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Coming Out Is a Courageous and Spiritual Act

10/28

As October 2011 draws to an end, I want to express my gratitude to all the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people who were inspired by the tradition of October being Coming Out month to come out to themselves and those around them.

Coming out is a courageous and spiritual act that benefits everyone in a ripple effect beyond all our horizons. I want this meditation upon Coming Out — letting ourselves and the world know truly who we are and how we understand ourselves — to be a tribute to all those who gave us this gift of honest integrity this October 2011.

Coming out is a spiritual act. When I asked Rev. Scott Anderson what sustained him in stressful times he responded immediately with the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11). After the stone at the tomb has been rolled back, Jesus “cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him and let him go (John 11:43-44).’” Scott shared that his coming out felt as life-giving as that. It felt like resurrection to him.

I am also struck by Jesus’ reference here to the central story of Jewish history when He echoes the constant refrain of Moses to Pharaoh on God’s behalf, “Let my people go (Exodus 7:16)!”

In my own experience, recognizing myself as being bisexual was hugely freeing.  A confusion that felt like shackles fell away. It was as if the Holy Spirit was able to flow through my soul in an unburdened way I had never known before. Others I have spoken with report similar experiences.

Coming out is a courageous act. While remaining in the closet may be confining and uncomfortable, for many it is familiar and therefore often easier than risking the unknown to be open and honest about who they are.  When Rev. Scott Anderson was ordained, the Westboro Baptist Church — associates of Rev. Fred Phelps in Wichita KS — stood across the street from Scott’s church in Madison, WI with extremely hateful signs. This kind of bullying and misunderstanding can be so present and real that at times, LGBT Christians feel they face losing everything, including the compassion and support of their brothers and sisters in Christ.

And yet, at Scott’s ordination there was also a large group who witnessed silently for God’s love for all God’s children in front of the church and across the street from the Westboro Baptist demonstration. It was a stark contrast that showed how the church continues to be engaged in a deep conversation about the place of LGBT people in God’s heart and also in our midst.

By claiming a place in the church that reflects the place Jesus holds for us before God, we help the whole church waken to the wideness of God’s mercy and love. This spiritual courage is also clear in straight allies who stand with us in the structures of our denominations until the rules change to allow us to openly participate in discerning God’s will for the church.

That transformation in both the church and the world will continue because courageous and faithful LGBT people respond to Jesus’ cry to come out and know the freedom of His Word to let us go.

Please receive my gratitude to God for you all.

Peace,

Reverend Janet Edwards


6 Responses
  • Mary on October 28, 2011

    Janet and Friends:
    I have been a member of the Presbyterian Church all my life. I have to say that it was because of the love I had for Christ and he Church that I knew the person I knew myself to be was evil and unacceptable to the God I loved so much. It took many years before God was able to reach me through all the wrong information I received to let me realize that He (God) loved me for the person He created which was Mary. When I finally came out the weight that was removed from my soul was literally life saving. Unfortunately the initial reaction from my home church was so negative it forced me out of the church and caused Betsy her position with the Church. But once again God did not let those voic4s have the final say I have been led to many other church people who are understanding and practices God’s love. God most recently led me to a wonderful congregation that not only opened its doors to me but spread their arms and welcomed me with a renaming service and a renewal of my Baptism as my true self. Our God is not a God of closets and secrets God knew us before we were born as our trueselves and sees us no matter where we go either to hide or to be the people God called us to be.

  • Janet Edwards on October 28, 2011

    Dear Mary,

    Deepest thanks for sharing your continuing coming out with us here.

    Your remind me of Psalm 139:11-12, “If I say, ‘surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day,’ for darkness is as light to you.” It sounds to me that God simply would not abandon you. Your witness is such an inspiring testimony to God’s love, Mary.

    I trust that, like me, your joy and power will flow in remarkable ways from now on. I rejoice with you in that.

    Peace, Janet

  • Janet Edwards on October 29, 2011

    Dear Donna,

    What a chilling commentary on us all.

    I am grateful to you for reminding us of exactly what the church continues in many ways to contribute to in our community and giving us a stark measure of all that we need to atone for and to do.

    May the peace of Christ be with you and the people in Ohio, Janet

  • Donna on October 30, 2011

    Hi Janet,

    I meant to add the statement: “sometimes this is what courage to be ‘out’ means for some people.” But clicked “post” too quickly.

    Hopefully that boy knows that it does get better. Hopefully the church realizes that Jesus would not condone this kind of thing.

    Donna

  • Janet Edwards on October 30, 2011

    Dear Donna,

    Yes,coming out is an immensely courageous act.

    And I certainly share your hopes. I trust that everyone in the church, including those who judge LGBT people based on their reading of Scripture, join with Jesus in not condoning this kind of violence.

    Again, thanks for sharing it with us.

    Peace, Janet


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