LGBT Black Christians and faith leaders join tens of thousands of historically Black congregations/denominations and allies to wear black to church on Sunday, December 14, in response to police brutality: “Black LGBT bodies must matter, too!”
Black America faces an unspoken agenda of terror and racism. In response, tens of thousands of historically Black congregations/denominations and allies across the country will be wearing black on December 14, 2014, to protest the criminalization, disproportionate incarceration, and killing of black and brown people by law enforcement. As Black lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) religious leaders, we are all too familiar with oppressive systems that discriminate and kill.
Over the last six years, fair minded Americans have moved the country to elect our first Black president, opened the doors of marriage to same gender loving people in over 35 states and Washington D.C., began a national conversation on the inclusion of transgender brothers and sisters, and confronted the need to finally address immigration reform. This decided shift toward progressive social values has been met with an escalating conservative backlash most abhorrently embodied in the aggressive policing of Black and Brown bodies. The conservative climate has also led to rampant unresolved murders of transgender people.
Action: As more than 150 Black LGBT faith leaders, we commit to mobilize our LGBT led congregations, denominations, and faith communities to participate in a day of solidarity and to pray for healing, justice, and holy boldness as we respond as a united front. We call for the Black community and our allies to stand with us. In turn, we sign on to the following actions:
We, as LGBT religious leaders across faith traditions and across our country have created an historic alliance among ourselves as we assert that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! We declare and decree our wholehearted commitment to participating in a new wave of sacred resistance to power structures, which demean black bodies, and reinforce policies, that undermine the life, and vitality of our community. We uphold that All Black Lives Matter and condemn all the ways Black bodies are marginalized, and subjected to hostility.
To that end, we call for all Black religious voices to unite together across the diversity that exists among us to proclaim that we stand on the side of justice for all and that every life is sacred. To do so we must connect the dots between the forms of oppression that rise up from the toxic root of racism. We stand against oppressive practices wherever they exist and are committed to the practice of peace and we encourage our communities to find common ground.
We commit to moving from the margins to the middle as we articulate an integrated multi-issue justice movement embracing the totality of concerns impacting Black and Brown bodies: police brutality, mass incarceration, violence against trans people, income inequality, immigration discrimination, malnutrition, gun violence, the assault on reproductive health, unequal pay for women, inferior education, disproportionately high HIV/AIDS, Ebola, the homeless crisis among black gay youth, and the lethal exportation of homophobia to Africa by the Religious Right.
As demonstrators around the country are organizing themselves to speak truth to power, we join our voices to this chorus of justice seekers and stand in solidarity with all who seek to change the ways our communities are oppressed and disenfranchised.
In response to grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, and in other parts of the country where Black lives are ended senselessly over minor offenses or for no offense at all, our hearts are broken by the lack of justice for the victims of violence at the hands of law enforcement. We grieve with the families in St. Louis, Cleveland, and New York City who have lost their loved ones. We are also dismayed by militaristic police tactics that try to silence the voices of peaceful protesters reacting to the lack of justice from our legal system.
As religious leaders, we lift our voices in solidarity with the families, protesters, and all those who stand against discrimination. We affirm that the walls of racism, homophobia, transphobia and injustice must be pulled down in our communities, nation, on the continent of Africa and throughout the Diaspora.
The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries
Metropolitan Community Churches
United Church of Christ
Global Justice Institute
Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies
Bishop Tonyia Rawls
Éste es el testimonio de Juan, cuando las autoridades judías enviaron desde Jerusalén sacerdotes y levitas a preguntarle a Juan quién era él. Juan les contestó: Yo soy una voz que grita en el desierto: “Abran un camino derecho para el Señor”
Juan 1:19a, 23
Me di cuenta en la red social ‘Tumblr’ que Adviento era un tema escogido. Cuando hice clic había varias imágenes y citas de cientos de blogs sobre Adviento. Iban desde los calendarios de Adviento extravagantes, poemas místicos, pegadizos de figuras de renos hasta recetas de galletitas. Ninguna de las imágenes o temas presentó un desierto. Sin embargo, es desde un desierto que Juan nos invita y emplaza en este tercer domingo de Adviento. Él es la voz de uno que clama en el desierto, y lo que es sorprendente es que las personas lo siguen hasta allí. Algunos de ellos querían cuestionar su identidad – “¿Eres Elías, el Mesías, un profeta???” Otros se sienten atraídos por su mensaje de arrepentimiento y la preparación para lo que habrá de venir. Se podría decir que el Adviento era un tema de tendencia en los días de Juan.
