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  • Writer's picturePastor Liz

Rebellious Love

This week I was told that I wasn’t chosen to be on the ballot for a leadership position within my national denomination. Each year people are nominated to serve on several leadership committees. From the group of initial nominees two people are chosen to be voted on by congregation delegates at the national church conference in July. I was nominated for Program and Arrangements committee which plans and coordinates the national gatherings of 1,000+ people over 5 days for worship and business. Of all the possible volunteer leadership positions this one could have been fun. I had a slight twinge of disappoint when I got the email but it also would have been a LOT of work over the three-year commitment. So, in that regard I’m not at all disappointed. 


All along I knew it was a long shot. I am unabashedly progressive (duh) and my name has some baggage within parts of the denomination because I’m queer.


I was going to insert some links to catch you up on the “baggage,” but it seems I haven’t talked about it much and that should change soon. Here are a couple places that give a little background, but there are lots of details missing so if you find yourself confused, it’s not your fault.


Anyway, the short version that is relevant to the nomination: As is still true in many churches, the national body isn’t welcoming of LGBTQ+ folks so WildWood and I have incited some controversy over the last 5 or so years. For some, my name is synonymous with "the lesbian pastor." So, it was always a long shot to be nominated for the ballot. I’m not going to assume my queerness is why I wasn’t selected, but it did prompt a conversation with a friend about whether those of us on the “fringes” should be concerned with being included in mainstream things like national leadership. 

What does it mean to belong? Where do we want to belong? Should we try to edge our way into the establishment or just keep doing our queer thing over here? 


The “fringes” extend well beyond the church world and are reflected in the representation in all places of our culture. Within each context these are important questions to ask. I think the deeper question is, does institutional/societal transformation come from within or from the outside? 


The Jesus movement in first century Judea was entirely fringy. He was trying to create a community with a different take on religious beliefs and practices within an established culture. He wasn’t the only one doing something different, but he’s the one who history has remembered. From the margins of first century Judaism he was cultivating another way of being. But, contrary to some theologies, I do not think Jesus wanted to convert and “save” the whole world. I think we wanted to create change and challenge some aspects of the established order and practice. He was first, last, and always Jewish. Christianity didn’t emerge until well after his death and remained a Jewish sect for centuries only becoming independently established in the 3rd Century.


I think I’m starting to loose the plot here.


What I’m hoping to unpack is the importance of being critical and intentional about where we seek and find belonging. Queer culture knows something about this. Rejected from society and families, LGBTQ+ folx create chosen families, communities, safe spaces, and subtle ways of identifying belonging. But as queerness is acknowledged and woven back into society, do we risk loosing our queer-ness? Do we compromise our distinctiveness when we move away from the margins? What is the cost of assimilation and acceptance?


Yes, I’d love for WildWood to be celebrated fully for our wild amazingness and I'd love to have opportunities to help create gatherings for folks around the country, but I’m undecided if it’s worth it if it comes at the expense of distinctiveness and peculiarity. Maybe not being nominated to the ballot is the nudge for me to continue to create other ways of gathering. A reminder that what makes WildWood, WildWood is that we’re doing something different and creating another way of belonging.


How does this relate to Sunday? Valentine’s Day originated as a religious Feast Day for Saint Valentine. He was a 3rd-century priest who secretly performed weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry by the emperor. Roman Emperor Claudius II wanted to make sure his soldiers were focused and committed to the fight and feared they would get distracted by pining for their wives back home so he issued a decree outlawing marriage. While Valentine’s Day has become a Hallmark holiday it has a fringy origin with a rebellious priest defying the law and doing things differently. 


On Sunday we’ll share some stories of rebellious love and make valentines for our community. Bring any thing you want to add to our valentine making supplies.

See you on Sunday, February 11 at 4pm


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