When I think of God, I think of this wonderful spirit that watches over me, guides me, gives me my amazing gifts to share, sets moral guidelines in which to live by and be a decent human being. God has carved out my life story and I need to trust it and have faith that God has it covered! Along with that, the God that I know and have come to understand loves us ALL. Wants us to love ALL. Wants us to accept ALL. The God I pray to and trust in doesn’t believe that loving one another (same sex or different sex) is a bad thing. But Love is Love. So many people I know – family, friends, acquaintances, people of the church DO LOVE someone of the same sex. They have wonderful relationships and families. Their relationships are built on love and trust. For the life of me I can’t see why that is bad? Two people in a loving caring relationship. I also believe God creates us all unique and blesses us with our gifts so we may share them. People are born gay. They don’t CHOOSE to wake up one day and CHOOSE a lifestyle that society refuses or pushes them into a closet until they realize it is ok to be their AUTHENTIC self. I believe with my whole heart that God makes us who we are – so teach people how to love and accept each other. We aren’t meant to be cookie cutter robots – all the same – from hair color, skin color – to sexual orientation. Our world is filled with sprinkling of difference – that teaches us to be tolerant, accept and love others. To me that is a wonderful gift from God.
With all that being said (I could go on, but I have a story I want to share!) I want to share the following Facebook post from a person I know. When I read it I thought to myself “Good for her!!!” – she is being her authentic self and sharing God’s word. THAT is what the God I know would want. I believe you can be free to be your authentic self AND have God in your life and share his word!
Please meet Jia Starr Brown….She is the Associate Pastor at Park Avenue United Methodist Church. She is also the mother of 5 beautiful children!
A couple of years after my divorce in 2008, I questioned my sexual identity. But, because of my religious upbringing, I refused to explore that part of myself and pushed it down as deep as it would go; the God that I knew didn’t love – or like – people who loved in “different” ways.
Over the years, I have been an ally for the LGBTQIA community, amplifying the voices of the marginalized and championing social justice causes. I answered The Call to ministry and discovered a God of love, hope, and inclusion.
I learned that when we open the Bible and peel away the layers of legalese, prejudice, cultural context, historical and geographical factors of the past age, what remains is a Living Word that amplifies LOVE…love of God, love of self, and love of neighbor.
When I was appointed as Associate Pastor of Park Ave United Methodist Church – Minneapolis, I followed the Spirit’s nudging even though the denomination was/is actively discriminating against many of God’s people. And, I continued to work toward inclusion for all. When questions of my identity rose to the surface again in April of this year, I could not ignore the epiphany that was happening in my life – I am a lesbian woman.
Being a lesbian is just one dimension of who I am. I am so much more than that. To minimize me – or anyone else – just limits who I am and who God created me to be…and frankly, it limits God as well. When we isolate just one dimension of an individual, we ignore all of the other gifts that God has fearfully and wonderfully designed within them.
I am a woman, a mother, a daughter, a sister. I am a friend. Also, I am also an activist, a champion for social justice, a trainer, an educator, a PhD candidate, a Fredrick Buechner Preaching Award recipient, an African American Heritage Calendar Award Honoree…AND I am so much more.
With all of the hurt, injustice and inequality in the world, I wish my identity was not news. What should be news are the people who are working to change the world, to change the culture of our society. So many people go through life believing that they are worthless because they don’t fit inside of the categories and boxes that society has built…that the church has built. So many young people leave the church; they hurt themselves, hate themselves, because they hear that they are not lovable.
This is not the God that I serve.
I serve a God of love, acceptance and inclusion. I serve a God who doesn’t make mistakes and knows the plans that God has for us. Indeed, each of us has a purpose. On this Pentecost Sunday, I hope that my story helps to provide new interpretation of God’s love and radical inclusion of all. It is my prayer that God will use me to help change the narrative in our church so we never contribute to the pain, self-hate, harm or destruction of any of God’s fearfully and wonderfully made creatures. And that includes me.
If my choice to live authentically inspires one person to love themselves as God designed, if it saves one life, if it changes one person’s heart about Jesus, then THAT will be news indeed.
Every day I tell my children and members of my congregation that I love them for who they are, and that God loves them for who God created them to be. If I truly believe that, then I cannot be anything less than an authentic and transparent leader who openly celebrates what God has created in me as well.
Because at the end of the day – every day – I choose love. That is why I affirm faithful, hopeful, loving, Jesus-centered relationships, and I am proud to announce that I am engaged to be married.
I have chosen love. I have chosen community. I have chosen Jesus – the Jesus Who openly widens the banquet table for all who desire to have a seat. And, wherever I am, wherever I live, wherever I serve, there will always be a seat for whoever wants to eat and drink at the table of love, hope, grace, and community.