We began our time together by lighting the red and orange candles to invite Christ into the space and the Holy Spirit to guide us, and read the corresponding section of the Rainbow Christ Prayer: "Orange is for sexuality, the fire of spirit. Erotic Christ, you are our Fire, the Word made flesh. Free us from exploitation and grant us the grace of mutual relationships. With the orange stripe in the rainbow, kindle a fire of passion in us."
Today we had a few new faces, so we went around the circle introducing ourselves using our name and and pronouns, for example: They/their/theirs, she/her/hers, he/him/his. This practice reminds us that some people identify as genderqueer and do not identify as gender binary (female or male), and may use different pronouns for their gender identity.
We then took time to begin learning some vocabulary terms using the GLAAD Media Resource Guide. GLAAD is a non-governmental media monitoring organization founded by LGBT people in the media. You can learn preferred words and definitions about LGBTQ+ inclusion and what words are defamatory, offensive, and problematic this guide. We talked about the fluid and meaning-making nature of language generally, and the importance of creating and redefining language to more accurately represent the fullness and diversity of our identities,. This is especially important for people who have experienced marginalization and discrimination because they don't fit into dominant identity groups. Our conversation then led to identifying the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation, and understanding these identities as a spectrum or continuum, rather than a binary.
We acknowledged that using new language can take practice to form new habits, and that it is most important to listen deeply to other people and ask them what language they identify with when we are not sure. We are learning and working towards a more inclusive practice.
Next we each identified one personal story we felt was important to share with one another about LGBTQ+ inclusion and each person took 2-3 minutes to share and be heard. We held these stories in the confidence of the group, creating brave space. Our general themes included stories of identities; meaningful relationships; family, faith, church, spiritual formation and teachings; and influences of school, civic, and work experiences and cultures. This personal storytelling helped us get to know one another more deeply, understand the various backgrounds we come from and that shape who we are, and the influences over the course of our lives that impact our orientation towards LGBTQ+ inclusion as people of faith. The practice of personal storytelling also serves to create a foundation from which we will continue to deepen our relationships and co-create a shared understanding of our congregation and what our faithful response to LGBTQ+ inclusion in the church and its leadership might look like.
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Rev. Dr. Jenny Whitcher
Minister of Prophetic Formation at Juniper Formation. Currently working with Evergreen Christian Church to rebirth their ministry as more missional, inclusive, and community engaged. Join us on our Open & Affirming journey.