De entre todas las imágenes y sonidos de nuestro tiempo de Adviento actual, el desierto no suele estar representado. ¿Cuándo fue la última vez que vio una tarjeta de Navidad con una imagen de un desierto en su portada? Pero las Escrituras nos dicen que el desierto es importante para la historia de la salvación: el Éxodo de los israelitas conduce a través del desierto y el ministerio público de Jesús comienza después de un período de ‘prueba’ en el desierto. Estas historias enseñan que el desierto es un lugar no sólo en donde Dios puede ser conocido más profundamente, pero también es un lugar donde los seres humanos pueden conocerse más profundamente.
Comencé este tiempo de Adviento, literalmente, en el desierto. Mi esposa, Deb, y yo fuimos acampar durante una semana en el desierto de Big Bend, Texas (EE.UU.). Durante esa semana aprendí algunas cosas sobre el desierto y sobre Adviento. Ambos nos llevan a cultivar una actitud de vigilancia. Lo que podría parecer lo mismo día tras día, año tras año (¿cuántas estaciones de Adviento han vivido?), tiene belleza y profundidad si no nos dejamos arrullar por la igualdad. Cada mañana cuando salía de nuestro camper y cada noche antes de entrar me encontraba con la misma montaña. Pero me tomé el tiempo para estar atenta durante todo el día y me di cuenta de cosas diferentes sobre la montaña y el paisaje: las formas como las sombras se movían sobre las rocas; la variedad de colores de marrón, oro y fuego; pequeñas flores que parecían venir de la nada.
Es fácil quedar arrullado por la similitud de las tradiciones de Adviento, como colocar verdes o la iluminación de la corona de Adviento, incluso la historia del ‘niño envuelto en pañales, acostado en un pesebre.’ Un escritor ha dicho: “Adviento no es sólo acerca de la espera de un bebé. Se trata de la espera de una nueva realidad que se apodera de nosotros y nosotras, tomando primero de rehenes a nuestros corazones y almas para su justicia y su gracia. Y luego, porque no podemos vivir sino por su fuerza magnética, establece su demanda en todo el mundo a través de nosotros “. (John van de Laar, Sacredise.com) Seguir a Juan en el desierto durante Adviento me mantiene atenta y abierta a la nueva realidad que anuncia, que nunca se arraiga en mí exactamente de la misma manera año tras año.
El desierto es también un lugar de exposición. En este paisaje austero, no sólo se puede estar expuesto al calor y a la falta de agua, también se puede estar expuesto a los temores y a las ansiedades. Recuerdo varias veces durante esa semana de acampada sentirme ansiosa por estar en un lugar tan remoto. Me despertaba por la noche y pensando: “¿Qué pasa si hay un incendio en la caravana? ¿Qué pasa si una de nosotras tiene una emergencia médica?” Las historias del desierto del Éxodo, la tentación de Jesús en el desierto, y Adviento enseñan que Dios nos encuentra en nuestra humanidad, y la única forma que realmente podemos conocer a Dios, como Santa Teresa de Ávila decía, es cuando realmente nos conocemos a nosotros mismos.
Juan el Bautista nos invita a entrar en el desierto de Adviento no a experimentar algún tipo de santidad genérica o abstracta de la vida cristiana. Él nos invita a entrar en el desierto de Adviento a conocernos en verdad y a entender como el amor y la gracia de Dios se manifiesta en las particularidades de nuestras vidas.
Así que a medida que avanzamos más y más hacia esa “noche santa,” ¿cómo es la práctica de Adviento para usted?
Dear MCC members and friends,
When the Ferguson decision came down, we released an “Epistle to America” challenging every person of good will to start looking directly at the inequities in the economic and legal systems that impact people of color in this country. We pray for the United States, and we grieve with the families.
The bottom line is that we are all impacted by racism, whether we realize it or not.
Paul’s pastoral letters to the early churches show us that, while he was always loving, he was not always gentle. He prayed for the believers and reminded them of the riches of God’s love. Still, he was forthright as he exhorted them to move beyond the cultural pitfalls of giving privilege to the rich while sending the poor away hungry from the table of Christ. He challenged believers to understand that freedom in Christ goes beyond slave and free, male and female, Jew and Gentile.
