God Bless Tracy
God bless Tracy. Or, rather, God blessed me through Tracy. I started my internship after college as an earnest but self-righteous Christian. The left-wing organization stretched my already-narrow comfort zone through its no-holds barred campaigns against abusive corporations. To top it off, at that time they only had one straight man on staff: me. Fresh from my conservative evangelical college, this was, to put it mildly, a culture shock. In college, I had never been aware of knowing any LGBTQ people, and now they were (seemingly) everywhere.
I tried to act normal, but I’m sure my shock glared.
I had never questioned my assumption about the sinfulness of same-sex relationships, but now the question consumed me: “what did I think about homosexuality?” As if I could think, study, and read rather than befriend my way through this thicket. I prayed for wisdom. I talked to older Christian mentors. I ordered books by Mennonites that recommended “continuing the dialogue” on faith and homosexuality rather than policing or suppressing it.
There was just one problem: no one at work cared about my obsessive need to have a “Christian” position on sexuality. When Tracy and I ate Massaman Curry at the nearby Thai restaurant, I asked her how she fell in love with her partner Ellen, and she told me. She had once been married to a man, before she met Ellen, before she had come to terms with her attraction to women. I asked her about her faith background, and she shared it. Tracy grew up Catholic, and while she had reservations about Christianity, she still dropped into the downtown church’s mass once in a while. Tracy and I were, to state the obvious, different. Yet, surprisingly, we were not so different. The kind and compassionate person in front of me shared nothing with the fear-filled caricatures of gay people lingering in my mind from church and Christian-subculture.
And so, when Tracy invited me to join a group of staff members at a rally outside the Massachusetts State House in support of gay marriage, I tagged along. I didn’t attend because I had a position on gay marriage. I rallied because my friend Tracy invited me. Someone gave me a candle to hold for the vigil. Another volunteer slipped me an “I Support the Supreme Judicial Court” sticker, which I slapped on my faded sweatshirt. I became a reluctant activist.
I’ve since become a pastor, and now I lead a so-called “Open and Affirming” congregation that welcomes people of all sexual orientations and gender expressions. I’ve realized that while there’s a place for hammering out theological and biblical positions, relationships matter more. To borrow the title of Nadia Bolz-Weber’s recent book, Tracy became an accidental saint for me because she revealed God’s expansive love. Instead of clustering LGBTQ people into an abstract category contingent on my affirmation or rejection, I simply called Tracy (and Todd and Andrea, too) my friend.
LGTQ people don’t need “us” to welcome “them.” Rather, LGBTQ people are us, and we are them; united in baptism as one expansive and surprising body of Christ.
A big SALT Project "thank you" to pastor extraordinaire Rev. Mark Longhurst for this thoughtful and vulnerable reflection! And, thanks to the amazing Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber for letting SALT illustrate what we think is the best argument - hands down - for full inclusion of LGBTQ folks into the life and work of churches.