In the seminal coming of age classic, Mean Girls, Cady Heron, a new student, get taken under the wing of the popular girls, or ‘The Plastics’, of her high school. Unbeknownst to The Plastics, Cady is playing double agent, and is secretly trying to take down the social caste system of her new school. But her plan takes an unforeseen twist when a book full of secrets, rumors, and lies is leaked to the entire school. As the girls read what was said about them in the ‘Burn Book’ from the pages scattered throughout the halls, they erupt into “full tilt jungle madness…” To reestablish order, the principal hits the fire alarm and sends all junior girls into the gymnasium to get to the bottom of it, “even if [he] has to keep them there all night, even if [he] keeps them there ‘til 4.”
Embarrassed, and now drenched from the fire alarm, the girls sit in an uneasy silence. Getting nowhere fast, the principal hands things over to Mrs. Norbury, Cady’s math teacher,to try a different approach. Cady had written in the Burn Book “Mrs. Norbury pushes drugs” after she confronted Cady about her falling math grade. Cady is really smart, you see, and like was purposely failing in order impress Aaron Samuels who sat in front of her in class, who is actually Regina George’s boyfriend, but she doesn’t find that out until… *ahem*… But I digress.
Mrs. Norbury has the all the junior girls close their eyes. Without anyone looking around, she instructs them to “raise their hands if they have ever told a mean rumor or gossiped about another girl.” With heads bowed and eyes closed the girls slowly raised their hands.
“Alright, open your eyes” she requested.
The girls open their eyes and begin to look around; to their astonishment every girl had their hand raised.
She again instructs them to close their eyes and instructs, “Raise your hand if you have ever been the victim of gossip or rumors.”
Again, all hands went up.
Let’s imagine all of us 2.2 million Nazarenes; all of us gathered up in one giant high school gymnasium.
Now imagine Mrs. Norbury asked us all to close our eyes and instructs us by saying, “Raise your hand if you personally know someone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender?”
All eyes are still shut as people begin to scan their friendship and acquaintances
“Now open your eyes and look around.”
A Few Good Allies
Over 40 years of documented prejudice won’t erase itself. We need people in the church who will stand up and speak out for what is right. We need fellow members to take a brave foot forward and put their foot down when anti-gay rhetoric is spoken both inside and outside the doors of the church. We need allies to help make our Church a safer place for the LGBT community. We need Nazarene Allies in order for this to get accomplished. It would be great to pass a resolution at General Assembly 2013. (I would be kidding myself if I thought it would be brought to the Assembly floor for open debate. That would take a miracle.) This road is going to be a long, long journey. I have already started it; I just need others to come along with me. As I transition from an anonymous voice to one with a family, a face, and most importantly a name, I invite you to take some time and consider walking with me. Each person comes out in support as a Nazarene Ally makes it easier for the next person. We need to begin to create a roadmap to safe, affirming, church for all. The only way to get there is together.
I know that there are some places in our Church where it is not safe to come out as gay or lesbian, or to say you’re an Ally, but there are certainly things you can do. Maybe, you can print off our logo and put on your fridge or office door as a silent signal to others. You can let others know that you will only eat ‘conflict-free’ chicken. You can repost stories on Twitter or Facebook that deal with prejudice. These are just a few of the ways you can let others know you are a Nazarene Ally, and can be used as a conversation starter at dinner with your family and friends. How will people know you are an Ally, if you don’t let know you are an Ally? It just takes a little courage and a nice conversation.
One Thing Left To Do
There is one thing that all Nazarenes must do before we do anything else. Whether we want the Church of the Nazarene to be LGBT affirming, or want the Church of the Nazarene to ban all gays from membership, we must do this:
We have to look to Christ.
When we keep our eyes on Christ, we find the strength to stand up for those who need to be protected: those on the margins of society. In the Old Testament it is orphan, the widow, and the stranger/traveler. And those three groups of people still need our care and comfort, but there are other groups that need protection too, homeless (even those in extreme poverty), racial minorities (even those of differing faiths), single mothers (even women who have already had abortions), and those in my community, those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender – Christians need to be advocates for all these people because God created all these people.
When we keep our eyes on Christ, we discover how to resolve our differences on this topic. We are a church that was forged through the uniting of people with at least 13 different faith backgrounds. We’ve always been a diverse body of believers. Although I am not a Church historian, I would wager this isn’t the first time there has been disagreements among the Body. But when we do disagree, let us do it Christianly. So that even than we reflect Christ.
When we keep our eyes on Christ, we are surprised with the greatest surprise of them all: life. We all should receive death because we are fallen. But instead Christ surprises us with life! And because Christ gave us an abundant life, we now, are to give that abundant life to others. One of the ways we do that is through Holy Communion.
There is, and forever will be, compatibility between homosexuality and the Church of the Nazarene because of Christ. When we gather at the Lord’s Table, we do not exclude. We have long-held that all are welcome at the Table. It is the great leveler, Rich and poor, male and female, gay and straight, Christian or non-Christian, all are welcome at here. Even those who are polar-opposite of me on this topic, I still dine with them, I still break bread with them, at the Table of Christ. We are all invited. Our only prerequisite is that you are sincere, not that your sexuality be heterosexual.
So this leads me to my confession: I’ve taken Holy Communion, and I’ve also served it. Our Manual states very clearly that all things that “imply” compatibly between Christianity and homosexuality are “deplorable.” Holy Communion doesn’t imply anything: it boldly proclaims it! My participating in the Eucharist has proven me to be compatible with Christ and with the Church. This alone is proof the Manual needs to change its stance on Human Sexuality. Or do the Generals think that Holy Communion is, in their words, “deplorable”? There are LGBT members in our Church. There are Allies in our Church. We are foolish to think otherwise. Do we deny Holy Communion to all who disagree with Lenexa on this issue?
Are You Surprised?
I have been surprised by my friends’ responses to me coming out to them. It wasn’t what I had expected to get. Esther was surprised, I imagine, by the response she received from King Xerxes. You’ll be surprised by the reactions of people you tell that you’re an Ally. And after all we should expect surprise, for instead of the death we desire, God surprises us by offering us life. This anti-gay stigma has been around longer than before we wrote it down 40 years ago. It will certainly be a challenge to undo all that but I am, after all, a Nazarene; I will take my lead from the guy from Nazareth. At the end of the day we are all equal when Christ looks at us.
Talking about homosexuality or becoming and LGBT affirming Church shouldn’t be like speaking the name Voldemort. Having open, honest, and frank discussions will erase those years of stigma surrounding it. It’s okay to not have all the answers. I know I don’t. Ignoring and not talking about this issue won’t make it go away.
It won’t be popular, but doing the right thing often is not. I certainly know it is hard to put yourself out there and tell a counter story, one that is ever so slightly different then the one you grew up hearing. But is a story that needs to be told, by more than just one person. People keep telling me to wait 20-40 more years and this issue will be resolved in the Church naturally as the older generation passes power to my generation. We cannot afford to wait that long. Doing what is right, isn’t generational. This is stuff that must be addressed now.
I truly believe that Allies can make a difference in the Church of the Nazarene. I can picture that day when we are all gathered in that high school gymnasium and Mrs. Norbury asks us to close our eyes and “raise our hands if we are a Nazarene Ally…”
Lift your head up.
You’ll be surprised at what you see.