Today, our pastoral letter is filled with love for each and every person. Indeed, it is out of our love that we address the situation of race in the United States. We do so with full knowledge that the treatment of African immigrants in Europe is a pressing concern, that Afro-Brazilians still live under oppression, that Hispanic and Native people in the U.S. also face massive discrimination, and that divisions by race, gender, and class are realities in all of our settings. There are lessons on human rights to learn from each situation. Right now, the world is learning the lessons of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
The primary lesson from recent events is that racism is still raising its ugly head and has morphed from one form to another through each generation. Within the United States, it has moved from slavery, to Jim Crow laws, to segregation, to rampant incarceration, to death by police. Young Black men are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than young white men. Racism always marginalizes people of color and supports the ideology of white superiority and Black criminality. Racism is so suffused in dominant culture, it appears to be no one’s “fault” — just an accident of history. But when no one is responsible, we all must take responsibility. Racism will continue unless we stop it.
With an unspoken agenda of terror, racism kills just enough people to silence and subdue people of color who are trying to protect their families. Parents of African American sons teach them to put their hands in plain sight WHEN the police stop them. Children are often severely punished for disobedience in the family so they learn that obedience in public could save their lives. Girls learn quickly they need to be strong and ready to raise their family by themselves, since the men in the community are targets for economic deprivation, imprisonment, and death.
Everyone is vulnerable to the ideology that Black bodies do not matter and can be wasted by the police state. White police officers, as well as police officers of color, are caught in the system too. This is why national police associations have called for reforms. When policing becomes dangerous to communities, it is dangerous for the police as well.
Few whites have firsthand experience of the day-to-day racism that people of color deal with. The long stare, the stalking security guard, the demand for additional identification, the forgotten names, the apologies “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you,” the caricatures on television, the rejection for jobs, just to name a few.
Those of us who identify as LGBTQ know we come from all walks of life and all races; many of us have firsthand experience with people telling us we might as well die. We were told that HIV/AIDS was God’s punishment for who we are. Our people were dying in droves in the 1980s, and President Reagan did not even mention HIV/AIDS until his second term in office. Too many people — especially religious people — were indifferent to our suffering.
Of all people, we should understand. Bigotry kills.
There is no easy or quick answer to racism, in the U.S. or anywhere in the world. Once we address mass incarceration and police state murders, be assured that other systemic forms will surge forth. Fighting racism is as generational as racism itself. If you are a white person who chooses to stand with those who resist, be ready to make mistakes, make amends, and keep moving. If you are a person of color, you already know what bravery is required to live another day through the grace of God.
Today, as the spiritual leaders of MCC, we call on all members and friends of MCC to pray for the redemption of this evil called racism. If we stay in denial about racism, we will not find redemption. We need to begin to talk and act before we can heal this wound of the spirit that affects all of us. We are believers in Christ who offers freedom to all. Like the early Christians exhorted by Paul, we must come to a fuller understanding of freedom lived through a life of a loving God and our neighbor — not as in abstract otherworldly freedom but in the ways we live loving lives each day.
Right now, our sisters and brothers of African descent in MCC, The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, the wider movement, and the world need our solidarity, our compassion, and our action. No one can walk away and pretend “this is not my issue.”
Start the healing. Pray together, talk together, work together. It is time for God’s realm to come.
These actions will not repair the damage of recent cases, but nationwide demands for change may lay the groundwork for cases of police brutality and murder to see the light of an actual courtroom, rather than be buried behind the closed doors of grand juries.
Be MCC! Be JUSTICE!
The Council of Elders of Metropolitan Community Churches:
Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, Rev. Dr. Mona West, Rev. Hector Gutierrez, Rev. Darlene Garner
This is the testimony given by John, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.'”
John 1:19a, 23
I noticed on the social networking site ‘Tumblr’ that Advent was a trending topic. When I clicked on it there were various images and quotes from hundreds of blogs about Advent. They ranged from quirky Advent calendars and mystical poems to stick figures of reindeer and cookie recipes. None of them featured a wilderness. Yet, that is where John beckons us on this third Sunday of Advent. He is a voice of one crying out in the wilderness and what is amazing is that people follow him out there. Some of them wanted to question his identity — “Are you Elijah? The Messiah? The prophet?” Others were drawn to his message of repentance and preparation for ‘the coming.’ One could also say that Advent was a trending topic in John’s days.
