Happy Monday, Friends! I’m struck by the prophetic witness of religious people from Biblical times to the present day. Whether those prophets call society to repentance and moral revival or speak truth to power with marginalized communities, their voices speak deeply to who we are as people. One of the best prophetic passages from the Bible comes from Ezekiel 37:4-5: “Then God said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of God. Thus says God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.’”
Recently one of my friends and a friend of LOVEboldly, Rev. Joelle Henneman, preached a truly prophetic sermon grounded in who she authentically is as a transgender woman. I first met Joelle shortly after I was hired by LOVEboldly through Faith in Public Life. She quickly invited me to come visit her congregation, United Methodist Church for All People (C4AP), in Columbus, OH. C4AP and their associated Community Development for All People is truly an experience of the kin-dom of God. As I began to work with Joelle and C4AP more closely, particularly as C4AP became a church partner with LOVEboldly, I recognized and was told that Joelle was not fully out to the congregation. Yet, I considered it an honor to get to know her as she finished her discernment to come out and live authentically in that space. On New Year’s Day 2023, Joelle preached her coming out to a packed congregation of C4AP congregants and friends.
Queer people know about prophesy because our lives are built around the prophetic vision of coming out continually and risking shame, hate, and violence. Remember, Jesus and the Old Testament prophets before him often ended up excluded if not murdered. We know that living into the people we are comes with the risk of misunderstanding and harassment. Yet more and more of us choose to take that risk because it is imperative that we live truthfully. Knowing that he might be killed for his work, Harvey Milk said, “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”
People often ask me why I find such importance and meaning in working for LGBTQIA+ affirmation in the church. Why not just leave an institution that has excluded and harmed so many Queer people, they ask. Because my work, our work, prophesies to the dry bones of Queer people in the church who see no hope for a life as an out Queer person and a Christian.
How do you live authentically in and beyond the church? Where do you compromise in life for safety and security?
Let us pray: God who knows our innermost thoughts and formed us in all our wondrous identities, bless us as we prophesize to the church and to the world, through our lives, action, and words. Give us strength to live authentically even when it’s hard. Grant us grace when we experience contempt. Wrap us in love when we experience hate. Protect us when people wish us harm. We ask all this, knowing that you love your creations. Amen.<