, and Justice-love. So, let us be about our divinely appointed work, help us do it well, and fill our tomorrows with blessings that are better than any we've known so far. That will be a great miracle, but we believe in miracles. And so it is.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

HIV: Memories & Hope

     It was the 1980s. I was in college. I was home for the holidays and met some of my old high school friends in a local bar. We hadn’t been “out” in high school (some of us were still sorting out our feelings and attractions) but we had each discovered and happily accepted our sexual orientation since graduation. It was great to be back home and together, living out loud as the people we were meant to be. Our level of connecting and sharing was richer, deeper, and more profound than it had ever been. Living in the power of truth has that effect, doesn’t it?
     During one of those heart to heart and soul to soul conversations that young adults like to have late at night in dark bars, I said to one of my friends, “I’m so scared of this AIDS stuff that’s out there. I don’t know what I would do if I got it.” Without missing a beat, my friend responded, “I have it.”
     I was devastated. It was more than concern for my friend, however. There was a level of terror that swept through my body as if I had been given the diagnosis. You see, it was the first time someone I knew had been diagnosed with the HIV virus. His self-disclosure made it all very real to me. If he could get it, anyone could. I could. It was no longer just a news story; it was as of that very moment part of my life.
    My friend was luckier than many in those early days. He went from nutritional therapies to monotherapies to combination therapies. He survived as treatments advanced. And when the day came for me to tell him that I had sero-converted, he was supportive, loving, and encouraging. He showed me that a diagnosis need not define us or steal our joy.
     One day many years later, my healthy, athletic old friend, who had proven that the human spirit is potentially indomitable, drowned while on vacation. After going toe to toe with HIV with remarkable success, an undercurrent at a Delaware beach is what ended his life. It seemed surreal. My grief was powerful and long-lasting.
     It’s a new year, and somehow this new beginning brought to mind these ancient memories, but the memories are accompanied by a sense of gratitude for the strides we’ve made in HIV care since those uncertain days. The memories also stir within me a hope that people will no longer contract HIV (it is preventable). I hope those who are HIV positive will become aware of their status and get life-saving treatment. I hope people will lovingly remember those we lost too soon. And I hope that HIV awareness and activism continue until all who are positive are liberated from shame and stigma, all who are HIV negative remain so, and at long last, a cure is found.
     AIDS isn’t over yet, but I still believe that it can be defeated if we will remain vigilant. May this new year be a happy and healthy one for all of us.

Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins is the senior minister of the Sunshine Cathedral in Ft. Lauderdale

written for the Florida Agenda