Of all the sights and sounds of our current Advent season, wilderness is typically not one of them. When was the last time you saw a Christmas card with a stark image of the wilderness on its front cover? But scriptures tell us that the wilderness is important for salvation history: the Exodus of the Israelites lead through the wilderness and Jesus’ public ministry begins after a period of ‘testing’ in the wilderness. These stories teach that the desert is a place not only where God can be known more deeply but it is also a place where humans can know themselves more deeply.
I began this season of Advent quite literally in the wilderness. My spouse, Deb, and I went camping for a week in the wilderness of Big Bend, Texas (USA). I learned a few things about the desert and Advent during that week. Both cultivate an attitude of watchfulness. What might look the same day after day, year after year (how many Advent seasons have you lived through?) has beauty and depth if we do not become lulled by sameness. Every morning when I would come out of our camper and every evening before going inside for the night I was confronted with the same mountain. But if I took the time to be attentive throughout the day I noticed different things about the mountain and the landscape: the ways the shadows moved over the rocks; the varied colors of brown, gold and tan; little flowers that seemed to come out of nowhere.
For me, it’s easy to get lulled by the sameness of Advent traditions such as the hanging of the greens or the lighting of the Advent wreath, even the sameness of the story of the ‘babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manager.’ One writer has said, “Advent is not just about waiting for a baby. It’s about waiting for a whole new reality which takes hold of us by first taking our hearts and souls hostage to its justice and grace. And then, because we cannot help but live by its magnetic force, it lays its claim on the whole world through us.” (John van de Laar, Sacredise.com) Following John out into the wilderness of Advent keeps me watchful and open to the new reality he announces, which never takes root in me in quite the same way year after year.
Wilderness is also a place of exposure. In this stark landscape, not only can one be exposed to heat and lack of water, one can also be exposed to fears and anxieties. I remember several times during that week of camping feeling anxious about being in such a remote place. I would lie awake at night and think, “What if there is a fire in the camper? What if one of us has a medical emergency?” The wilderness stories of Exodus, Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness, and Advent teach that God meets us in our humanity, and the only way we can truly know God, as St. Teresa of Avila would say, is when we truly know ourselves.
John the Baptist invites us into the wilderness of Advent not to experience some kind of generic holiness or abstract Christian life. He invites us into the wilderness of Advent to truly know ourselves and to understand how God’s love and grace is made manifest in the particularities of our lives.
So as we move closer and closer to that ‘holy night,’ how is Advent trending for you?
Global Emerging Churches in 2014
(Listed Alphabetically by Nation)
ICM Cariri, Ceará, Brazil
ICM Cabedelo, Cabedelo, Paraíba, Brazil
ICM Casa de Emmaus Chile, Santiago de Chile
Ministerio Apostolico Y Profético Emanuel ICM, Cajicá, Cundinarama, Colombia
ICM Honduras, Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Comunita Christiana <<Agape>> Firenze – Chiesa della Comunita Metropolitana, Florence, Italy
Internationale Roze Kirk, The Hague, Netherlands
Church in Progress, South Auckland, New Zealand
Open Doors MCC, Seoul, South Korea
The Village MCC, Brighton, United Kingdom
Empowerment Liberation Cathedral, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States
Wasatch MCC, Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
MCC staff member Rev. Jim Mulcahy shared the pictures and first person accounts below of the Russia and Ukraine regions. He said he regrets not being able to send photos of LGBT Christians and activists. Publishing such images could put them in danger.
The Cathedral of Spilled Blood
St. Petersburg, Russia
When I was in Russia, I was invited to speak to a group at a Coffee House.
They asked me to talk about the state
of religion in Russia and specifically if I saw any signs of hope for LGBT in the Russian Orthodox Church. There were about 30 in attendance and we talked
for four hours.
I spoke of a few signs of hope, especially among younger priests. I told the story
of MCC and the amazing changes that happened because of MCC, in church, in theology, in acceptance of LGBT people.
I assured them that changes will happen in their lifetime as they have in mine.
After the break, a young man said,
“I’m not religious and I don’t ever go to church, but if we had a church like MCC and a priest like you, I would go.”
The Trinity Sergeyeva Monastery
near Moscow, Russia
I was invited to speak to parents of an LGBT non-religious group. The meeting was moderated by a young man who described himself as an atheist. In his introductory remarks, he made it clear
that he wasn’t entirely pleased moderate
a group where the speaker was a priest.
It was a spirited meeting with many questions and a lot of discussion.
At the end of the meeting, the young man said, “I am astonished at how openly you talked with us. Can we go and have a coffee after the meeting?”
