Evangelism and scabby crosses
Last night, I taught an intersexed young person how to properly bandage her arm. She had cross-shaped scabs on her arms that were not nearly as deep as the pain they were trying to make visible.
Across the country, congregations, groups and even our presiding bishop have made videos as a part of the "It Gets Better" campaign.
The message is important: Life is precious, all should be loved and LGBT individuals sometimes grow up to be healthy, productive members of society -- sometimes even to become famous.
But, when we fail in our evangelism, this is not always the case. Years ago, when the Lutheran church was slow to respond to the AIDS crisis, arguing about the sexuality of the individuals rather than sharing the deep-gutted gospel message that proclaims baptismal love, thousands of gay men died before it got better.
Later when the Lutheran church was slow to evangelize to LGBT individuals and got caught up in arguing about the sexuality of pastors, dozens -- possibly hundreds -- of pastors and would-be pastors killed themselves. Countless youth and young adults fled the homes and congregations they grew up in, searching for families that could love them without hesitation.
You may be like many ELCA members who wonder why we have to extend a special welcome or evangelize to LGBT individuals. Shouldn't they know that the phrase "All are welcome" includes them?
Perhaps if there wasn't a 31-year delay from when Lutheran college students began demanding that the church evangelize to LGBT individuals and our ability to fully do so, a need to evangelize in a special way would not be needed.
Having worked with the chronically homeless in San Francisco for the last nine years, I am convinced that we will never be able to deal with homelessness in San Francisco until congregations like yours begin evangelizing loudly to LGBT individuals.
Nearly all of the homeless folk I work with left their homes and families (predominantly from the Midwest) because they experienced or thought they would experience homophobia from their communities. Even if their church never said anything about LGBT people, the voices of media and television personalities became so loud that those voices were confused with the voice of all Christians.
Or maybe you did try, but it didn't seem to be enough of an effort to counteract the feelings of the rest of the community, or the LGBT folk missed the Sunday that you tried.
If only to save the life of one young person, our evangelism voices must rise to the same volume and frequency as those who have negative things to say.
Evangelize like the prophet Isaiah. Speak from the longing for God's justice and demand that justice now. Assume that more is possible and be ready to act boldly.
Someday your evangelism will pay off and your welcome to all will be heard by all. Until then, your congregation is much better prepared to hear "It gets better" than a young person considering suicide.
If your congregation is worried about bullies who may get angry or upset if you evangelize to LGBT individuals, imagine how hard it must be for youth who live with this experience daily and who feel they must face it alone.
Thankfully, I was able to be a pastor to the intersexed young person who needed someone to remind her that we celebrate Lent as a community so that we can voice the pain and suffering of the world. And thankfully, our beloved ELCA is big enough so that there are pastors and congregations across the country willing to evangelize to LGBT individuals.
But let us all work together during this Lenten season to let the whole world know that we have old rituals to embody the same feelings that may be new to the young adult who carved into her arm. We're not afraid of pain or suffering and we march toward the cross because we know Easter is waiting just around the corner.
As the echoing refrain of Taize states, "Darkness is never darkness in your sight, the deepest night is clear as the daylight."
We know the light and we must share it through loud, rainbow-proclaiming evangelism. It will be.
Originally posted March 17, 2011, at Megan Rohrer. Republished with permission of the author. Find a link to Megan Rohrer's blog Megan Rohrer at Lutheran Blogs.