We went to a coffee shop and spoke for another hour. His opinion of the possibility of people being LGBT and religious was changed.
A Wooden Village Church
I was invited to preach and celebrate communion with a small group. Before we began, two young men came into our meeting place, not for our service, but to seek information from the center. They decided to stay for worship.
One of the young men began crying when I began preaching and cried through the rest of the service.
I had a chance to speak to him after the service. The day before, I had a friend request on Facebook. It was from this young man who had heard that there was an openly gay priest in their city for a visit. He didn’t think he would have the opportunity to meet me and talk. Was this a coincidence?
Honduras Group Emerges Despite Violence
In Honduras, a country in Central America, an increase in the violence against LGBTQI people is still dramatically high alongside a growing conservative evangelical movement. It is in this context where pastor Bertha Ramírez has been ministering among the community in Tegucigalpa, the country’s capital.
Rev. Ramírez, a former Lutheran pastor, decided to continue serving LGBTQI people when the church did not recognize her ministry. Against all adversity, she began a church for those who were not welcome into other churches. She began to look for alliances and networks. She discovered the late Rev. John Doner, who put her in contact with MCC’s Iberoamerican Network.
It has been more than a year since MCC has been supporting Rev. Ramirez’s prophetic ministry through pastoral support, trainings in the Darlene Garner Institute for Ibero-American Leadership Formation, and other resources as requested.
It is the hope that this group in Honduras will soon be a new emerging church in the region.
Expanding MCC’s Global Reach
The Office of Emerging Ministries continues to work with individuals and groups around the globe that want to explore a new church start or an emerging ministry.
“Consuelen, consuelen a mi pueblo. Dice el Señor.“
El tiempo de Adviento siempre ha sido para mí un momento para una reflexión y expectación profunda. Los temas de Adviento de esperanza, amor, gozo y paz proporcionan oportunidades semanales para que los cristianos preparemos nuestro ser completo (cuerpo, mente y espíritu) para el cumplimiento de la promesa que Cristo vendrá en Navidad.
La segunda semana de Adviento nos invita a reflexionar sobre el amor. Amor dado y recibido. Muchos de nosotros experimentan el amor más profundamente en y a través de nuestros cuerpos, y así reflexionar ahora sobre el cuerpo no tanto en su aspecto físico sino en su forma emocional.
Soy muy consciente de mi cuerpo físico. Sé cómo se siente mi cuerpo–cada nervio, músculo y órgano. No sé cómo funcionan realmente los diversos trozos y pedazos del cuerpo, pero estoy agradecida por el hecho de que mi cuerpo funciona de una manera que apoya mi intención de vivir una vida de calidad tanto como pueda. Aunque no siempre fue verdad para mí, puedo decir hoy que amo mi cuerpo y que mi cuerpo me ama.
Al mismo tiempo, mi mente me hace consciente de que este cuerpo vive tiempos interesantes. Experimentando el amor en un cuerpo no es todo acerca del dar o recibir amor y luz todo el tiempo. El mundo es demasiado complejo para este tipo de pensamiento simplista.
Por ejemplo, soy una estadounidense de 66 años de edad amante de una mujer de mi mismo género cristiana de ascendencia africana, Cherokee, Choctaw e irlandés moviéndome en el mundo como una líder espiritual en una comunidad global y diversa. La piel que cubre este cuerpo lesbiano, potente, intercultural, es negra. Como tal, tiene la memoria celular de lo que es ser negro en América. Al mismo tiempo, sé que el color de mi piel no define todo de mí. De hecho, reconozco que este cuerpo negro ocupa algunas posiciones de poder y privilegio.
En mi espíritu, sé que no estoy sola al tener una conciencia de tal complejidad individual. Muchas personas tienen de primera mano la experiencia de lo que es vivir como la víctima de alguien y también lo que es estar predispuesto en contra de otros y victimizar a otros. Mucha gente sabe lo que es ser contada de forma sutil y descarada manifestando que nuestras vidas no importan; también sabemos que hacemos las cosas para mostrar que nosotros devaluamos la vida de otras personas. Cada día, muchos de nosotros rezamos por la porción extra de gracia que se requiere para sobrevivir, cuando eres la encarnación de los miedos de otros pueblos, cuando oramos para la protección de aquellos que tememos.
Todos estamos en esta vida compleja juntos — queers, heterosexuales, mujeres, y niños; nativos e inmigrantes; personas de color y personas blancas; personas con discapacidades, personas de todas las naciones, personas de diferentes credos y personas sin fe; ricos y pobres; ancianos y aquellos que están enfermos; aquellos de todos los colores, creencias y persuasiones. No importa quien seamos, lo que aparentan nuestros cuerpos o el nivel o causa de nuestros miedos. Cada uno de nosotros está llamado encontrar como amarnos a nosotros mismos y a los demás.
Nosotros debemos resolver esto. De hecho, la propia supervivencia de la humanidad requiere que ganemos consuelo a través de nuestra convivencia como el pueblo amado de Dios. ¿Qué aspecto podría tener el consuelo? Para mí, el consuelo parece un montón de justicia y misericordia, justicia que se da libremente y misericordia que no se niega. El tipo de consuelo del que hablo proviene de la reconciliación, no de la venganza. Se trata de deseo, no de demanda. En cuanto a mí, espero con expectación el día cuando todo el pueblo de Dios vivirá en tanto consuelo en cuerpo, mente y espíritu.
Aunque algunas personas no lo pueden conseguir en la actualidad, la buena noticia para todos nosotros está en saber que nuestro mundo y la calidad de nuestras relaciones con el otro realmente pueden mejorarse. En realidad, Cristo viene sólo un poco más cada vez que elegimos rechazar el miedo y en cambio aceptamos la promesa de advenimientos de esperanza, amor, alegría y paz imperante entre el pueblo de Dios. Eso es todo lo que necesitamos para la Navidad. ¡Que así sea!
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
The Season of Advent has always been for me a time for both deep reflection and eager anticipation. The Advent themes of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace provide weekly opportunities for Christians to prepare our whole selves (body, mind, and spirit) for fulfillment of the promise that Christ will come at Christmas.
The second week of Advent invites us to reflect upon Love. Love given and love received. Many of us experience love most profoundly in and through our bodies, and so we reflect now on the body in its physical rather than its emotional form.
I am very aware of my physical body. I know how my body feels to me — every nerve, muscle, and organ. I do not know how the various bits and pieces of the body actually work, yet I am grateful for the fact that my body still functions in a way that supports my intention to live a quality life for as long as I can. Though it was not always true for me, I can say today that I love my body and that my body loves me.
At the same time, my mind keeps me aware that this body is living in interesting times. Experiencing love in a body is not all about the body giving or receiving “love and light” all of the time. The world is far too complex for such simplistic thinking.
For instance, I am an American-born 66-year-old same-gender-loving Christian woman of African, Cherokee, Choctaw, and Irish descent moving in the world as a spiritual leader among a diverse global community. The skin covering this older intercultural powerful lesbian body is Black. As such, it holds the cellular memory of what it has long meant to be Black in America. At the same time, I know that the color of my skin alone does not define all of me. Indeed, I recognize that this Black body occupies some positions of power and privilege.
In my spirit, I know that I am not alone in having an awareness of such individual complexity. Many people have a first-hand experience of what it is to live as the victim of someone else’s bias and also what it is to be biased against and to victimize others. A lot of people know what it is to be told in subtle and blatant ways that our lives do not matter; we also know that we do things to show that we devalue another’s life. Every day, many of us pray for the extra portion of grace that is required to survive when you are the embodiment of other people’s fears even as we pray for protection from those that we fear.
|(Photo: Twitter @rebeccarivas)|
We are all in this complex life together — queers, straight folks, women, and children; native peoples and immigrants; peoples of color and white people; people with disabilities, people of all nations, people of different faiths and of no faith at all; the rich and poor, the elderly and those who are ill; those of all colors, beliefs, and persuasions. It does not matter who we are, how our bodies appear, or the level or cause of our fears. Each of us is called to figure out how to love ourselves and one another.
We must figure this thing out. Indeed, the very survival of humanity requires that we gain comfort through our co-existence as God’s beloved people. What might such comfort look like? To me, comfort looks a whole lot like justice and mercy, justice that is freely given and mercy that is not denied. The kind of comfort of which I speak comes from reconciliation, not retribution. It comes out of desire, not demand. As for me, I look forward with eager anticipation to the day when all God’s people will live in such comfort in body, mind, and spirit.
Though some people cannot get along today, the good news for all of us is in knowing that our world and the quality of our relationships with one another really can get better. Actually, Christ comes just a little closer each time we choose to reject fear and instead embrace Advent’s promise of hope, love, joy, and peace prevailing among God’s people. That is all we need for Christmas. May it be so!
“¡Ojalá rasgases el cielo y bajases!”
“Velen, pues no saben cuándo vendrá el dueño de la casa.”
Si revisamos la situación que los Judíos enfrentaron en tiempos de Isaías después de la cruel experiencia del exilio, y los grandes retos que tenían frente a ellos, podemos fácilmente comprender sus sentimientos sobrecogidos. Nosotros, justo ahora en el siglo XXI, no tenemos una vida muy diferente a la relatada por el texto. Así como ellos, tenemos dos opciones: simplemente aceptar con resignación las cosas como son y sobrevivir recordando los buenos tiempos de antaño, o podemos aprovechar este momento como una gran oportunidad para cambiar nuestra realidad y nuestro futuro, en este presente incierto y volátil.
Como comunidad Cristiana, estamos entrando en el tiempo de Adviento, o Pequeña Cuaresma, como solían llamarle nuestro antepasados en la fe. En nuestras manos, tenemos la oportunidad una vez más, de transformarnos al transformar el mundo.
Es muy claro, pienso, que nuestro mundo se encuentra en una desesperada necesidad de transformación mientras somos testigos de la locura que nuestro mundo está experimentando. Guerra en algunos países (Ucrania, etc.); devastaciones en otros lugares (el calentamiento global nos está retando a hacer algo); confrontaciones en muchas ciudades (Ferguson, etc.), la terrible realidad en mi país (México) con miles de desaparecidos entre ellos los 43 estudiantes; crímenes de odio y el Ébola y otras enfermedades que afectan a multitudes.
La realidad de nuestro mundo complejo, puede sobrecoger a cualquiera, pero quiero recordar las palabras de Gerhard Ebeling quien escribió, “lo más real de lo real, no es la realidad misma, sino sus posibilidades“. Y como soñador que soy, y con nuestro bagaje humano y cristiano, debemos enfocar nuestros esfuerzos en las posibilidades que están reclamando nuestro compromiso a la trasformación. Creo firmemente que no todo está perdido.
Dios necesita nuestras manos, nuestros pies, nuestros corazones, nuestras mentes para hacer posible la transformación en este mundo. No es suficiente orar por esto. Hoy más que nunca el Rev. Troy Perry, nuestro fundador, tiene razón cuando dice: “algunas oraciones necesitan de nuestros pies.”
Hoy más que nunca, necesitamos “¡estar alertas!” con nuestros ojos y corazones, atentos al futuro que queremos dejar a las personas que vienen después de nosotros. Debemos ser conscientes del futuro que estamos dejándoles, que está directamente relacionado con nuestras decisiones y nuestras acciones justas. Necesitamos evitar la tentación de vivir en la rutina de nuestras vidas seguras. El Adviento nos llama a arriesgarlo todo.
La principal importancia de este tiempo, pienso que no es la observancia del adviento en sí; la importancia es el significado y la transformación que podemos recibir para nuestros ministerios, para nuestras vidas, para nuestras Iglesias y para nuestras comunidades.
¿Qué tipo de adviento están esperando nuestros hermanos y hermanas? ¿Cómo debemos vivir el tiempo de adviento entre muchos en nuestras sociedades, que no esperan ya nada?
Como cristianos, no solamente nos estamos preparando para celebrar la Temporada Navideña, esa sería una meta muy devastadora en este Primer Domingo de Adviento; nuestro compromiso debería ser esperar y ayudar a establecer el Reino de Dios en este mundo, creando algo completamente diferente a la realidad actual.
Podemos, posiblemente, rechazar el celebrar el Adviento, pero no tenemos permiso de rechazar el extender las manos para ayudar a todas las personas en esta tierra nuestra, de cualquier religión, para trabajar arduamente en traer el advenimiento de un nuevo mundo.
Permítanme concluir mi reflexión sumando mi voz a la de mis hermanos y hermanas de México en su demanda: VIVOS SE LOS LLEVARON, VIVOS LOS QUEREMOS.
Dear America, we greet you as Christians who believe that freedom in Christ means that all persons deserve respect and equality before God and the law.
Today, we pray for Ferguson, the family of Michael Brown, and for people everywhere who are impacted by racism. We write to you as spiritual leaders of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) and join with the millions around the world who grieve the death of Michael Brown, who shot down with eight bullets while unarmed and holding his hands in the air. We grieve that the grand jury felt there was not even enough evidence to have this case go to trial. We grieve that so many people are in denial about the realities of racism today.
MCC was founded almost 50 years ago to provide a spiritual home to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. We have been a target of hate, and we come from all races. We know all oppression must be challenged because every person is created in the image of God. It is time for all faithful people around the world to pray and act to end racism.
As Christians, we remember how Jesus was challenged to go beyond his own cultural prejudice by a woman who was of the scorned Canaanite race. (Matthew 15:21-28) We remember the lives of so many African Americans who heard the Gospel and knew they were meant to be free. We remember all those of every race who have been willing to stand up — and even lay down their lives for freedom and justice — regardless of race, language, or identity.
As citizens of the world, we decry the use of war equipment to attack peaceful demonstrators. We stand up and speak out against the systematic criminalization of people of color. Just as Jesus overturned the tables of power and exploitation, surely Jesus would condemn a system that targets people by their skin color and economic status.
We must drop all pretense of so-called color blindness and pick up the mantle of prophecy to urge everyone to learn the facts about racial discrimination. In particular, to understandFerguson, we must understand the larger realities of African Americans:
Humanity has the power to do great good. Systemic racism can be dismantled. The Berlin wall was toppled. Apartheid was overthrown. Nazi Germany was defeated. Slavery was stopped. Systems of oppression are constructed by human beings and can be deconstructed by human beings. Will it be easy? No, but like every good thing we work for, it will be worth the effort. Our only regret will be that we did not act more quickly.
We urge all people of good will to ACT TODAY.
The Council of Elders of Metropolitan Community Churches:
Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, Rev. Dr. Mona West, Rev. Hector Gutierrez, Rev. Darlene Garner
“Look out down from heaven, look at us!”
“Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.”
If we review the situation that the Jews were facing in Isaiah after the cruel exile experience, and the huge challenges that they had in front of them, we can easily understand their feeling overwhelmed. We, right now in the 21st century, are not living a life that is so different from the life they were living. Just like them, we have two options: just accept with resignation what is and live our lives accordingly by remembering the good old days; or we can seize this moment as a great opportunity to change our reality and our future from this uncertain and volatile present.
As a Christian community, we are entering in the season of Advent, or Small Lenten Season, as it used to be call by our ancestors in the faith. In our hands, we have the opportunity once again to be transforming ourselves as we transform the world!
It is apparent, I believe, that our world is in desperate need of transformation as we bear witness to the madness that our world is experiencing. War in some countries (Ukraine, etc.); devastation in other places (the global climate change that is compelling us); confrontations in many cities (Ferguson, etc.); the hellish reality in my home country (Mexico) with thousands of people missing and presumed dead, like the 43 students recently found; hate crimes; Ebola and a multitude of other kinds of diseases.
The reality of our complex world, of course, can overwhelm anyone, but I want us to consider the words of Gerhard Ebeling who wrote, “the most real of the real thing, is not the reality itself, but its possibilities.” And as the dreamer that I am, and with our Christian and human grounding, we must focus our efforts on the possibilities that are calling for our commitment to transformation. I stand fast in believing that not everything is lost.
God needs our hands, our feet, our hearts, and our minds to bring about a transformation in this world. It is not enough just to pray about it. Rev. Troy Perry, our Founder, is right when he says: “Some prayers need our feet.”
Now more than ever, we need to “be on guard!” with our eyes and hearts, paying attention to the future that we want to leave for the people who are coming after us. Thus, we must be mindful of the future we are leaving them, as it directly correlates to our decisions and our actions right now. We need to refuse the temptation to live in the routine of our safe lives. Advent calls us to risk it all.
The importance of this season, I believe, is not the observance of the season itself; the importance is the meaning and transformation that we can receive for our ministries, for our lives, for our churches, and for our communities.
What kind of Advent are you expecting, my siblings? How must we live the Advent Season among the many in our world who do not expect anything?
As Christians, we are not just preparing ourselves to celebrate the Christmas Season, as that can be a devastating goal for us this First Sunday of Advent; our commitment should be to expect and to help to establish the real Realm of God in the world, creating something completely different than the current reality.
Maybe we can refuse to celebrate the Advent, but we are not allowed to refuse to lend a helping hand to all people of this earth, to work hard to bring about the advent of a new world.
Let me conclude my reflection by adding my voice to my siblings in Mexico in their demand: VIVOS SE LOS LLEVARON, VIVOS LOS QUEREMOS (You took them alive from us, alive we want them back with us).